Come Together! (4/10/2016)

Watery Earth NASA photoA sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Text: Genesis 1                        Genesis 1: Beginningness               Paraphrase by Timothy Wayne Good

Before the beginning of time was the eternal God. Our beginning was God’s creation of   space and a nascent mass we would someday call home. The earth was an assemblage of primordial solids, liquids, gases and plasmas still without form; still unlit. God’s Spirit    moved across its face as God said: “Here is light. So be it.” The light’s embracing and     warming of the cold dark world pleased God. God spun the planet to separate the hours   into days and nights. The first day came to a close.

The next day, God separated the waters above and below: “So be it.” God called the moisture above “sky”, and the sunset and dawn of the second day in this primeval atmosphere created a global rainbow.

On the third day, God next separated the solid particles from water below to create land and sea.  “So be it” God said, and it was pleasing. But land needs roots to bind it together and make it alive, so God caused plants of all kinds to spring forth from the once       sterile ground. Fertile soil was created. “So be it.” God was pleased as another evening and morning brought an end to the third day.

On the fourth, God separated the nebulous glow of light by allowing celestial bodies to   shine through the clearing atmosphere. It was as it was willed. The cosmos danced across the heavens, and the sun and the moon raced. God was pleased.

The next day, God made the waters below and above alive with new life: leviathans; bugs; whales; bats; birds; and fish. They all pleased God, and God blessed them with the fruitfulness of ongoing creation. Evening passed and then the dawn; fifth day done.

God continued populating the planet by introducing land animals into the green paradise; and it pleased God. God said: “This next creature I will make in My own image with My own essence so that it may be able to rule over my earthly kingdom with wisdom and compassion.” So God formed humanity in all its many visages in God’s image, in the image of God made them all; God made them like Godself, male and female. God blessed them, too, with fruitfulness, and gave them responsibility for the care of   creation. “See,” God said, “I’ve given you everything you need to thrive, and abundance to sustain you and give you joy.”

God looked at the intricate relatedness of each of the worlds God created. We too see the intricate intimacies of life on earth – the chains, webs and circles of mutualism and dependence. God was pleased with His work; it was bustling, teeming, complete and whole – perfect. So God finished and took the final day off. God blessed this seventh day and made it a holy day to enjoy creation and to remember the Creator.

            These are the generations of God’s creation of all.

(Timothy Wayne Good, “Beginningness,” June 15, 2011, thenakedalien.blogspot.com)

Interconnection is not a particularly pretty word. It doesn’t really roll off the tongue. It’s difficult to imagine a poet using it to shape a phrase or complete a rhyme. Nor has it been a common concept in theological work, though we may find it moreso with the “greening” of theology. What today’s text teaches us is that God has carefully and lovingly interwoven the elements of creation into a grand and sacred whole, an entity that God shapes and calls “good.” There is much to explore, to understand, to embrace, to enjoy and, yes, to love in the intricate interconnectedness of creation.

For God’s own reasons and purposes, She sings out, “Come together!” And from every atomic particle, from the “primordial solids, gases and plasmas still without form,” God begins to create. Or, in the words of James Weldon Johnson (from “The Creation” in God’s Trombones),

AND God stepped out on space,
And He looked around and said,
“I’m lonely—
I’ll make me a world.”

To show off, to cure loneliness, for the sheer delight of it all, just because She could, God sang out, “Come together!” Things began to coalesce all around her and universe upon universe came into being. All that came into being was interconnected in and through the Creator, who saw it and said it was “good.”

When we talked about this creation story in Bible Study, I said it sounded to me as if God created from a sort of “roiling cauldron of stuff” rather than from nothing. As is often the case, Alan raised the challenging question, “But where did the ‘stuff’ come from, if God didn’t create it?” Of course, it’s a good question. The best response my little mind could come up with is that it pre-existed along with God. In actuality, it may be part of God, inextricably interconnected with the Holy One. To the degree we can visualize infinity, God and the “stuff” of God have always existed and always will. Alright, my head is starting to hurt. As we sometimes like to affirm, God is always the ”More.”

