Greetings! For today’s service we’ll be using the Matins liturgy from the hymnal. The service is led by Shawn Mai with Barb Kass offering a reflection. The readings for today, along with a recording, are posted below. Check back later for the text of Barb’s reflection.
Genesis 2: 15-17; 3: 1-13
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.”
The First Sin and Its Punishment
3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die; 5 for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God,[a] knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
8 They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 He said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent tricked me, and I ate.”
Mark 11: 12-25
Jesus Curses the Fig Tree
12 On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.
Jesus Cleanses the Temple
15 Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; 16 and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17 He was teaching and saying, “Is it not written,
‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’?
But you have made it a den of robbers.”
18 And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. 19 And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.
The Lesson from the Withered Fig Tree
20 In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21 Then Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” 22 Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. 24 So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
25 “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”
In reading the 2 texts for today, I was hard pressed to connect the two. The Matin’s committee had decided to look at Jesus’ encounters with nature this summer, and then a correlating Old Testament story. The encounter described by Mark is a harsh one. Why should the fig tree become collateral damage for not producing fruit during the off season! After reading a few commentaries on the passage, I realize it was a symbolic action about the temple which then Jesus went on to clear in dramatic fashion. Others said that even in the off season, fig trees would have had something edible on them, and the fact that this one had just foliage, meant that it looked good on the outside, but was not a healthy tree. Again, like the temple it needed to be cleared. Finally, there is the discussion about the power of prayer. Where was the prayer for the fig tree?
Obviously the Genesis story is familiar and fig trees figure into it: Adam and Eve sewed leaves of fig leaves to cover their nakedness. If you are looking in a garden for fabric and not fruit, this is your tree. The deeply-lobed leaves can be four to eight inches wide and as long as 10 inches. It’s an interesting fact to know and tell, but not very inspirational.
Again I read both texts, and several commentaries and finally found a thread: Walking! It’s one that Kristin Martin would be the expert to talk about! Walking is simple and profound at the same time! Maybe I was drawn to this because of a devotional I read the week my mom was dying called May I walk you home. In our neighborhood, we always walked each other home from school, church or the playground. That simple custom offered protection and guidance as well as the opportunity to reflect on our day, our life experience. Extending the same personal companionship to those are on their final journey gives both the caregiver and the person dying comfort, courage and hope.
In the Genesis story we hear how God is walking in the garden “at the time of the evening breeze”. The beauty of this image of a God who is present with us, walking with us, from the beginning is breath taking! The Old Testament is full of images of this accompanying God in times of great faith and also great faithlessness.
Barbara Brown Taylor has a chapter called ‘The practice of walking on the earth’ in her book: An Altar in the World. The following is the section that talks about Jesus and walking…
[text not included here]
I hope you will find time to walk this week with gratitude and the mindfulness that all around us is holy ground.