Summary: For World Communion Sunday: Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom is large, but the weakness of the church makes it unlikely we shall see it fulfilled. Yet we must affirm the small beginnings that are being made, even by us, for they have potential, when they are
So how do you feel about trees? Did Hurricane Isabel change your feelings about living in a city of trees? When some of them fell on the power lines and cut you off – our house was out for six whole days – how did you feel about trees?
I didn’t ask you how you felt about Pepco. That’s another story, and maybe another sermon. But how did you feel about trees?
Some people are passionate about trees. We call them tree-huggers. Let a developer line up with his bulldozer to clear a space for building, and these folks chain themselves to the nearest oak to protect it from progress. Let a utility company come through to clear a path for those wires, and the tree-huggers will speak their minds to everybody from the neighborhood block captain to the District delegate. In the immortal words of the kids’ cartoon, “George of the Jungle”, they “watch out for that tree.” Great trees are a glorious asset.
The patron poet of trees was Joyce Kilmer, who was not merely an interchange on the New Jersey Turnpike, but was also a teacher, a soldier, and a writer. Those of us of a certain age can probably recite most of his poem, “Trees” from memory:I think that I shall never see
A poem as lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks to God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wearA nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
That is the ultimate tree-hugging statement, isn’t it? And yet, there were all those trees that came down during the storm; all that power disruption, all that work to clean up, all those houses damaged. So how do you really feel about trees?
Jesus taught us to cherish trees as the symbol of the Kingdom of Heaven. He spoke of the Kingdom as like the greatest of trees, where the birds of the air find a nesting place. But Jesus was not so much focused on the immense size of the tree as He was pointing to its beginning as a small seed. Think, He says, about a mustard seed, the tiniest of the seeds, so small you can hardly see it. And yet, when someone sows that mustard seed, it grows and becomes not just a thin blade of grass, not just a squibby shrub. It becomes the greatest of trees, where the birds of the air make their nests. Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven is like the greatest and most majestic of trees.
That greatest work of God – the great tree of the Kingdom – is that God wants to bring together all sorts and conditions of people, all races, all nations, all ages, all opinions, all personalities. He intends to unite, in Jesus Christ, a wide spectrum of human diversity, not just folks that look like, sound like, smell like you or me, but all people. “Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” A truly remarkable, astoundingly great work, the greatest work of God. And He wants us to share in it. He wants you and me to participate in making it happen. Doesn’t that stir you? It stirs and excites me to know that I am supposed to share in growing this Kingdom.