Reflection for fifth Sunday of Easter - a Lesson from Trees
Vine and branches – be a tree of life for others.
Last week we had the image of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, the one who protects those in his care, always and everywhere.
Today we have the image of Jesus as the true vine and he says ‘my father is the vine grower’. I am reminded of a teaching I came across called ‘lessons from trees’ and I want to share it with you. It makes nine points.
1. It is important to have roots: it is not so much a place, as such, but essentially a set of close ties with people who support us and accept us and vice versa. We are rooted in Christ first and hence to one another. The Gospel says ‘I am the vine, you are the branches’. We are inter-dependent on one another.
2. In today’s complex world it pays to branch out: trees have rots that fix them deep but they also have branches that spread out in all directions, open to the sun but also harsh winds, ice and rain. Branching out leaves one exposed and so risks being hurt or betrayed by others, but branch out we must or else we will remain fixed and rigid (Simon and Garfunkel song I am a rock).
3. If you really believe in something don’t be afraid to go out on a limb! Again going out on a limb leaves one vulnerable and exposed but when truth and justice is at risk we must do so if we are to find integrity. A question I like to ask, ‘when was the last time you did something for the first time? (RNP reaching new people)
4. Be flexible so you don’t break when a harsh wind blows. Just as trees adapt to rain, hail and shine so must we to changing circumstances in life. I have read somewhere ‘the reason you are unhappy is because you are focusing on what you don’t have’. Christ never promised following him would be easy but he did promise a peace the world cannot give.
5. Sometimes you have to shed your old bark in order to grow! The idea of shedding ones old bark is akin to the Gospel, ‘every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.’ We can play on the word ‘bark’; people can hold onto the same gripe for years not realizing that there is a time, a season, to let it go; to give it up or at least change to a new bark and do everybody a favour!
6. If you want to keep accurate records, keep a log! The moment you begin to take seriously your spiritual life and spiritual growth you will see the use of keeping a spiritual journal, recording the God incidents in your daily life. So when you are in bad form you can look at your spiritual diary to remind yourself of God’s promises fulfilled. (regular reading of the scriptures)
7. Avoid people who would like to cut you down! What do trees fear most? It has to be chainsaws! Avoid people who are negative and destructive for one very good reason – they are bad for your health and well being.
8. It’s okay to be a late bloomer; I love the saying ‘young people are a work of nature, old people are a work of art’. We are always growing and becoming who we are meant to be. The Gospel today affirms this v7 ‘if you ask for what ever you wish and it will be done for you.’
9. As you approach the autumn of your life you sill show your true colours and you will be brilliant. People who have lived life well, enduring with dignity the harsh winds and storms, grow into beautiful people where others can come and find rest and shade and so be a tree of life for others. Let this be your legacy then: a person who is a tree of life for others, a place of shelter and comfort against the ill winds and disease that pervades our society.