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For the Healing of the Nations 3: The Promise Is For All Generations

May 6, 2012

For the Leaves of the Tree are for the Healing of the Nations (Rev. 22): This Promise is for us, & for our children, to all generations – as many as God has called (Acts 2).

Today was Youth Sunday at White Plains Presbyterian Church. The youth appealed to all of our senses from the moment we arrived. Upon entering the sanctuary we were greeted with the smell of baking bread: several bread machines were arranged behind the communion table and were just finishing their cycles during choir rehearsal. The aroma filled the sanctuary. A kinetic art installation inspired by a youth retreat last Fall illustrated for us the movement of the Holy Spirit. We took our neighbors hands as we passed the peace (I was greeted in four languages), and the youth outstandingly proclaimed the scripture and bore witness to their faith formation in this community. Finally, we tasted the love of God as we received the still warm bread and full cup as the sacrament of God’s presence. The theme was “Glimpses of God.” Today we could smell, see, touch, hear and taste in worship. A phenomenal job by all.

The words below the photo served as the Invitation to the Table today. They allude to our new liturgical banners created by our youth which illustrate a “Timbered History of Salvation.” They also continued our theme for the season between Easter and Pentecost (For the Healing of the Nations) as we explore of the nature of the church as defined by Pentecost. 

At either end of scripture stands the Tree of Life. In Genesis, God’s people are given a vocation to serve and preserve creation, but they lose their vocation by eating the forbidden fruit from one tree. Lest they eat also from the Tree of Life, and become like God, they are cast out from the garden. The means of producing life are now difficult, the labor of reproducing life often painful. But their vocation remains: to serve and preserve creation that all may live.
We often forget that there were two trees in the Garden, and that we were only forbidden one. At creation’s first breath, humans would have been welcome to eat from the Tree of Life.  But they did not choose it.  They chose instead/we chose instead to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  But knowledge that is not based on “life”, knowledge that is about what we know or could know, knowledge that is obtained and used regardless of the effect on “the ability of all to thrive” loses its moral compass.  It becomes mere technology – in the service of any god; any idol.

The garden was lost opportunity.  How might the story have proceeded if Adam and Eve had eaten from the Tree of Life instead of being seduced by the power to know and understand?  What if knowledge of good and evil had rightfully been subordinated to just and equitable human and environmental relationships?

At the other end of scripture, on the final page, we again find the Tree of Life. It stands tall at the center of the New Jerusalem that is coming into being, and it provides divine life to God’s people. It bears twelve fruits, in perpetual bloom, food for every tribe and nation. And the leaves of the tree are medicine for healing the effects of that first, fatal choice. Human vocation once again serves and preserves a new creation, with the gift of life.

In Jesus, human flesh and earthly stuff has received this gift. In Christ, we too may participate in divine life. It is not our possession, but ever and always a gift. Here at the table this gift is renewed as we lift our hearts up to God. We are made one with one another and with our God, ready to take up again our vocation.

All who desire this life, divine life, truly human life, and a vocation in the world are welcome to receive the sacrament.

For in this we have known love … [a here began the words of institution, the story of the Last Supper.]

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