In a blog entitled, “The ‘Not-nothingess’ of Space,” Russ Dean writes, “I was surprised when I learned that outer space wasn’t made up of nothing. ‘What do you mean, it’s not ‘nothing’ out there? What’s out there?’” he asked. “I wasn’t talking about stars and planets, moons and asteroids, but about all the nothingness of space between them. I was told that that’s not nothing, either.” With the recent observation of “gravitational waves,” Russ says, “it reminds us that across the sea of whirling galaxies, the energy and the matter, the space and the time are really the same stuff, and the quarks and the stars, the waves and the wind — even the ‘red and yellow, black and white’ — are all part of One grand and unifying Spirit” (Russ Dean, “The ‘Not-nothingess’ of Space,” 4-4-2016, baptistnews.com). One grand and unifying Spirit that we call God, the One in whom we live and move have our being. Interconnection!

A couple of other things we considered as we studied this ancient word is how compatible it is with other current scientific thought. Now don’t get me wrong. I am not in any way suggesting that Genesis is or was ever meant to be a scientific text, but read it carefully and see if you don’t hear echoes of evolution in its poetry. And then, Alan, again, suggested that that first act of creation, that sudden separation of light from dark sounded a lot like the “big bang” theory. God sang out and suddenly, “boom,” things started to happen.

Part of the genius of this ancient explanatory myth is the way in which God carefully crafts each element and then gives it its appropriate place in a magnificent whole. To each lovingly shaped dimension of creation, She sings, “Come together!” and then she delights in the intricate beauty of her handiwork – “oh, that’s good.” In today’s Words of Preparation, Elizabeth Johnson writes, “Woven into our lives is the very fire from the stars and genes from the sea creatures, and everyone, utterly everyone, is kin in the radiant tapestry of being” (Elizabeth A. Johnson, Women, Earth, and Creator Spirit).  Interconnection!

Dan and Afan and I are in the midst of a set of concerts with The Choral Project, so you can imagine that singing in the choir has been on my mind this week. As I thought about today’s theme, it struck me that choirs and choral music are wonderful images for coming together and interconnection. In fact, a choir is interconnection by definition. If we practice long enough and hard enough we may create something of great beauty, infused by one great and unifying spirit.

But here’s the thing, you might not appreciate immediately all the different sounds the choir makes. This wondrous entity that is the music may sound strange to your ear or be alien to your experience. Our choir sings a lot of contemporary classical music, which is not to everyone’s taste. Sometimes you may have to work to understand, if not embrace, the genius of the composer.

Let me give you a couple of examples. Johann Sebastian Bach wrote a beautiful chorale that sounds like this. [Jan plays on the organ.]  He wrote this almost 300 years ago. In the 20th century, a fine Norwegian composer, Knut Nystedt, took this excerpt from the chorale and re-arranged it as a tribute to Bach’s genius. In his version, entitled, “Immortal Bach,” Nystedt divides the choir into five smaller choirs. Each small choir, in turn, sings the excerpt from the chorale, only each choir sings it at a different tempo. Now you might imagine that sounds like cacophony or chaos, and, frankly, to me it does, but Nystedt, the creator, heard something in that configuration that shaped the old elements of the chorale into a new sound, one that may come close to capturing the music of the spheres, which often sound beyond our easy listening.

Or as another example, we sing some music in which the choir divides into six or eight or twelve or sixteen parts. In this music, each part may sing its own note, creating a “sound cluster.” [Jan plays.] Again, you may not find the sound exactly beautiful, but in the context of a given work of music, this cluster may be a powerful way for the individual elements of the choir to come together in a new and exciting way. It is challenging to sing and challenging to hear but it also invites us to join with the creator who is constantly creating and drawing us into new and exciting configurations. Interconnection!

As we celebrate this earth month and beyond, we are likely to come up against ideas and images that are not easy to see or hear or necessarily to our liking. We can argue about the details of science and technology until the cows come home or the sun burns out. But there is a theological and spiritual underpinning for our conversation in the recognition of the interconnectedness of creation. It is all God’s doing. And God has blessed it and called it good. As God called creation to come together, the same God calls us to come together in appreciation, in love and care for what God has brought in to being. It is both a responsibility and great gift that calls us into a co-creative process of stewardship of creation. We may find it difficult at times to see with God’s eyes, to hear with God’s ears, to feel with God’s heart, or to reason with God’s mind, which is why we need to come together – to hear the beauty in the tone cluster, to admire the creative genius of gravitational waves, to discover the web-like intricacies that make up the earth, and to wonder at the constant shaping and re-shaping of creation.

“’See,’ God said, ‘I’ve given you everything you need to thrive, and abundance to sustain you and give you joy.’” Then, “God looked at the intricate relatedness of each of the worlds God created. We too see the intricate intimacies of life on earth – the chains, webs and circles of mutualism and dependence. God was pleased with this work; it was bustling, teeming, complete and whole – perfect.” And God sang out, “Come together! See how good it is. Share with me the delight of its existence and the joy of caring for it all.” Interconnection! Amen.

