Archive for the tag “Tree of Life”

The Tree of Life in a Cross of Wood

adam-and-eve-60581_1920Two naked sinners, one a woman, one a man, retreat from Eden’s holy orchard with breath that reeks of forbidden fruit. See them there, once perfect, now flawed, leaving behind what would have been, to face what now is.

But see the hands of God, the left calloused with law, the right soft as grace, reaching out as a Father to clothe His naked fleeing children. He wraps their defiled bodies with animal skins. The beasts Adam once named are now named by God as sacrifices. From creator to priest, our God now moves, from forming animals to slaying them, all so that His Adam and His Eve might remain truly His.

And so it goes in this world, with every one of us born naked in a world that has long forgotten Eden. There is only one way back, only one way back to perfection, to paradise, to God. It is a way that is marked by bone and blood, skin and flesh, spear and nail, thorn and wood.

Paradise is regained by the birth of a priest who is destined for the altar. His temple is His body, His vestments are His flesh, and the blood He will sacrifice is coursing through His veins. He knows the way back to Eden, for His are the hands that clothed the two naked sinners. And now He has come, naked from His mother’s womb to clothe her and you and all His fallen children with a robe worthy of royalty.

“It is finished,” He cries from the holy of holies, His priestly voice ringing through earth and heaven. “It is finished indeed,” His Church replies. The temple not made with hands has been entered; the mercy seat has been sprinkled; and heaven is painted red with the blood of God.

And yet He stands, upright, victorious, within the holy of holies. He stands alive forevermore, the veil rent in twain lying beneath His feet. He stands in the new and better Eden, the most holy garden, where the tree of life now grows. He stands ready to clothe you, His naked children, with His own flesh and blood, pouring His robes upon you with water from the font, dressing you with His own body as He places it on your tongue.

So eat and be clothed, all you Adams, and drink and be dressed, all you Eves. Find within the cross of wood the Tree of Life with every good. The price has been paid, Eden has been re-opened, and heaven’s angels are waiting—with swords sheathed—to greet you at the gates of paradise.

*This reflection is part of a series of mediations on hymns that I presented at the “Day of Singing Boldly” at St. John Lutheran Church, Seward, Nebraska. It draws from the language of “The Tree of Life” by Stephen Starke (Lutheran Service Book, #561).

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What we need in our fragmented world, full of hurting people, is the love of Jesus Christ, who welcomes home sinners with a grace that knows no bounds. My book Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons, is packed with reflections that go that extra mile of grace. Again and again, they present the Christ who is crucified and risen for you. Please take a moment to check it out here. You may also be interested in my collections of hymns and poetry entitled, The Infant Priest, which you can purchase here. Both books are also available on Amazon, as is my booklet Why Lutherans Sing What They Sing (also on Kindle). Thank you for your prayers and support!


A Conversation with Jesus About Genesis 1


Road to Emmaus

Me: When you walked with those two disciples on the road to Emmaus, you began with Moses, and proceeded through all the prophets, to explain to them the things concerning yourself in all the Scriptures (Luke 24:27). But where are you in the opening chapter of Moses? Where are you in the story of creation?

Jesus: I am not only before the beginning, in the beginning, and after the beginning; I am the Beginning. The Father appointed me, Wisdom, as the Beginning of His way (Proverbs 8:22). I am the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the Beginning of the creation of God (Revelation 3:14). I am the head of the body, the church; and I am the Beginning, as well as the Firstborn from the dead, so that I myself might come to have first place in everything (Colossians 1:18). In the beginning I was the Word, and I as Word was the Beginning. By me all things were created, both in the heavens and in the earth, visible and invisible. All things have been created by me and for me (Colossians 1:16). Therefore, already in the opening word of the Hebrew Bible, Bereshith, I am.

Me: What about the rest of the chapter? Does the remainder of the creation account speak of you?

Jesus: All things came into being by me, and apart from me nothing came into being that has come into being (John 1:3). The heavens testify of me, for by me the Father made light. I am light of light, very God of very God, begotten not made. My life is the light of men, the light that shines in the darkness. By me the Father made the sun, for I am the sun of righteousness, who arises with healing in my wings (Malachi 4:2). The animals testify of me, for I am the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). I am the Lion of the tribe of Judah, who overcomes so as to open the scroll and its seven seals (Revelation 5:5). The trees testify of me, for I am the Tree of Life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding fruit every month, and my leaves are for the healing of the nations (Revelation 22:2). Even the smallest animals testify of me, for I am a worm and not a man, a reproach of men, and despised by the people (Psalm 22:6). And man testifies of me, he who was created in the image and likeness of God, for I am the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation (Colossians 1:15), the radiance of the Father’s glory and the exact representation of His nature (Hebrews 1:3).

Me: So shall I read Genesis 1 as the story of your work of creation or recreation?

Jesus: The story of creation is the story of recreation, and the story of recreation is the story of creation. These are not two stories but one. Behold, I make all things, and I make all things new. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end (Revelation 22:13). If any man is in me, he is a new creation; the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17). I am the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world on the altar of the cross, but I am also the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8). Therefore, in Genesis 1, read of me and my work, for in creation is told the story of redemption, and in the story of redemption is told the story of creation.

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