Divine Fruit

can you buy Ivermectin over the counter Divine Fruit

Rev. Dr. Glenda Hollingshead; March 27, 2022

4th Sunday in Lent

Genesis 3:1-13; Matthew 26:36-41

 

“The National Parks: America’s Best Idea” is a documentary created by Ken Burns. The series features the park system and traces its history. Highlights include stories of people like John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt, and the Rockefellers. Images stream across the screen of national treasures like Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks, the Grand Canyon, the Great Smoky Mountains, and Shenandoah’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Another wonder might have made it into the mix—if it had been on American soil—if we still had access to it—a garden of God’s design in another time and place—the Garden of Eden—one of God’s Best Ideas!

Scripture tells us a river flows out of Eden to water the garden and it is there that the Lord God takes the man—to till and keep it. In other words, Adam’s job is to care for the garden and protect it. Only one stipulation is given, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 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.” The whole garden is available for humankind’s enjoyment except for one forbidden tree.

Then God makes for the man a helper as his partner—a woman. Indeed, in every way it is Paradise, until onto the scene walks the crafty serpent eager to share his venomous lies and deceitful ways. The snake, of course, twists God’s words, “You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The woman is tempted—how wonderful it would be to know the things God knows. So, she takes the fruit and eats it. She gives some to her husband and then, their eyes are opened. God creates the first man and woman for a special task but in a moment of weakness they choose another path of their own devising.

Barbara Brown Taylor writes,

The snake was right—they did not die as God had said, but it was the end of life as they had known it. In one afternoon they lost everything: their paradise, their innocence, their intimacy with God. All it took was one stupid, willful decision, and there was no going back. They had acquired the knowledge of good and evil, along with the knowledge of which one they had chosen. From the moment they left the garden, life was hard. Life was painful. Life was forever out of whack.[i]

Eating divine fruit is dangerous business because we are not equipped to see as God sees. The truth of our broken, human condition is this: We are much better at plundering and exploiting than caring for and protecting.

The Garden of Eden is a place of beauty—a place where God and humans commune in harmony. After the Fall, no doubt, things change, but our yearning to be near God does not change. Oh, we may try to fill the void with other things like money, power, drugs, alcohol, excess food, and material possessions—when what we really need above all else is a right relationship with God. Nevertheless, our yearning for God does not change. Neither does our longing for a holy place where we can commune with God. Sometimes we are drawn to church to commune with God. Sometimes we choose a quiet place in our own homes. Often, nature calls us and a garden, oh, a garden can be a sacred place to listen for God’s still, small voice.

Jesus is drawn to such a place—the Garden of Gethsemane. He frequently visits this garden on the side of the Mount of Olives. Our reading from the Gospel of Matthew marks Jesus’ last visit and Peter, James, and John are with him. Knowing what is ahead, Jesus wants his closest friends nearby. But he might as well have been alone for all the good they do him. While he prays, they sleep. In disappointment he admonishes them, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

As we continue our Lenten journey this morning, we pause to consider how sin can wreak havoc on our lives. When we pit our will against God’s will, we sin. When we do what we want to do, knowing full well it is not what we should do, we sin. With each bad choice, we travel down a road that leads us further and further away from God. In time, we feel so distant from God. We feel shame, guilt, embarrassment, and fear. We stop talking to God. We stop listening. The sin of pride grows within us—so much so—we become convinced that we can deal with our own issues—our own lives. We don’t need God.

Often during the Season of Lent, I re-read Christ Walk written by Anna Fitch Courie. Recently, when I did so, I found the following on the topic of sin:

Because we are not divine, we are flawed. Sin is a part of human nature. However, God’s grace gives us the strength to move past sin. Only through God’s redeeming grace do we have the opportunity for forgiveness and love and starting over each time with God. God can lift us above our sin. God is infinitely forgiving…Forgiveness is free to all who choose the gift of God’s love. And forgiveness happens over and over because we sin over and over. To sin or not to sin is the choice we made when we decided that abiding in the Garden of Eden was not enough. And God loves us enough to [allow us to] make those choices and still be there with us through it all…[ii]

Only through God’s grace will we have the strength to move past our sin. It is true for Adam and Eve whom God loves so much he gives them garments sewn by God’s own hand to replace rough, scratchy, fig leaves.

