In the magazine two years ago, I wrote about a word that appears in the original Greek of the New Testament: zoe. I may be in danger of you saying, ‘oh no, not again’, but I am going to take that risk, especially as we have a new grand-daughter, Zoe Joy Spencer (her middle name is my mother’s, her great-grandmother’s). So here are some more thoughts on zoe, the word, not the little girl.
Zoe is one of three words in the New Testament that are translated by the English word: life; but as you look at the text carefully you soon realise that the Biblical writers used this word in a particular way. Whenever they wanted to write about ordinary, everyday life they used another word; but when eternal life was in focus it was zoe. For example, the most famous verse in the Bible: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (zoe). (John 3:16). When Jesus said these words he was telling us that the gift of eternal life is given to human beings through our trust and faith in him. The question is, of course, how did we ever lose it?
The answer to this to be found right at the start of the Bible. People argue whether the story of Adam and Eve is literally true, but even if you believe it is a parable, it has a lot to teach us about the human condition. God placed the two of them in the Garden of Eden, which was full of fruit trees. We had a holiday this year in Spain, south of Barcelona. The endless orchards of all kinds of fruit trees are just like the description in Genesis Chapter 2, except I am sure the original trees were not in such tidy rows.
God planted two special trees in the centre of the Garden: the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It was this latter tree that God told the pair not to eat from; but because it appealed to all their wishes, wants and desires to have lives that were not dependent on him, they went ahead. In doing this, they lost access to the Tree of Life and the eternal, uncreated zoe life of God.
Jesus came to earth to make a way back to the Tree of Life; strangely, it was his death that made this possible. If you imagine him hanging on the cross, you will see a tree with fruit hanging on it. In church, we regularly eat bread and drink wine together as way of expressing our desire to receive from the Tree of Life¸ even though we know we are no more deserving than Adam and Eve.
So, in the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ it’s good to thank God for the fruit from our trees. At All Saints’ Church, we will do this at 9:30am on Sunday 24th September at our Harvest Festival. This is followed by a bring-and-share lunch in the Parish Rooms (next to the churchyard on Church Lane). Everyone is very welcome.
On Sunday 29th October the two churches in Ashdon will meet together for a joint morning service. We hope this will be the first on many, this one will be at 10:30am at Ashdon Baptist Church. There will be no 9:30am service that day at All Saints’.
Our Patronal Festival will be at 9:30am on Sunday 5th November. The following Sunday is Remembrance Sunday, and we will have the usual ceremony at the War Memorial. In the evening on 12th November at 4pm, we will be supporting St. Clare Hospice with a Light up a Life service. This is a time for everyone to come together to remember loved ones who have died.
This autumn, as we enjoy the fruit that our trees have produced, let’s not forget that there is a very special fruit available to every human being that leads, not just to abundant zoe life (John 10:10) here on earth, but life in heaven eternally.