We have taken a break at our Sunday morning adult class and are watching four videos that we will be using to introduce the Episcopal Church to visitors. The first video, "Trees," uses an intriguing metaphor for the Christian life - we live between two trees, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in Genesis 2 and 3 and the tree of life in Revelation 22.
The first chapters of Genesis tell the story of humankind's rivalry with God and with one another. Adam and Eve want something that God has and eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil to wrest that knowledge from God. That rivalry becomes fratricidal in the next generation as Cain wants what Abel has - God's favor - and murders his brother to wrest from him God's favor. Human history at its worst is the playing out of this fratricidal rivalry. We desire what others have and, far more often than we would want to admit, we allow those desires to rule us. Some of us manage to get that which we desire, and not always without violence. Others simply allow the desire to become an obsession. In the Fourth Gospel, we are given a picture of Jesus who is no one's rival.
In John 5:19, Jesus describes his relationship with the Father in terms in which there is no hint of rivalry: "Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise." Jesus invites us to enjoy the same kind of relationship with him and with the Father. In John 5:20, Jesus says, "The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished." These words are echoed in John 14:12: "Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father."
In Christ we are freed to live without rivalry, with God or with anyone else, freed to love as Jesus lived, doing what we see the Father and Jesus doing. In Christ we are freed to lay down our lives for one another in unconditional love.