Only through God’s grace will we have the strength to move past our sin. It is true for Peter, James, and John, who fail to stay awake with Jesus when he needs them most. Yet, in the end, they are used in mighty ways to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Only through God’s grace will we have the strength to move past our sin. It remains true for each and every one of us. How are we moving past our sin? How are we responding to God’s grace? Are we gathering to worship with other believers on a regular basis? Do we commit to daily prayer and meditation?  Are we seeking a word from God in God’s Word?

How about our relationships with others? Do we maintain healthy boundaries? By the way we choose to live, can people tell we’re followers of Christ? Do our lives exemplify the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?

And what about how we care for ourselves? Are we making healthy choices, exercising, getting adequate rest, and making every effort to tend to the temple of the Holy Spirit—which is our body—so that we can do the work God has called us to do?

What happened in the Garden of Eden might have severed our relationship with God forever. But God’s love will not die. God’s love, embodied in the flesh, cries out in the Garden of Gethsemane for our sake. God’s love breaks forth even from a Garden Tomb. And God’s love and grace and mercy continue to pour down like rain upon the earth, refreshing us. Thanks be to God! Amen.

(Silent Reflection)

 

*Cover photo by Glenda Hollingshead

[i] Barbara Brown Taylor, Speaking of Sin: The Lost Language of Salvation, 44.

[ii] Anna Fitch Courie, Christ Walk: A 40-Day Spiritual Fitness Program, 55.

Great Love

Great Love

Rev. Dr. Glenda Hollingshead; March 20, 2022

3rd Sunday in Lent

Genesis 2:4b-9; Matthew 22:34-40

 

In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens…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…What a beautiful picture of God the Creator breathing life into creation. What a moment of joy and bliss. I wonder if God watched with abandon as his human creation inhaled and exhaled the very breath that had originated in God. Maybe God laughed when the human stood and yawned and stretched. Imagine the relationship that was soon forged between God and the man and the woman in the Garden of Eden—afternoon walks and long talks into the night.

Without a doubt, God found great joy in the first human beings God created just as God continues to find joy in each one of us. And it is because of God the Creator that humans can be creative, too, and the act of creating brings us joy as well. I relish being around creative people—writers, artists, musicians, singers—they help me see the world and my place in it a little differently. They make me want to be more creative. The truth is we are all creative in our own way. As I thought of you this week, I was reminded of the deep well of creativity that exists here at FPC. You sing, you teach, you write, you garden, you paint, you play instruments, you knit, you crochet, you do woodworking, you repair what is broken, you bake, you cook, you organize—and if that isn’t enough, you can create joy in a room just by entering it.

God created…God created humans…and God saw that it was good. God took pleasure in creating the human body—even going so far as to enter the world in human form. But when it comes to our bodies made of flesh and bone, we live in a world better at exploiting the body than caring for it as a gift from God. We are better at working too hard, sleeping and exercising too little, drinking excessively to mask our pain, and feeding our bodies in ways that leave us malnourished and unsatisfied. Hardly a joy-filled scene. Yet, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.”

Glorify God in your body. Even though Jesus’ words about love might inspire us to evaluate how we take care of our body—how we glorify God in our body—I have never heard a sermon on the topic. But the invitation of Lent is to examine life—all of it—not just our spiritual life. As Pierre Tielhard de Chardin put it, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” With this in mind, let us take a closer look at Jesus’ instructions.

When we happen upon Jesus, he is being tested—first by the Sadducees—and now the Pharisees. They are eager to see if the Savior can pass their little pop-quiz,

Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to them, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

Did you hear that, “Love your neighbor as yourself”? Most of what we hear in church on any given Sunday is an admonition to love God and love neighbor—and for good reason. But what about the “as yourself” part? Does the church have anything to say about that? Is it a given, or do we believe self-care is selfish? Moreover, how can we have the creativity and the energy to care for our neighbor if we don’t care for ourselves? Maybe it is time for the church to chime in on the matter.

Anna Fitch Courie has some insights that might help us. She writes:

Just as there are different types of exercise and different types of athleticism, there are different types of bodies. We are all different types of bodies. The point is to take care of our bodies. We are all made in the image of God—ALL of us—not just the athletes, or the models, or the actors. God made the moms, the dads, the teenagers, the babies, the workers, the handicapped—all of us. That means we need to take care of how God made us. Sometimes that means moving more. Sometimes that means not filling the hole in our hearts with unnecessary food. Sometimes that means doing for others…[i]

As I reflected on these words, one thing that resonated is the need to move more—to get in my 10,000 steps with my dogs, Moses and Miriam, yes, but also throughout the day. I have a terrible habit of getting so immersed in something; writing a sermon, for example, that I can sit at my computer for hours without getting up. So as one attempt at self-care, I set a timer to remind me to get up and walk around every 20 minutes. Often, I use a stand-up desk so that I am not sitting so much since experts say that “sitting is the new smoking.” Most recently, I invested in a rowing machine and my arthritic knees give thanks for it has made a real difference in my range of motion. While these steps may seem small, they are steps in the direction I want to go—toward better health.

