Summertime means Tomatoes…

Summertime means Tomatoes…Not the tasteless store-bought tomatoes but the juicy, sweet, home-grown ones.  A thick slice of fresh tomato on a summertime sandwich… how good is that?   Or a fresh Big Boy variety tomato prepared on a plate with Bleu Cheese Dressing for an afternoon snack… or even dessert??  Or the marvelous beyond words Heirloom Tomato Stack Diana and I had last week at the Café Cruz down on 41st street and Highway 1 in Santa Cruz… the thick, fresh Tomato slices stacked up like a tower of Oreos with the role of the crème filling played by fresh slices of delicious mozzarella…lightly drizzled with herbed vinaigrette … Wow!  Praise God for the Tomatoes of summertime!
But Tomatoes, like virtually everything else that happens in the summertime, can get you in to trouble.  One of the people who found himself in tomato trouble is the well-known Bible translator and Seminary professor, Eugene Peterson.  His translation of the Bible is called The Message. Many of you are familiar with it.  It’s a wonderful translation.  However, in translating a paragraph in Paul’s first letter to the Church at Corinth concerning the Resurrection of the body, Peterson chose to translate the Greek by using the word “tomato”.  Instead of the standard translation “ You do not sow the body that is to be but a bare kernel, or seed, perhaps of wheat or some other grain.  But God gives it a body as God has chosen…”  Peterson, perhaps thinking that most folks today may have never harvested wheat but had almost certainly come face to face with a tomato at one time or another chose this translation, “You could never guess what a tomato would look like by looking at a tomato seed. What we plant in the soil and what grows out of it don’t look anything alike. The dead body that we bury in the ground and the resurrection body that comes from it will be dramatically different.  Now, the trouble comes when “religious skeptics” write editorials questioning the validity of the Bible and the genuine historical reality of the Christian Faith because of the word Tomato.  One writer argued, “Tomatoes are native to western, South America. There were no tomatoes in Europe until the 1500’s. They weren’t introduced to the Middle East until around 1800!  How is it that the tomato is mentioned in the Bible (I Corinthians) when the New Testament was supposedly written around 50 AD…1500 years before those people ever saw a tomato? There were no tomatoes there at the time!  I can only arrive at one conclusion: It must be all the product of the perpetual, continual, creative license taken by the Vatican (or whoever was doing the writing in the mid-1500’s).”  Unbelievable….
In the end, perhaps whatever tomato troubles we may have had will, as the old hymn says, find their way to come ‘round right.  Garrison Keillor has retired from his Prairie Home Companion radio show.  But he still writes about it.  I recently came across a confession he made about a famous story he told over the radio many years ago.  He said, “There’s a story that I told a long time ago that so many children liked so much. It was a story about throwing a tomato at my sister when I was a little kid and we were out in the garden. . .  Hundreds of little kids have come up to me after shows and they’ve looked up and they’ve said, “That, uh, that Tomato Butt story that you told, is that true? Is that a true story?” And I look down at them and I say, “Yeah! That’s true.” And I’ve never had the heart to look down at a child and to admit that the story happened exactly the opposite way. And that she threw the tomato at me. . .  It took me 30 years to be able to lie well enough so that that tomato could reverse course and go in the opposite direction.”
Ah summertime!  It is beautiful and brief… and filled with Tomato blessings.  May God grant us all the wisdom to share the blessings of this life with honest and open hearts… until that day when we are all changed from a seed… into something dramatically different.  
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Mark


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