Red Apples

Christ the King Sunday

In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free, but Christ is all in all. ~ Colossians 3:11 (NRSV).

There is only Christ. He is everything and he is in everything. – Colossians 3:11 (Richard Rohr).

When I was in elementary school, my family and I attended the Grandview United Methodist Church, nestled in the apple and cherry orchards of the Yakima Valley in Central Washington state. Our Sunday school teachers told us that one God created the world and that God loved creation—green plants, pears, apples, grapes, dogs, cats, even anteaters. Best of all, God loved the little children of the world.

Quite often we’d end Sunday school class singing “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.” I believed our old wise grey-haired Sunday School teachers, and I am thankful for their simple messages of God’s great love for the world.

If God loves and creates the world, then we live on sacred ground. The red rock canyons, the redwood forests, the blue oceans, the mountain tops, and the desert floors are full of our Creator’s divine touch. If Christ is everything and in everything then all life is holy and sacred and the “red, yellow, black, and white” children are precious not only in God’s eyes but ours as well if we trust that “it is good,” (see Genesis 1).

Saint Angela of Foligna (1248-1309), known as the mistress of theologians wrote, “And in everything that I saw, I could perceive nothing except the presence of the power of God, and in a manner totally indescribable. And my soul in an excess of wonder cried out: This world is pregnant with God!” Are we aware of God’s beauty and wonder all around us and moving through us? It changes everything.

How big is our God? How wide is Christ’s embrace? When the little children grow up does God still love them if they drift to the right or slide to the left? Is anyone left outside of our Creator’s circle of compassion and love?

“The Christ Mystery is the indwelling of the Divine Presence in everyone and everything since the beginning of time as we know it,” writes Father Richard Rohr. Christ will “gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:10). “Christ is all in all,” (Colossians 1:11). The world is dripping in grace, love, and beauty. “Our Creator’s love and presence are grounded in the created world,” comments Rohr.

I remember walking after school through the apple orchards. Chad, Robbie, Sammy, and I would pluck a red delicious apple from a tree and sit by a creek (really a canal) and eat. The juicy apples would burst with flavor, and I always had empathy for Eve. We’d toss our apple cores into the creek and wonder if they would make it all the way to the Pacific Ocean. We didn’t name our after-school ritual, but we knew it was good.

In the spring my mom and dad would wake my sister and me up in the middle of the night and we’d drive out to a hill looking over the apple orchards. The fruit farmers had lit smudge pots which would protect the trees from the cold. Each pot was a beacon of light in the darkness. The valley floor looked like a church congregation singing “Silent Night” and holding candles. It truly was a holy night. My eyes were drowsy, but my heart was full. Rohr writes, “Remember, light is not so much what we directly see as that by which we see everything else.”

Do we look out upon the world from the perspective of the Light? Is the world pregnant with God’s grace?

One day after school, my friends and I stopped in the apple orchard for our afternoon snack. The farmer who owned the orchard saw us and told us not to come back. From then on, we ate our apples in Mr. and Mrs. Crabtree’s front yard. Their bluegrass was soft and green. We talked to our parents about what happened, but it took some time for us to understand the farmer’s perspective.

As we grow up, we learn there are places where we are welcome and places where we are not welcome. It’s easy to become jaded and cynical and no longer trust that God loves the world or even us. If this happens, our God becomes small and petty. “God is not and never has been a tribal God,” explains Rohr. The one God, creator of all, is not the God of one nation, one religion, one denomination, or one ethnicity. Christ is everywhere. This changes everything.

“Right now, perhaps more than ever, we need a God as big as the still-expanding universe,” writes Rohr. If our God is small, we justify exploiting and harming our fellow human beings, dear animals, the web of growing things, the land, the water, and the very air we breathe says Rohr. But when we start to see Christ in all things the world and life itself becomes sacred and holy. Everything has value and dignity.

“God loves things by uniting with them not by excluding them,” reflects Rohr.

May we see the world and one another from the perspective of the Light.
May our experience of Christ expand like the universe.
May we love who Christ loves.

Blessings and peace,