While our bad habits and issues differ, there is one area that impacts everyone and that is how stressed we are. Proverbs 12:25 tells us, “Anxiety weighs down the human heart.” Isn’t it ironic that with all of our modern-day conveniences, we work harder and are more stressed than ever?  Courie notes,

Instead of clearing time in our lives for family and prayer, technology has created a heightened level of stress and need for more work. We no longer work in tune with the changing of the seasons. Instead we force our bodies to work against our normal circadian rhythms and at longer hours than ever before. The standard “forty-hour work week” really is not so. The hours of overtime and stress associated with our jobs have come at the expense of our health. Compounded with that, the very technology that makes some parts of our lives easier is bad for our health. We move less now because so many machines do the physical labor for us.”[ii]

We may be able to reduce stress in our lives by rearranging our priorities, but for some of us, it will take more than that to manage our out-of-control anxiety. If so, 1 Peter 5:7 may offer just the word we need: “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” God cares about the stress and anxiety in our lives and God can help us if we will only practice giving it to God again and again. We can ask God to help us pray and meditate more; exercise more; get adequate sleep; make healthier food choices; and worry less.

Perhaps you are thinking: “Wait a minute. I go to church; I share my time and talents and resources and now the preacher wants me to take better care of my body. Seriously?” But rest assured, my brothers and sisters in Christ, your pastor is not pointing a finger at you. I have my own poor health habits to overcome. We are in this together. We are all human—fragile in one way or another. So, if our plan is to reach our health goals through our own strength—we will likely fail. The good news is that our Lord does not expect us to become champions overnight. Being a Christian means trying and trying again—in all areas of life.  Sometimes we miss the mark, but sometimes, with God’s help, we succeed and the true image of God living within us breaks forth. In those moments, we gain strength and courage for the journey.

To love God is to love neighbor. To love neighbor is to love God. And to love self is to love both God and neighbor. They are intertwined and mutually interdependent loves. One of my favorite stories about Thomas Merton involves this deep interconnection of love. It happened one day when he was standing on a street corner in downtown Louisville, and he suddenly had an epiphany.  Merton writes:

In Louisville, at the corner of Fourth and Walnut, in the center of the shopping district, I was suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that I loved all these people, that they were mine and I theirs, that we could not be alien to one another even though we were total strangers.  It was like waking from a dream of separateness…This sense of liberation [from the illusion of being different] was such a relief and such a joy to me that I almost laughed out loud… Thank God, thank God that I am like other men, that I am only a man among others…I have the immense joy of being man, a member of a race in which God Himself became incarnate.  As if the sorrows and stupidities of the human condition could overwhelm me, now I realize what we are.  And if only everybody could realize this!  But it cannot be explained.  There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.”[iii]

Indeed, it is true. Body, mind, and soul—you are all walking around shining like the sun. Amen.

 

 

 

*Cover photo by Glenda Hollingshead

[i] Anna Fitch Courie, A 40-Day Spiritual Fitness Program: Christ Walk, 17-18.

[ii] Ibid, 30.

[iii] Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, 156-157.

The Journey Begins

The Journey Begins

Rev. Dr. Glenda Hollingshead; March 6, 2022

1st Sunday in Lent

Deuteronomy 26:1-11; Luke 4:1-13

 

Merriam-Webster defines wilderness as a tract or region uninhabited by human beings; a place essentially undisturbed by human activity; an empty or pathless area. In Scripture, however, the wilderness has other meanings. It is an in-between place where ordinary life is suspended, and new possibilities emerge. From the Israelites we learn that the wilderness is a place of danger, temptation, and chaos. It is also a place of solitude, nourishment, and revelation. These same themes emerge in Jesus’ journey into the wilderness.[i]

Most of us have likely spent little time in an actual wilderness. But there are other kinds of wildernesses we experience in life. For example, we may experience wilderness time in the transitions of life like the move from middle school to high school or from high school to college or from physical health to weakness or disease. We may feel we have been left alone to fend for ourselves in the desert when we change jobs or move to a new city. Certainly, divorce or the death of a loved one or a global pandemic is wilderness time. If given a choice, no one would choose a difficult path, a path on which we might stumble, a path that leads through harsh circumstances, a path that might even serve as a place of discipline and spiritual growth. Yet isn’t it true that to learn to depend on the Most High God, we must be challenged to do so?

