This is the fourth and last in a short series of sermons about trees. By now you are probably wondering. While you can see how meditating on a tree might get a person thinking about God, what does all this “treeology” have to do with Christianity? Isn’t this all a bit New Age-y? I promised in the weekly email to talk about Jesus today, and I want to begin by reminding you of the old Shel Silverstein book, The Giving Tree.
Is there anybody else here who likes to have a big breakfast? I mean, a heap of eggs, potatoes, and sausage, maybe with a pancake or two or three by the side? I confess that's one of my weaknesses. In fact I fixed myself such a breakfast as part of my preparation for this sermon. So I feel a certain affinity for this story. In fact, I once had a very fine breakfast of trout and eggs in a cafe up in West Marin. So I wouldn't have minded being a guest at that breakfast on the beach that Jesus offered in our Gospel passage this morning. We'll find that he offered a lot more than just the roast fish and the bread that the Gospel writer mentions.
I’ll let you in on a secret: Silicon Valley is a spiritual desert in many ways, if we could just slow down long enough to realize how thirsty we are. One of these days, we’ll figure out that we are never going to quench our thirst if we keep drinking the spiritual equivalents of sugar water and sour wine. They are poor substitutes for living water. It’s hard, but we need to fast from a too-comfortable Christianity. We don’t have time for a drive through, take-out Christianity, one made with high fructose corn syrup and no complex carbs, a Christianity that doesn’t demand anything of us and doesn’t change us. And we have to stop dabbling in discipleship like we’re at a wine tasting: swirl, sniff, taste, spit. If we want to find salvation in Silicon Valley, we have to give up sipping and spitting and drink deeply of real life.
My tears were prayers. God, how did we get here? And where do we go from here? If the Bible had been written by women, we might have some explicit guidance in these matters, but it wasn’t. In fact, women are little more than a footnote in the story of our faith. So we really have to do some digging. We can read the words, but we have to listen closely for the Holy Spirit. And perhaps she will whisper to us what Jesus would have to say.
And when we get to the wedding, remember that the bride and groom aren’t the only ones who make vows. We have replaced the old bit about “giving away the bride” with a new bit that asks everyone to promise that they will, by God’s grace, do everything in their power to uphold and care for this couple because they cannot hope to love each other very well or for very long without a lot of help. In the same way, the Church will fail to keep her vow to Christ and will fail in her mission to bring his love into the world without all of us keeping our vows to uphold and support her for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health and forsaking all others until death do us part.
When you eat this bread and drink this cup, remember that God created the whole universe through Christ, through the Word, as it says in John 1: “...All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” And that means that everything that is, every minute bit of matter, every living thing, every cell in every body already bears the imprint of Christ. Before we are ever baptized or come to this table, we have Christ in us. All of us. The only problem is that we don’t know that. In too many bodies and souls, Christ is there, but he is languishing there, starving for our attention. Over these past five weeks, Jesus got my attention. I asked for the renewal time because I realized that the Christ in me was hungry and needed to be fed. What about the Christ in you?
We’re so afraid to send them out into a world that is so messed up. As we are reminded every day, the world does not live by God’s rules. The system does not conform to God’s justice. Life here in Silicon Valley does not cultivate Christian virtues nor does it instill Christian values. It wasn’t so very different long ago in the Jordan River Valley. Jesus said, “I do not belong to this world.” And he wasn’t kidding. His ethic of loving and giving was out of this world. So what can we parents do who are worried that our kids are going to get corrupted by the world we are preparing them for? We can prepare them to demand a different world.
After we have pruned away all that is dead and damaged and diseased, after we have thinned out all that we don’t need so that we can breathe, we can finally head back to Jesus. Because what is left after all that pruning is done is nothing but our true and truly beloved selves. And what is our true self but Christ who lives in us? That’s what it means to get to know Jesus. We don’t go out to meet a stranger. We go in to meet someone we’ve always known. When we find ourselves, we will find him. That’s what it means to abide in him as he abides in us.
If recessions, droughts, hurricanes, and wildfires can't keep Christmas from coming, what makes you think you can? Nothing that is going on in your life right now, nothing that is going on in our country or world right now, can keep God's love from coming in the flesh. Christmas comes even when we don't have any money or any energy and when we feel like we are losing our sanity. Even if the worst happens and we have to cancel the celebration, God's not going to cancel the incarnation.
Within a few decades, the backlash started to build and that backlash is called the Radical Reformation. The Radical Reformers wanted to be totally free from the authority of the institutional church and the state. As they saw it, the true Church was not an institution that protected its power. Rather, the Church was a group of people who wanted to protect the purity of their beliefs.