Lenten Devotions: "Piece of Paradise"
This Lenten season, Bread Blog will be running a series of devotions written by Pastor Ron Glusenkamp, senior pastor at Bethany Lutheran Church in Cherry Hills Village, Colo. The reflections are based, in part, on the music of Peter Mayer, accomplished vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter. The theme for this year's series is "Mighty This Love," named for one of Mayer's compositions (Listen to a special welcome message from Mayer).
March 9, 2014
"I thought that I had a soul/It turned out to be just a hole in my life/Just a piece of paradise/ Just a piece of paradise / Wouldn't that be nice
Everybody’s searching/They were taught to work the land/ Broken hearts and broken hands in their lives/ Some want cool and summer breeze/ Some just wait for death’s release from their lives/Just a piece of paradise/Just a piece of paradise /Everybody’s searching/Wouldn't that be nice”
--Lyrics from "Piece of Paradise," by Peter Mayer, Roger Guth, and Jim Mayer
There are seven words in this song that capture my imagination, “Just a piece of Paradise--everybody’s searching.” I can hear at the same time the hope and promise of paradise while Peter’s realistic commentary cuts to the heart of the matter: “everybody’s searching.” My sense is that Peter is correct in his observation that everybody’s searching.
All you have to do is look at the topics listed on the magazine covers at the airport to realize that we are a people who are looking for ways to increase our happiness, get more money, , and ward off dementia and other diseases.
Peter accurately diagnoses this issue as a spiritual problem. Evidently something has happened that has made him realize that whatever he thought was, his soul "turned out to be just a hole in my life.”
Today, the Christian Church takes a look at the story of paradise lost in the first few chapters of Genesis. Adam and Eve had the peace of paradise and also their own piece of paradise, but they let it slip away.
In 1526, Lucas Cranach the Elder painted the quintessential painting of what happened in paradise on that particular day. During my visits to London, I always stop in at the Courtauld Institute to see the painting that is at the top of this devotion. Cranach was a contemporary of Martin Luther’s and assisted him in a great many ways. One day, I was at the National Gallery in London looking at Cranach’s “Cupid Complaining to Venus” when I saw the similarities between Venus and Eve. The Cupid/Venus painting was done in 1525, just a year before Adam and Eve. Compare the neck of the two ladies, the arm and even the fruit of the tree.
Whenever we talk about this account of Adam and Eve in Paradise people always suggest that the fruit they ate was an apple. I think the apple gets a bad reputation from this association, but there is a piece of redemption in all of this as well. If you take an apple and slice it sideways you’ll find a star at the center. So, it is the comedy of the Gospel that the fruit which seems to symbolize what is often called “The Fall” and sinfulness also contains the Star that shown above the Christ Child’s manger.
Years ago, when Peter and I both lived in St. Louis, he often would sing the song “Jesus Christ the Apple Tree” during his Advent/Christmas concerts.
Today, I commend Cranach’s work “Piece of Paradise,” the first three chapters of Genesis, Matthew 4:1-11 and these verses of “Jesus Christ the Apple Tree.”
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