Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Sermon at the Apple Festival

Reporter: How many references to an apple in the Bible?
-Genesis: Adam & Eve…the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat…the fruit (not specified as an apple…)
-Psalm 17.8: Keep me as the apple of your eye hide me under the shadow of your wings. (used in Compline)

There was a religious poem written by an unknown New Englander around 1784, it has become a favorite Christmas Carol.

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree
From Divine Hymns or Spiritual Songs,
compiled by Joshua Smith, New Hampshire, 1784

1. The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green:
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree.

2. His beauty doth all things excel:
By faith I know, but ne'er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

Quite an image, Jesus Christ the apple tree and here we are surrounded by apples, I can see why a New Englander might have come up with a great poem. That poem seems so different from today’s Gospel. What should we make of Jesus words for today?

Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple…

First we know that Jesus constantly talks about love, loving God, loving our neighbor as ourselves, so why use hate here esp. with one’s own family? But if we hear his words in the midst of a large crowd, people who were following him, but not as committed as his disciples, his words are intended to challenge that crowd to be disciples, it is a rhetorical device using hate to catch their attention for they cannot be part time followers, they cannot pick and choose when to commit, Jesus wants all of them right now. If we are to follow him, family considerations cannot hold us back, we are to bear our cross, and forsake our possessions, which is the minimum we are to do.

3. For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought:
I missed of all; but now I see
'Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

Jesus came that we might have joy and have it completely. What Jesus offers to his followers is not escapism but fulfillment just as the poem alludes to. Our possessions won’t do it. Family alone can’t do it. It is by bearing our Cross, making the sacrifices and committing to follow Jesus and his way.

4. I'm weary with my former toil,
Here I will sit and rest awhile:
Under the shadow I will be,
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

Even after weary days, at the moon bounce, or grill, in the kitchen or handing out pies or mums or raffle tickets or apples… Even when our days seem long and our life so short, it is with Jesus that we will find our rest, our home, Or to put in the words from the Song of Songs or the Song of Solomon from Scripture…

As an apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among young men. With great delight I sat in his shadow, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.

That fruit is from Christ the Apple Tree the fruit is his life and he offers it to us each and every week at this table with the Eucharist, but to do that we must as that reading from Deuteronomy reminds us to do, to choose life, to come and taste and see that indeed our Lord is good…

5. This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.


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