Jesus does not ask for trials and temptations, but he accepts them as God’s will. And not even the Son of God wakes up one morning, rolls out of bed and starts preaching. For him, too, training is needed. He’s trained in Scripture. We know this because he uses it so often and so well. And he’s trained in the wilderness when the Holy Spirit leads him into a time of temptation and trial. But Jesus is not just dropped off to fend for himself—the Spirit is with him. After a 40 day fast, Jesus is drained, vulnerable, and famished. So, of course, this is the opportune time for the devil to slink into the wilderness to try to disturb, disrupt, and distort the will of God for Jesus’ life and ministry.

With our modern-day sensibilities, we may perceive Jesus’ time out in the wilderness as nothing less than dreadful. But what happens during those 40 days and nights, gives Jesus the strength and focus he needs for the journey ahead. There in that quiet, desolate place, Jesus is being formed. Jesus—Emmanuel—God with us—comes to do the Father’s will—not his own. Because of this time of preparation, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus conquers the powers of evil. Through his trust and faith in his Abba Father and his reliance upon God’s Word as his weapon against evil, he shows us the way ahead, too. He is our model because he is our brother and he left us with the same Spirit who is his own Companion and Friend.  Great is the mystery of our faith.

“From dust you came; to dust you shall return,” are words that mark the beginning of the Season of Lent, as our foreheads are marked with ashes in the sign of the cross. “From dust you came; to dust you shall return” are stark words that get our attention. Hopefully, they also serve as an invitation to begin our time of Lenten preparation on the right foot. During Lent we look our mortality in the face. We consider who we are and whose we are. It’s time to reflect on who we are becoming in God’s plan of salvation for the world. It’s time to ask questions like, “What are we doing with this one wonderful life we’ve been given?”

In a meditation on this season of the church year, Maggie Dawn offers a word of encouragement:

Pausing to contemplate our mortality [and our true nature during the Season of Lent] is not for the sake of making us bleak, but to startle us into an awareness of the gift of life. We’re neither perfect nor immortal: we are merely and yet wonderfully human, and we need to know who we are in our imperfections as well as our gifts in order to live every day as if it counts for something. The call to repentance isn’t supposed to leave us dour or morbidly obsessed with our failings. Instead, it’s a call to turn away…from what keeps us from God, alienates us from other people and stops us from living well. Lent [offers] a challenge to clear out the mental and spiritual clutter and so discover how to live life to the full.[ii]

Jesus has a full life. In three short years of ministry, he accomplishes things beyond our comprehension. When the Devil entices Jesus with lies of dominion and power over the physical, political, and spiritual world, Jesus does not waver. Instead, he keeps his eyes on his Abba Father. The temptations offer Jesus instant gratification but he does not settle and he will sacrifice his own life so that we don’t have to settle either. All this, and much more, Jesus endures and for what? For lowly humans who are often better at giving God a hard time than anything else. But Jesus wants so much more for us. Jesus wants us to have a full life, an abundant life—here on this earth and in the life to come.

Consider this: Whenever believers partake of Holy Communion, mere mortals, seemingly of little significance in the great scheme of things, are invited to enjoy manna from heaven—the body of Christ given for us—the blood of Christ, poured out for us. Should we really settle for anything less than what God intends for us—when this is what is on the menu?

Jesus whole life and ministry demonstrate the bigger picture of God’s plan for us. No, Jesus won’t turn stones into bread at the Devil’s bidding, but he will repeatedly make feeding the hungry a priority. No, Jesus won’t accept political power on Satan’s terms, but he will, throughout his ministry, speak truth to power when it comes to justice and peace for all people. No, Jesus won’t jump from the Temple to see if God will send angels to catch him, but he will go to the cross where he will die for love of all humanity.

Being faithful to God, day in and day out, isn’t easy. But if we choose the Lenten journey, if we choose the way of Jesus, God’s grace will rain down upon us in ways beyond our imaginings. For God does not lead us into the wilderness and leave us alone. No, God goes with us through the wilderness and into the Promised Land. Glory be to God. Amen!

[i] http://bibleresources.americanbible.org/resource/jesus-and-wilderness

[ii] Maggie Dawn, Giving it Up, 15.

*Cover Art “The Temptation of Christ” by Felix Joseph Barrias, via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain; Music CCLI 20016020/13