top of page

Service & Sermon

Sundays 10:00 AM

We worship together in-person and online.

Sermon — February 26, 2023


First Reading: Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7

Psalm 32

Second Reading: Romans 5:12-19

Gospel: Matthew 4:1-11


“No pomegranates!” No pomegranates!

In 2017, a video on Twitter went viral

    depicting a teacher screaming at her class,

        shouting, “no pomegranates” over and over.


She was teaching a lesson

    on how not to get to get others to think about things,

    and making the point that,

    if you didn’t want someone thinking about pomegranates,

        the worst thing you could do is to shout “no pomegranates”

            because it would probably

            just get everyone thinking about pomegranates!


The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden

    to till it and keep it.


And the Lord God commanded the man,

“You may freely eat of every tree of the garden;

but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat.”


Now, in a way, the teacher shouting “no pomegranates”

    reminds me of God.


Or maybe more-so, God reminds me of this teacher,

    because if God didn’t want the man to eat of that tree,

    maybe God should have just put a fence around it.


And, the reality of it is,

    while we often think about the fruit of the tree

    in the garden of Eden as an apple,

        apples don’t grow in the Middle East.


But do you know what does? Pomegranates!




Just about everywhere you stop in the Holy Land,

    there is someone with a large barrel of pomegranates,

    a cutting board, a knife, some cups, and a juicer, selling juice.

        And pomegranate juice is delicious!


So it really was like God saying, “no pomegranates!”

    to this first man we know as Adam,

    because God didn’t want humanity

        eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.


Now, whether or not we believe there was a literal Adam and Eve,

and whether or not we believe there was a literal garden of Eden,

and whether or not we believe there was a serpent or a tree or a fruit,

and whether or not we choose to believe

    that fruit was an apple or a pomegranate,

    there is still something to learn from this text,

        and it most definitely sheds some light on who God is.


Did you notice what God calls the tree?


“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat.”

“The tree of knowledge of good and evil.”


Sometimes, we hear this as “the tree of good and evil,”

    and we blame Adam and Eve

    for ruining all of humanity and making us bad.


Particularly Eve, who is blamed for forcing Adam to do such a thing,

even though she hadn’t been created yet when God gave the instruction,

    so she heard it like a game of telephone from Adam

    who was newly created

        and probably overwhelmed with the world around him.


But this tree is not the tree of good and evil.

This tree is the tree of knowledge of good and evil.


Which says to me,

    “no, God didn’t tempt humanity with the powers of good and evil.

        Rather, God didn’t want humanity to know

            that good and evil exist.”

God wanted to protect God’s people from the knowledge of it all.


If there’s anything we might know to be true about people,

    it’s that we are particularly good at pointing out

    when others are wrong.


We are good at wielding our fingers at others and, at our worst moments,



I shouldn’t have eaten that piece of cake.

I shouldn’t have spent that much money.

I shouldn’t have skipped class yesterday.

I shouldn’t have said that to my friend.


    We shoulda coulda woulda our way through life

        to the detriment of the goodness God wants for us.


So, often, when we speak ill of others,

    it’s a reflection of those moments when we turn on ourselves.


And maybe all along what God was trying to protect us from

    was the shame we put on ourselves and each other.


Deep inside we yearn for a God who welcomes us with open arms,

    a God whose love is unlike what we find in the world,

    a God who anchors us in our lives, reminding us we are good.


And so, that brings us to Jesus.


We begin this season of Lent

    hearing about Jesus’ own forty days in the wilderness

    where he himself was tested by the devil.


And whether we picture the devil as a small red dude

    with pointy ears and tail,

or whether we experience the devil as the voice in our own heads

    on our worst days, Lent—and this passage in particular—

has too often been read and taught

    as a message on how we should be like Jesus

        and not give into temptation.

And we even pray that:

    “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,”

        as if God would potentially lead us into temptation.


If you prefer to read this passage as advice

    encouraging you to be like Jesus, more power to ya!


But like a teacher shouting, “no pomegranates,”

    the floodgates are open,

        and now you’re thinking about pomegranates!


Instead, let this passage remind us, remind you,

    that even when you do give in to your worst impulses

        on your worst days,

    we have a savior who didn’t give in so that when we do,

        we are still worthy of being loved.





Jesus’ time in the desert is a time not to set the bar super high for us,

    but to tell us all about a God

    who would rather face temptation on their own

    rather than force us to walk through life

        in fear of what we might do wrong.


Likewise, the story of Adam and Eve and pomegranates and trees,

    is not about how much of a failure humanity is,

    but about a God

        who didn’t want us feeling shame throughout our lives;

    a God who wanted to protect us from the knowledge

        of good and evil in the first place.




It’s Lent again,

    and maybe some of you have decided to give something up.

Traditionally, this season has meant depriving ourselves of something

    as a practice of mindfulness to be aware of others.


This year, I would encourage you to give up shame.

Give up blame.

Give up your shouldas and your couldas and your wouldas

    in favor of what the writer of our second reading, Paul,

    describes as God’s “free gift:”

just as one’s mistake led to condemnation for all,

    [referring to Adam]

so Jesus’ act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all,

    even and most-especially, you, dear ones.


For one does not live by bread alone,

    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God,

    whose mouth doesn’t speak

        shame or hatred or judgement or condemnation,

    but love, and grace, and truth, and justice,

    and peace, and protection, and good news,

        over and over again.


Don’t be tempted to think otherwise.


And today, as we are reminded by our texts

    about the tree from which Adam and Eve ate,

    let us continue in our Lenten pilgrimage towards another tree;

    the tree on Calvary;

    the cross—the life-giving cross—

        on which was hung the Savior of the whole world—

    God incarnate, taking on death itself,

        so that we no longer have to.


For nothing in all of creation can separate us from the love of God.



bottom of page