Pastor’s Message | July & August 2020

In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:4b-9)

          Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Nothing accursed will be found there any more. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him; they will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And there will be no more night; they need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22:1-5)

          This may seem like a strange association, but I began thinking of these two Bible passages recently as I was pulling poison ivy vines out of my garden. I do not like poison ivy; I despise having it in my garden. However, I cannot help but to be pretty impressed with the insidious weed. It prefers to grow in the shade, hidden under other foliage especially when it is young, and if it happens to be growing around other vine plants like English ivy, all the better, as it becomes nearly impossible to distinguish one vine from the other. As it matures it grows bolder and comes out into the light, gaining strength and stature as it twines around unattended fence posts and wraps itself around unsuspecting trees, desiring to usurp the life of its host and falsely become a tree itself. Poison ivy is impressively potent, not just in its defensive mechanism of exuding oils which cause rash and in some cases, death. But once that weed enters your garden, it is incredibly difficult to get rid of, because it can propitiate itself through its seed, through the spread of its vine, and by even by a small piece of its root being left in the ground. Perhaps the most impressive and insidious feature of all, is its underground network. You may pull up a vine or spray a patch in one part of your garden and think you are done with it, but there may be a mother root somewhere, maybe acres away from your property, patiently biding its time as it tries out other locations which might not be in your view.

          This makes me think of another reference to the tree of life, which takes place after the act of betrayal by Adam and Eve as God is casting them out of the Garden:

22 Then the Lord God said, “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— 23 therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:22-24)

          Since the beginning God has worked to uproot the infectious, propitious, and insidious weed of sin that desires to wind its way around the Tree of Life, and falsely replace that tree. God has taken us out of the Garden until that work is complete. We are going to itch, and scratch, and suffer because we have come into contact with its poison. It has taken root in the garden of our own lives, and we cannot remove nor eradicate the stuff ourselves. It takes the Gardener Himself to do that job for us. And so, the Lord of Life hung on a tree while the deadly sin weed wound itself tightly around, boldly climbing to the top of that cross, crushing out His life, and triumphing in the belief that it had, at last, become the Tree. What the weed didn’t take into account is that it pressed its underbelly against the One who was in position to find its root, and He went it into the depths of the earth where He followed it to its source to destroy it for good. Jesus Christ is the victor who has destroyed the power of sin forever!

          A beautiful thing about the two passages at the top of the page is their connection with one another. The first comes at the beginning of the very first book of the Bible, and the second comes from the very last chapter of the last book in the Bible. Both passages include humanity present before God, face to face, in the shade of the Tree of Life; both are free from evil and sin, and sorrow and death. I thought this might be a good time to be reminded of this, as we may be struggling and fearful in the midst of all the uncertainties of a changing world. It has been God’s plan from the Beginning that we would get to come home when the work is done. What we are witnessing now may be the uprooting of something we have waited on the Lord to have removed.

          Never lose sight of where we are invited to be. Check yourself for weeds, and ask for help getting rid of them. Take courage in knowing that we are surrounded by God’s intention for Life, and one day we get to go Home.

Grace and Peace to you,

Pastor Leslie M. Richard