March 5 2006Lent 1

Separation and the Trees of Lent

Romans 8:31-39

31What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us allóhow will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who diedómore than that, who was raised to lifeóis at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36As it is written:

†††† ďFor your sake we face death all day long;

†††††† we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.Ē

37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

 

††††††††††† Some of you know that I started out ministry in the plains of Nebraska, a little town called Bertrand.Many of the farmsteads in Nebraska were surrounded by a windbreak made of various kinds of trees.†† If youíd ever see the farmstead from the air or see a picture of the farm, youíd clearly see how the trees separated the house and barn from the fields.Trees served to separate.

 

††††††††††† Trees also serve to bring together.I think of picnics where we would gather around a tree in the park or children climbing a tree together or a father and children building a tree house.Trees can serve to separate, and they can serve to bring together.

 

††††††††††† Today is the First Sunday in the church season of Lent.Lent is a time of preparation, a time of solemn contemplation of what our Savior has done for us on the tree of the cross and why He had to come Ö namely our sins.Today we see two different trees Ö one that brought separation and another that brought togetherness.

 

††††††††††† The first tree we consider is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden of Eden.†† Adam and Eve were given a direct command of God Ö Donít eat from that tree!Itís a command they took seriously for a while, how long we donít know.But then along came temptation and it was all over.They didnít listen to Godís warning.They disobeyed Him.They thought they knew better.And the world has never been the same since.Instead of perfection, imperfection is now our lot in life.Instead of joy, we know misery.Instead of health, we know sickness.Instead of only life, we now know death.

 

Sin is separation.Itís separation from God, which shows itself in separation from others.Separation is painful.†† We donít like to be separated from those we love.Many tears are shed when we part whether itís for a few days or at death.Adam and Eve enjoyed a face-to-face relationship with God.They toyed with Godís clear Word of warning and lost more than they could have ever imagined.

 

††††††††††† We talk about the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil as a tree of separation, but in reality, we all know that it is but a symbol for the rebellious heart that ignored Godís word and did not value the relationship God had established with mankind.

 

The same is true today.Because we do not value our relationship with God, we find ourselves separated from Him.We are never going to know the face-to-face relationship Adam and Eve knew as long as we are on this earth, but because of sin, we can think of God as distant, not listening to our concerns, as not caring, or even angry with us.

 

Because our relationship with God is not right, our relationship with others can be out of whack too.We can find ourselves bitter and angry, not willing to listen or talk to particular people, even Christian people, sometimes even the members of our own family.Sin is separation.This sinful separation started at the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve turned their hearts against God and disobeying His Word, ate the forbidden fruit.

 

This separation led to our other tree Ö the tree of the cross where this separation from God was played out in all its ugliness.There Jesus bore our sin and the punishment for our sins by suffering the ultimate separation from God.You remember His words, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?His love even for those who rejected Him led Jesus to the cross where taking our place, He was abandoned by the Father.There He suffered the ultimate separation.He died separated from God, alone, for us.

 

But wait.That tree of the cross is where God dealt with the separation that was caused at the Garden of Eden.It was there on Calvary that Jesus paved the way for us to be restored to a relationship with God.It was there that God has provided the forgiveness of sins through the death of His Son.It was there that sinners can find peace with God through confessing their sins.It is there that we can know our place as children of God.It is there that we receive our commission as Godís ambassadors.

 

This tree, the tree of the cross, is the tree on the other side of lent.Itís the tree of togetherness with God that comes, ironically, by the separateness of Jesus from God.It is the tree by which we are re-united with God Who loves us so much He will not let us be separate from Him forever even at the cost of the innocent suffering and death of His own Son.†† He would suffer separation from the Father so that we need never know the hopelessness and desperation of being separated from God.

 

And now, look at His promise.38For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

 

Nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.Nothing from Godís side.He wonít put up barriers or roadblocks to keep us from Him.†† And may we not let anything keep us from Him either.He has brought us close to Him through the tree of the cross.Close to Jesus Ö close to our Father in heaven Ö thatís where we want to be.Thatís the best place to be.Amen.