The two trees
These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.
In the day that the Lord[a] God made the earth and the heavens, 5 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; 6 but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground— 7 then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground,[b] and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. 8 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 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.
10 A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. 11 The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; 12 and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. 13 The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Cush. 14 The name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”
1The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. 3He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.” 4Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD. 5Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. 6I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.”
7So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 8I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” 10I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
11Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ 12Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 14I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act,” says the LORD.
Last week I ended the sermon by talking about a Zombie movie. Talking about a character in a movie is who is alive but not really human and how love changed him.
I continue this theme of aliveness and what it really means to be alive today.
In the movie Pirates of the Caribbean, Curse of the Black Pearl, the pirates were cursed by taking an Aztec treasure that made them into immortal skeletal beings who cannot eat or drink or enjoy life. They appear human but in the dark their true form appears.
The movie is partly about these pirates restoring the treasure so they will be released from the curse and become fully human again
Putting flesh on their skeletons so to speak.
But one of my all time favourite movies of those who are dead but not really dead is the movie entitle “Ghost”
Sam and Molly are walking home when Sam is shot by an apparent mugger. It takes him a little while to realize that he is a ghost.
And he eventually finds out that in order to free himself he has unfinished business to do. That is to find out who killed him and why and help bring that person to justice, of course protecting his girlfriend Molly in the process.
It is a great movie, drama, comedy, romance, sort of spiritual.
In the end when the bad guy gets it and Molly is safe. Sam appears to Molly as a ghost and then walks towards the light which is so beautiful. Sam talks about feeling the love as he walks into what we presume is heaven.
These movies are about the dead who are not really dead, or about the dead coming to life in some way.
But I want you to know that this idea is very scriptural.
There is a very, very famous vision of Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones where he prophesied and the bones came together and then the flesh and sinews were added to the bones and then the skin and hair. And finally the breath comes into the bodies and the people lived.
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones.
Now hear the word of the Lord.
This is not necessarily an easy story for us moderns to understand. One simple interpretation is that when we die Jesus will resurrect us to new life
But the Hebrews before the time in Jesus did not believe in an afterlife.
Is there some deeper meaning?
Another interpretation is that this was a vision that metaphorically represented the nation of Israel coming back to life after it had been almost totally wiped out and the few that were left taken as slaves into other countries.
But I want to us to think about the many ways we bring life, create life, or put flesh on the bones of something.
If we think hard about this we find that this kind of thing is actually pretty common
In many ways this refers to all the creative processes and actions of humans.
A novelist, comes up with an idea, starts to put a plot together and fleshes out the story.
A painter or sculptor brings a vision to life in something concrete such as a painting or a sculpting.
A movie director brings a story to life when he puts it on the big screen.
I listen to novels on my iphone and it is truly amazing how the stories come to life with a good narrator who puts inflection and different voices and even meaning into the story.
A musician creates a score and it is brought to life by those who play and direct the music.
We bring all sorts of technological things to life from cars to computers. I think it was Canadian General Electric who use to have the slogan: “We bring good things to life.”
We bring ideas to life. From Socialism to Capitalism, from ideas about equality and justice to ideas about ultimate meaning and philosophy
We brought a Charter of Human Rights to life in this country, notwithstanding article 33 which allows governments in so-called exceptional cases to opt out of human rights.
We get married and have children and a family comes to life.
To bring a child into the world, what a gift and what a responsibility,
Within a mother’s womb, bones develop and flesh and skin are added to those bones and a brain grows to.
And a child is born. A Person.
There are so many amazing and wonderful things we bring to life.
And I want you to think about all the things we bring to life…
Because one of the trees in the Garden of Eden, is the Tree of Life or the tree that gives life.
There are those who think that there actually is a literal tree of life someone hidden on this earth in the middle east guarded by an angel, and if you could only slip your way past this angel back into the garden, then you would be able to eat from the tree of life and live for every and never grow old.
And your skin would be smooth and fresh like you had a bath in Oil of Olay for several hours every day of your life.
And cannot prove or disprove that particularly. Personally I think the tree is more metaphorical. I think that we being made in the image of God and therefore having the ability in part to be like God, we have the ability to bring certain things to life, to enhance the life of others, to help heal those who are sick, or those who are emotional hurt, or those who are grieving or those who are alone.
We have life-giving power.
And even though we are not in the garden of Eden I still believe that we can eat from the tree of life.
Did not Jesus says that he was the vine and we are the branches and we can abide in him.
There are lots of scholars who through the years have said that Jesus is the tree of life and we can eat of him.
That is another metaphor about taking Christ in to us.
We can eat of that tree of life, which makes us produce fruit.
But the fruit we produce is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self-control.
The tree of life didn’t die in Eden. All of us can make choices that enhance life and produce the fruit of the Spirit, the fruit of love.
But there is another tree in the garden. The one that Adam and Eve ate from…
The tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
You might call it the tree of disobedience, because they were told not to eat of it.
You might call it the tree of “ego” because when Adama and Eve ate of it they figured their self and what they wanted was more important that what was good and right and true.