With Liberty and Justice for All

Rev. Rick MixonA sermon preached by Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Text: Ephesians 4:1-16 (The Message)

When I was a boy in elementary school, we started every day with Bible reading, prayer and the pledge of allegiance to the flag. These “opening exercises” were as predictable and normal as anything in my life. No one gave it a second thought. The words “under God” were added to the pledge in 1954. I was 7 years old at the time and anticipating the second grade. I have a vague memory of a minor disruption in the rhythm of life as we had to remember to include the new words when we recited the pledge. I don’t remember anyone in my small circle objecting to the addition.

I have more vivid memories of 1962-63 when the Supreme Court ruled that required prayer and Bible reading was not permissible in public schools. I was in high school by then, and I remember my father was outspoken in support of the Supreme Court’s decisions. Though the decisions were unpopular in Boise, Idaho, my dad saw them as consistent with his deeply held Baptist belief in the separation of church and state. Still, American Civil Religion carries weight in this country. Ignoring the growing diversity in religious belief and practice, we still tend to use rhetoric of the Judaeo-Christian tradition in attempts to elevate our discourse and/or get elected to public office.

After the bombing of the World Trade Center in 2001, it became common practice to sing “God Bless America” in lieu of, or along with, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” during the seventh inning stretch. But, friends, the United States of America is not the “Promised Land” nor have we any right or reason to expect special blessing from God or to claim that “God is on our side.” The privilege bought by the wealth and power of our nation has no special connection to the great God of the universe and the way we exercise that privilege has little to do with Jesus of Nazareth. It is as much a sham to claim that this is “one nation, under God” as it is to pretend that there is “liberty and justice for all.” Independence Day is not a religious holiday and that is why I choose not to celebrate it in worship.

This year, as the 4th of July approached, we were reminded dramatically that this is not “one nation,” that we are not “under God” in any sense of holding for ourselves a relationship more real and significant than other people on the planet, and that we are a long way from “liberty and justice for all.” In recognizing the holiday, one pastor friend chose to reproduce Langston Hughes’s poem, “Let America Be America Again.” Hughes, the great poet of the Harlem Renaissance, writes about the American dream:

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed—
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean—
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today—O, Pioneers!

I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath—
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again.

I offer these words as neither hymn nor gospel, but as the passionate yearning of one gifted black man for dignity and respect, for the recognition of his humanity and inclusion in whatever common enterprise that engages us as citizens of this land. In these days when hatred and violence have been so evident in our own backyard, when racism and white supremacy have been exposed as an ugly infection in the body politic, when fear of the foreigner and distrust of difference rule the day, Hughes reminds us how much yet needs to be done to make this “one nation…with liberty and justice for all.”

As people of faith who have reason to claim that we are “under God,” we do have responsibility to consider how our faith might inform and shape a society “with liberty and justice for all.” Hughes’s dream for America is not the dream that Paul had for the church but there does seem to be valuable interface between the two. Beloved Baptist ethicist and prophet, James Dunn, who served twenty years as director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, and who died yesterday on the 4th of July, wrote, “To translate the revealed message of God’s love into public policy is a massive and sometimes tricky undertaking but our generation is not the first to try. God’s children have been bringing morality to public life for centuries. Christian social ethics is a well developed discipline, not merely a collection of reactions to news reports” (Quoted in his obituary).

What if our sense of being special is not because we live in the United States of America but because we are children of God, the body of Christ? Special not because of any elevated status but because we have heard and responded to God’s call to service. Our motivation to work for “liberty and justice for all” is not because it’s the American way. We’ve already established that this a dream unfulfilled. What if, instead, our motivation is our desire to see the Beloved Community of God come to fulfillment on earth, which surely is a call to “translate the revealed message of God’s love into public policy”?

“I want you to get out there,” says Paul, “and walk…on the road God called you to travel…And,” he continues, “mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.” He calls us to be “…Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.”

In an all too racist society, what would it look like for us to pour ourselves out for each other in acts of love? And I don’t mean sweet, patronizing acts of charity. I mean real, transforming love that sees and respects difference while working to bind all together in love. The God who made us, who loves us with unexplainable love, who calls us to communion with the Holy One and community with one another, sees beyond the American Dream. It is a larger vision of hospitality and inclusion. I know some in the USA have claimed that as our dream, but the failure to bring it to reality speaks to our inadequacies when we try to go it alone. As soon as we begin to get ahead, we suddenly want to reserve the vision of liberty and justice for ourselves rather than for all. We want to confine life to borders that secure our privilege and power because we’re afraid that there just isn’t enough to go around.

