When all else fails, read John Chapter 1. I did this the other day. It was Sam’s birthday. A hard day. Beth came into my office and asked me to pray in honor of the day. I was not in the right frame of mind. With all of Sam’s struggles, I was engulfed in oh-so-many reminders that the world is fallen. So, I took a few minutes and read the first chapter of St. John’s gospel. I suspect many doctoral dissertations in theology have been written on this single chapter or even single verses within the chapter. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The opening doesn’t just parallel Genesis, it fulfills it. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Amen. But with all the glory, the poetry, and the Truth of the opening, the end of the chapter offers a worthy closing, albeit with a somewhat confusing encounter with the Word… ‘Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the son of God, you are the King of Israel!” A baffling encounter. Why in the world would the fact that Jesus saw him under the fig tree convince Nathanael that Jesus was the Son of God? The passage provides no insight into Nathanael’s encounter with God. I think we mis-read this if we think Nathanael had just been sitting under a fig tree, minding his own business, maybe eating lunch or chatting with friends when Jesus just sort of wandered by and saw him, waved, and wandered on. No, instead, Nathanael had encountered God under the fig tree, no doubt an encounter similar to our own highly personal encounters. Over the course of my 57 years, I’ve been blessed with several ‘fig tree moments.’ One of my earliest fig tree moments was at Crosley Field, sometime in the early to mid 60’s. I loved baseball. I loved the Reds (long, long ago, they were worthy of our love). I loved my father. And I loved Frank Robinson. I still have this vivid memory of sitting in Crosley with my father and watching Frank stroll up to the plate. All was right with the world. A few years later the Reds traded Frank Robinson for Milt Pappas, generally regarded as the worst trade in baseball history. It was also an early recognition for me that the world is fallen. Over 50 years later, that beautiful memory of Frank Robinson strolling up to the plate while I sat in the safety and love of my father on a warm summer day remains strong. I still keep a Frank Robinson baseball card (Topps 1964) right next to my key board where I can see it every day. Perhaps this is a strange thing for a man my age to keep on his desk. The card reminds me of that moment…my first recollection of being under my own fig tree where I saw God and God saw me. Another fig tree moment came when Beth and I were going to homecoming together our freshman year of high school. I was waiting for Beth in her parents’ living room feeling very uncomfortable (partly due to her father doing his best grizzly bear imitation) when Beth walked down the steps in a beautiful aqua blue dress. The grizzly bear disappeared…momentarily anyway. I was struck by her beauty and dumbfounded that someone so beautiful was going to the dance with me! (a substantial portion of the freshman class at Greenhills High School was equally stunned). I can still see her walking down the steps and that shade of blue is one of my favorite colors. I was under the fig tree again. These two encounters were of the joy filled variety. Jesus also saw me on the day my mother died. I was a broken human being, down on my knees, sobbing as I had never sobbed before. I thought I was alone. I was not. Jesus was there, under the fig tree with me offering a loving embrace and His divine acceptance. If I met the risen Lord, he might say to me “I saw you at Crosley Field with your father. And I saw you in your future in-laws living room before the homecoming dance. And I saw you on your knees when your mother died.” And I would say “Amen! You are the Son of God! You are the King of all Creation!” The chapter closes with Jesus saying to Nathanael… “Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him “Truly, truly I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” After reading this, I was able to pray for my son. While praying, I was able to see the angels of God ascending and descending on the body of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Two of the angels walked towards where I was kneeling and I recognized my angel for I had met him before. The other angel looked at me and waved. Then he headed west to find my son. And I saw that it was good.