You might call it the tree of condemnation, because they tried to set themselves up as gods and decide who was right and who was wrong, and they became judges and ever since we humans love to judge and condemn people.
It to is a tree about bringing things to life. But not good things.
A rumour is told, and someone listens and someone shares it and before long the gossip takes a life of its own and grows.
Hatred and grudges and conflicts and wars and birthed and grow and consume people.
We have created maybe global warming and nuclear weapons and smart bombs
Not everything we bring to life is good.
There is a story of four brothers who decided that they would each go out and see the world and learn the great secrets of the world.
After ten years of wandering the earth they come back together and tell each other what they have learned.
The first said, If I have one bone of a person or an animal, I can put together the whole skeletal structure of the creature.
The second said. If I have the skeleton of a person or an animal I can put flesh on the person or animal.
The third said. If I have the skeleton of a person or an animal with the flesh on it I can put the skin and hair on it until it looks exactly like the creature.
And the fourth said, if I have the skeleton with its flesh and skin and hair on it I can breathe into it and bring it to life.
So the four brothers decided to set out and see what they could do with their secret wisdom. As it happened they came upon the bone of the lion.
The first put the skeleton together. The second put flesh on the lion. The third added the skin, the hide the hair and the fur, until there was a beautifully formed but dead lion.
The fourth breathed life into the lion.
It came to. It stood up and roared and ate up the four brothers.
We have brought many things to life, many inventions and creations, but some of our creations kill and destroy.
Alfred Nobel, who is credited with inventing dynamite and gelignite, and was involved in the manufacture of weapons, realized after a premature obituary was published in 1888, that he was being criticized for his creations. The obituary stated that he became rich by finding more ways to kill people faster than ever before. So when he died his will stated that he left most of his fortune to those who would work for peace and the betterment of humankind. His fortune of something like 4 million dollars would probably be the equivalent of a hundred million in today’s dollars and was used to fund the famous Nobel prizes.
He brought to life something destructive and he brought to life something life-giving and wonderful.
The point of all this is we have incredible power to bring things to life. We might create something that helps others, or like Dr. Frankenstein we might create something that is destructive.
So the simple questions today to ponder are these?
When do I eat from the tree of life?
When do I eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?
Maybe after lunch sit down for a minute in a comfortable chair and talk to God and in God’s presence ask yourself?
Where do I eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?
Who do I judge, or put down or condemn? To what situations do I bring the negative energy of anger, cynicism, prejudice or envy?
When will I not forgive, hold grudges and retain negative energy?
Who do I actively try to thwart, hurt or hinder?
How do I keep my own self from joy and happiness and fulfilment? Do I help others or drag them down?
When do I eat of the tree that gives life?
What are you the things, the people, the situations that I breathe life into?
The times of personal growth where I connect with God and with love… The times I acknowledge mistakes and selfishness and change for the better. Meditation, prayer or worship or anything that makes me more like Jesus.
The good that I do, the people I listen to, the ones I love unconditionally, the people in need I help, the times where I forgive.
Like Jesus, we have the power to bring things to life and to unbind things.
To put flesh on the bones.
What are we going to breathe our life into?
You know about a dozen years ago we completed the restoration and refurbishing of our beautiful pipe organ and since I was here most days, I was very privileged to be able to see how all the parts came together.
I saw it stripped down to nothing. Swell boxes repaired and painted, new windchests and piping. Panels where some of the pipes sit were constructed. I saw wiring, at least one wire for every pipe. A couple of thousand put into electric panels in the console. I saw the console taken apart and new keyboard.
I saw the couple of thousand pipes each one taken down cleaned, repaired, put back, and tuned.
I felt like Ezekiel in the valley of the dry bones and all the bones and the flesh and the skin of the organ came together.
It was wonderful.
But the best part, the best part…
The best part is here in church on Sunday morning when the organ is actually played.
And you know what, I think one of my favourite parts of the service on a Sunday morning is the offering.
Not the money part. But don’t stop giving.
Not the money part but the offertory
For when Joachim breathes life into the organ and interprets the sermon on the organ it is truly a divine moment.
God comes alive to me in a very special way. I remember one time in particular when he improvised on the Battle Hymn of the Republic, I was crying. Go figure…
And it reminds me that God breathes life into us in so many ways.
God resurrects us in many ways.
Some of my friends have had alcohol problems and went to AA and were born again so to speak and found new life.
Someone comes for spiritual direction and God awakens them to prayer and his presence.
A teenager came to me one day several years ago and said. “I never used to go to church, but now I go every week.”
God breathes life into us in so many ways.
And you too, made in the image of God will breathe your life into many things.
What will you breathe your life into….?
Peace, love, children, education, church, prayer….
Who will you build up and put life back into and enflesh with love and community, with acceptance and compassion?
Who will you breathe Jesus into?
I pray for myself, I pray for us all, that we would pray the words of the hymn:
Breathe on us breath of God. Fill us with life anew. That we may love what thou dost love and do what Thou would’st do. Amen