This makes me think of the simple wisdom of Malvina Reynolds who sang, “Love is something if you give it away, you end up having more.” In fact, real love is only love in the giving. It cannot be hoarded. I understand that there are challenges to reaching across lines of race and class, to welcoming the stranger in the land, to learning new languages and cultures, to eating strange food and singing unfamiliar songs. But remember God’s challenge to Peter from a couple of weeks ago – “God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean” (Acts 10:28b). We used to sing it in Sunday School, “Red, yellow, black, brown, white, all are precious in God’s sight.” What if we committed ourselves to looking within this beautiful diversity for the God-ordained unity that sees every one as precious – yes, even the ones you really struggle with – maybe especially the ones you struggle with.

Let’s be clear though to say that “all lives matter” is not the same as to say “black lives matter.” The call for unity can never gloss over difference nor deny the painful picture painted by Hughes in his poem. Paul says we have to “notice differences,” we have to see and acknowledge the other’s pain and struggle, hopes and dreams. Racism and white supremacy are real. Until we see and understand those realities there will never be “liberty and justice for all.” If one us is not free then none of us is truly free…and God deeply desires freedom for all creation.

Let me close with some words from another poet of the Harlem Renaissance, James Weldon Johnson, who, along with his brother, Rosamond, wrote what has come to be known as the black national anthem:

Lift every voice and sing,
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might,
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.

Or in the words of Paul, “…I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.

God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love.

On Becoming Human (September 14, 2014)

Rev. Rick MixonA sermon preached by Randle R. (Rick) Mixon
First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, CA

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Texts: Genesis 2:4b-25; Psalm 8; Mark 3:1-6

Where did you come from? Who do you look like? These are two common questions that point toward what it means to be human. Why do I say this? Because these are questions about connection. In this second creation story from Genesis, the key focus is relationship. First there is the very intimate creation of “man” through the very breath of God. Then there is God’s recognition that, wonderful as the relationship between God and man might be, it was not enough.

“It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” Dennis Olson points out that “A ‘helper’ in the Old Testament is not a subordinate but one who may be an equal or sometimes even a superior to the one who is being helped. In fact, God is often called a ‘helper’ to humans in need (Psalm 10:14; 54:4) (Dennis Olson, “Commentary on Genesis 2:18-24, October 4, 2009,”workingpreacher.org). Adam is delighted with the result of God’s creative endeavor – this one who is bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. The connection is blessed. It is a sacred bond, linking what God has made to be linked.

What are our roots? To whom do we belong? The answers to these questions are fundamental indicators of our humanity. Dennis Olson again argues that “God’s discovery [that ‘It’s not good that the man should be alone’] highlights what is fundamental to human nature and human flourishing: humans are social creatures who thrive in close and intimate relationships with others.” He continues, “Genesis 2 reminds us of God’s original intention and desire for humans – to find in at least one other person a bond of love that runs so deeply and so intimately that we never feel alone” (Olson, op. cit.). So in a strong sense you might argue that, at least as far as being human is concerned, in the beginning was the relationship, the connection, the helpmate.

As we have shared, stories about where we come from and who we look like are stories about our people, our families, our communities, our base connections. As a middle class white boy, I used to grieve the thought that I had no ethnic identity. Of course, that is part of the curse of being a privileged member of the dominant culture. As friends from other cultures shared rich tales of their ethnic origins, food, customs, people, I felt left out. Sometime later in life I came to realize that there is ethnic identity for white folk and that I had cultural roots in the American South. In particular, some of those roots are Cajun. There was delight in claiming that ethnicity for myself. No wonder I am drawn to southern culture, especially the stories, and the rich, spicy cuisine of New Orleans.

I know these discoveries do not tell my whole story, nor do they make me any better or worse than anyone else. They have given me a degree of joy and comfort in believing that I might fit in, might belong somewhere. But I am sure we are also aware of the pitfalls of ethnic and culture identity. There is so much to be celebrated on the one hand, but on the other hand these markers have been used to exclude, devalue, demonize, hate and engage in violence and war. The risk is that I will elevate me and denigrate you. If you’re not like me, if you don’t come from where I come from, don’t look like my kind, then I might judge you as an outsider, less, one who doesn’t belong. The trap is that I might de-humanize you.

