You Can Tell Them By Their Fruit   1 comment

Above:  A 2000-Year-Old Olive Tree in Bar, Montenegro

Image Source = Bratislav Tabas

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Olea_europea_3.jpg)

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Genesis 15:1-21 (An American Translation):

After these events the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision,

Do not be afraid, Abram; I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.

But Abram said,

O Lord GOD, what canst thou give me, seeing that I am childless, and that my heir is a Damascene, Eliezer?

Abram said,

Since you have given me no posterity, my household slave will be my heir.

But there came to him this message from the LORD,

No such person is to be your heir, but one born of your own body is to be your heir.

Then he took him outside, and said,

Now, look at the sky, and count the stars if you can.  So shall your descendants be,

he said to him.

And he trusted in the LORD, who counted it to his credit, and said to him,

I am the LORD, who brought you out of the Chaldean city of Ur to give you possession of this land.

But he said,

O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?

So he said to him,

Procure a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old she-goat, a three-year-old he-goat, a dove, and a young pigeon.

Procuring all these, he cut them in two–but not the birds–and placed the pieces opposite each other.  The birds of prey swooped down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them off.  Then, as the sun was going down, a trance fell on Abram; indeed a great and awful gloom fell upon him.  Then the LORD said to Abram,

Know of a surety that your descendants shall be immigrants in a land not their own, where they shall be slaves, and be oppressed for four hundred years; but I will in turn bring judgment upon the nation that made slaves of them, after which they shall escape with great wealth.  (As for yourself, you shall join your fathers in peace, and be buried at a ripe old age.)  It will only be in the fourth generation, however, that they will return here; for the guilt of the Amorites is not yet complete.

When the sun had set and it was quite dark, there appeared a smoking fire-pot and a blazing torch that passed between the pieces.  That day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying,

To your descendants I give this land, from the River of Egypt as far as the Great River, the river Euphrates–that of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaim, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites.

Psalm 47 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Clap your hands, all you peoples;

shout to God with a cry of joy.

For the LORD Most High is to be feared;

he is the great King over all the earth.

3 He subdues the peoples under us,

and the nations under out feet.

4 He chooses our inheritance for us,

the pride of Jacob whom he loves.

5 God has gone up with a shout,

the LORD with the shout of the ram’s-horn.

Sing praises to God, sing praises;

sing praises to our King, sing praises.

7 For God is King of all the earth;

sing praises with all your skill.

God reigns over the nations;

God sits enthroned upon his holy throne.

9 The nobles of the peoples have gathered together

with the people of the God of Abraham.

10 The rulers of the earth belong to God,

and he is highly exalted.

Matthew 7:15-20 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you disguised as sheep but are ravenous wolves underneath.  You can tell them by their fruit.  Do people pick grapes off thorns, or figs off thistles?  Just so any sound tree bears good fruit, but a poor tree bears bad fruit.  No sound tree can bear bad fruit, and no poor tree can bear good fruit.  Any tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and burned.  So you can tell them by their fruit.

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The Collect:

O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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As I have written before, deeds reveal creeds.

Let us begin with Genesis.  The lectionary skips over Chapter 14, and Chapter 15 begins with, “After these events….”  In Chapter 14, the following events transpired:

  1. The kings of Shinar (a.k.a. Babylon), Ellasar, Elam, and Goiim waged war on the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Adman, Zeboiim, and Bela (a.k.a. Zoar).  The latter alliance, subject to the king of Elam for twelve years, rebelled, so the Elamite king and his allies attacked.
  2. The attacking alliance of four kings conquered Rephaim, Zuzim, Emim, Horites, Amalekites, and Amorites along the way.
  3. The attacking alliance of four kings captured Lot, members of his household, and his possessions, and removed all of them from Sodom.
  4. Abram and members of his household defeated the attacking alliance of four kings and rescued Lot and all members of his household and retrieved Lot’s possessions.
  5. After the battle, Abram met the kings of Sodom and Salem.  Melchizedek, the priest-king of Salem, blessed El Shaddai for delivering Abram.
  6. Abram, consistent with his familial obligations and a promise to his God, declined to keep any of Lot’s possessions, although Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre, who had accompanied Abram, did claim their shares with Abram’s permission.

So, in Chapter 15, God repeated the previously stated promise that Abram would have many descendants.  After an animal sacrifice and advance notice of Hebrew slavery in Egypt, the Exodus, and the wandering in the wilderness, God established a covenant with Abram.  The patriarch trusted that God, whom he knew as El Shaddai, would keep divine promises, that is, Abram believed in God.  There would be rough patches and long, deep valleys, but the promises of God were–and are–trustworthy.

Abram, of course, did not always trust before Genesis 15:1-21 or after.  He was a mortal, not a flawless individual.  But he did well enough for biblical authors to look back on him as a role model of faithfulness.

The metaphor of good and bad trees and fruit is easy to understand.  We cannot hide who we are forever, no matter how good we are at playing parts in public life.  We are as we think, and the truth will emerge in time.  Abram was a good tree.  May we be good trees, too.

The Gospel of Matthew dates to approximately 85 C.E.  The original audience understood prophets well, as such men still roamed the roads and proclaimed messages they claimed came from God.  Some prophets were true; others were false.  The message for the audience in 85 C.E. was plain:  Consider the source.  This is a timeless lesson.  In my North American context, I can think of a murderous false prophet (Jim Jones) and numerous fraudulent false prophets (many televangelists, especially alleged faith healers who “heal” people planted in the audience).  A few years ago I received an unsolicited piece of mail from the Reverend Ike.  There was a paper “prayer cloth” featuring the outline of a hand.  The instructions said to put my hand in that hand, a stand-in for God’s hand, when praying.  I did no such thing.

I regret that many people mistake such confidence men as messengers from God.  Their fraud is well-documented, and they distract spiritually needy people from true shepherds who can provide guidance in person.  When I ponder Karl Marx’s famous statement that religion is the opiate of the masses, I wonder what he would have made of televangelism.

You shall know them by their fruits.

My parting thought is this:  What kind of tree are you?  Considering the reality of human imperfections and thus laying aside illusions of moral perfection, do you bear good fruit?  Do you lead people to God or do you distract them?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 11, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF OCTAVIUS HADFIELD, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WELLINGTON

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/11/week-of-proper-7-wednesday-year-1/

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Posted February 5, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Genesis 15, Matthew 7, Psalm 47

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One response to “You Can Tell Them By Their Fruit

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  1. Pingback: Week of Proper 7: Wednesday, Year 1 « ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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