A few months ago a tree was declared dead outside our house. They cut it off, took it out and left it on the pile of rubbish. Later during the day a friend showed me the tree. The people who took it out forgot to check its pulse. There was still life hidden inside the tree. A fresh shoot was growing out of the decaying, dying tree. There was still some energy, some life source and some potential left deep inside its roots. With a little bit of nurturing, a handful of bone meal and compost and a whole lot of grace from Mother Nature, the tree might survive the winter. So I took the tree and planted it in my back garden.
The little bugger is still growing.
More than two millennia’s ago a rebel prophet spoke of the coming kingdom of God as a new shoot growing out of a dead tree trunk. Just when you thought hope was lost, faith a waste of time and God declared dead by the woes of the world, something fresh and new springs to life.
A few centuries later the friends of Jesus thought of him as this new form of Hope. They called him “God Incarnated”.
There is an irony to this. Humans through the ages spoke of God as being big, powerful, strong and steady. This is hopefully all true. But then the friends of Jesus, in the light of the old prophet embraced a new way of thinking about God. The new sprig can easily brake. The death of the tree is a moment away. The hope they had was vulnerable and fragile. It was easy to miss and quick to disappear. It had to be nurtured, cared for and loved. It needed time to heal before it could grow.
And here we are, the modern versions of the friends of Jesus, living in a society (secular and religious) obsessed with money, sex and power. Everything needs to be fast, strong, big and over the top and before we know it, the same applies to our God. So we build our churches either like castles or shopping malls. We plan our faith future with big budgets and measure the success and failure of our religious outcomes in terms of power, status, wealth and monetary growth.
But still the counter cultural images of the old prophets and the friends of Jesus echo in time, cut like a sword and scream like a woman in labour:
Faith takes time
Hope is fragile
Love is vulnerable
and God is somewhere in all of the above.