walking this morning through the sunlight and the jonquil blooms and the birdsongs to the library this, where i use the computer, i saw a headline in the arkansas democrat gazette: "consumers' mood sunnier." am i the only one who finds living in a society which encourages us to define ourselves as "consumers" very unfortunate? once again that old serpent, the deceiver, tries to beguile us: "you will not die. we have the consumers' protection act."
of course central to our civilization's mythology is the story of the tree of good and evil and our first ancester's eating of it. they (we) have already everything we need, but there is one other thing, the forbidden thing, which we just must consume as well. it is not enough to know the good; we want to know good and evil.
this story, however one understands it, is compelling. we discuss it often. i have often remarked on a saturday about ten years ago when during the course of the day i was at four gatherings, of very various "religious persuasions," where the discussion turned to eve and adam and the apple.
not often in those discussions, however, is the role of obedience discussed. the gospel according to john is in many ways a commentary--a midrash if one wants to use a fancy word--on the first chapters of genesis. if that is a correct reading of john's work, then the tree of knowledge may not be an apple, as it is in so many paintings, but a vine. i think there are many benefits of considering the tree this way. think, for instance, of the story of noah and its outcome.
so, jesus has washed his disciples feet and told them a good many things about his leaving and the coming of the comforter, and they begin to walk to gesthemani. they pass the front of the temple, with its great golden carving of the vine. "i am the true vine," he says, "and my father is the husbandman. every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh it away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he cleanseth it, that it may bear more fruit. . . . if ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you. herein is my father glorified, that ye bear much fruits; and so shall ye be my disciples. even as the father hath loved me, i also have loved you: abide ye in my love. if ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as i have kept my father's commandments, and abide in his love." (john 15:1 ff., rv)
there are great problems for people and nations when one ceases to be a producer and begins to be only a consumer. (need i mention the american economic demise?) william temple, in his wonderful little book, readings in st. john's gospel, discusses how one may be a producer (london: st. martin's, 1961, pp. 246-247):
"we are in the vine. are we bearing fruit? no amount of ascetic discipline or devotional fervour is a substitute for the practical obedience which alone is 'fruit.' that obedience however is not a matter of 'works,' though these will follow from it, and if they are lacking, there is no 'fruit.' obedience is to god's command; 'and this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his son jesus christ, and love one another even as he gave us commandment' (,i>i john iii, 23)."
so simple. but so unlike what i so often want to do.
ADVENT & CHRISTMAS SCHEDULE 2017-2018
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