Our focus this week is “Alive in the Story of Creation: Being Human.” In Bible study on Tuesday, Thelma suggested that the sermon title might be, “Becoming Human.” I decided to take her up on that suggestion. There is a sense in which we are born human but sometimes we lose our way and have to find the means to become human again or reclaim our God-given humanity.

We talk about human being and sometimes we even call ourselves human beings. What does it mean to be human? Wikipedia says “Modern humans (Homo sapiens or Homo sapiens sapiens) are the only extant members of the hominin clade, a branch of great apes characterized by erect posture and bipedal locomotion; manual dexterity and increased tool use; and a general trend toward larger, more complex brains and societies.” Other dictionaries just say “people” or “us.”

Genesis says we are dust, “…the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.” As Dennis Olson puts it, “God gets ‘down and dirty’ with creation, forming the human (adam) from the land or clay (adamah). God performs CPR on the newly formed lump of clay, breathing into the dirt-creature’s nostrils ‘the breath of life’” (Olson, op. cit.). Or more elegantly, remember last week we read in James Weldon Johnson’s poem, “The Creation,” that in his loneliness, God thought that he would “make me a man” and so

Up from the bed of the river
God scooped the clay;
And by the bank of the river
He kneeled Him down;
And there the great God Almighty
Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky,
Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night,
Who rounded the earth in the middle of His hand;
This Great God,
Like a mammy bending over her baby,
Kneeled down in the dust
Toiling over a lump of clay
Till He shaped it in His own image;

Then into it He blew the breath of life,
And man became a living soul.

I imagine most of us don’t like to think of ourselves as dirt or as apes, for that matter. In fact, that seems to be the distinguishing factor, doesn’t it, the human dilemma – we think. It may be what makes us different from the rest of creation and, indeed, what links us most closely to God. “I think therefore I am”? Maybe we won’t explore that philosophical tradition this morning. But thinking and choosing are apparently what link us to the image and likeness of God.

Ah, the choosing. As we will see, it is the capacity that gets us into trouble. It is our freedom and our downfall. We are given the tree of life to partake of freely but we are told the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is taboo. Well isn’t part of being human the desire to challenge every taboo? We risk the goodness of life that has been given us to be able to see as God sees, to know what God knows. The trouble is we can neither contain nor control what God sees and knows. Everything gets out of hand when we try to play God.

Brian McLaren writes that “The Tree of Life is a beautiful image—suggesting health, strength, thriving, fruitfulness, growth, vigor, and all we mean by aliveness…But, “then he says, “consider this possibility: the second tree could represent the desire to play God and judge parts of God’s creation—all of which God considers good—as evil. Do you see the danger? God’s judging is always wise, fair, true, merciful, and restorative. But our judging is frequently ignorant, biased, retaliatory, and devaluing. So when we judge, we inevitably misjudge” (Brian D. McLaren, We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation, p. 9). Judging is God’s job, not something that humans are made for or are good at.

There is this sense that we have been given all we need to be human, to carry the image and likeness of God who gave us the breath of life and delights in our being. The Psalmist says God has made us a little lower than the angels or than God’s own being, just slightly less than divine, but as wonderful as Hamlet recounts, even in his depressed state. Would that we might be satisfied with what we have been given and embrace our human being. But we want more.

The irony is that in reaching for the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we actually sacrifice our humanity. God’s judging is “wise, fair, true, merciful, and restorative” but ours is much too often “ignorant, biased, retaliatory, and devaluing.” Do you hear that distinction between God and human frailty? Does that sound like you and me, like the trouble in which we too frequently find ourselves? I suppose we could call this “just being human” but it isn’t the sort of human God made us and meant us to be.

The work of becoming human is to challenge, perhaps over and over again, those places and times in our living when we have abandoned our humanity, that is, our capacity for love and compassion, our ability to care for one another and all creation, our fundamental need for relationship and desire to walk with God – abandoned our humanity in the service of self-centered attempts to be more than we were made to be. We want to be superhuman and we inevitably fail. Becoming human means learning to live as the beings God made us to be, alive to the spirit of God that dwells within us, nothing more and nothing less.

Where did you come from? You came from God and, in time, that’s where you will return. Who do you look like? You’re made in the image and likeness of the living God. If we could whole-heartedly claim this heritage, if we could identify fully with our common life in the one family of God, if we could stuff ourselves with the fruit of the tree of life, what a different world this would be. In the cause of becoming human in the richest, fullest sense, shall we give it a try? Amen.