Be consistent with belief

Published 1:25 pm Monday, March 4, 2019

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I have looked daily at a pine tree in my yard during the past year. As the winter set in, the heavy drop of its needles concerned me as did the overabundance of cones weighing down the top branches. It occurred to me that it was dying. Indeed, through the months into spring and summer the needles did not return. The top of the tree was receiving no nourishment and death had set in. It was inevitable, fearful of its falling upon my house or that of my neighbor, the tree must be removed.

The cost of removal was heart stopping as the first estimate was given. Hearing a second estimate I thought seriously about renting a bucket truck and doing the work myself. The third estimate came so close to the other two that I decided to that maybe I could pray and let God send a wind to blow the tree over away from the house. But the damage, and inconvenience, was something to consider. “Would you give me an exceptionally reasonable quote to just drop the tree safely and cut into sections that I would be able to dispose of on my own?” I asked.

Within a half hour he and his crew were in my yard. Two hours later, the tree was down. The limbs were stacked. The body of the tree was in three-foot sections. At my request, and with no extra charge, the trunk was leveled at a height to be repurposed as an outdoor table. With the generous assistance of a neighbor all the branches made their way to the dump. The logs were rolled into various sections of the yard, tuned flat side up, and set in curve pattern to what I am imagining can become a flower bed with a very rustic border.

I have no doubt that when the tree was first planted, which according to its rings was approximately 50 years ago, it served a purpose, and was nurtured well enough to take root. It had provided a wind screen, shade and fallen needles to keep the underlying shrubs warm and ground moist. In its branches, birds took refuge. Time and circumstances took its toll and at great cost the tree was felled.

We read in the gospel of John the Baptizer who was dealing with the death grip that was upon the children of God.

“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he (John) said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” – Matthew 3:7-10

John saw the lostness of the people and through his witness of the simplicity of what was expected by God, crowds gathered and were baptized. He recognized just as easily those whom God had given authority to nourish the faith of God’s people and had instead taken the element of life out of faith in their living God. Life had been replaced by law and ritual. There was no means for individuals to connect themselves in a personal way with the living God. The ax was ready, and it was time.

How long my tree had been dying I know not. By the time the tree clearly revealed signs, it was too late to save. Its death may have been by a strike of lightning, a lack of nourishment to its roots or simply planted in the wrong place.

When I read comments of neighbors about other people of God, I am concerned about the Christian faith we witness. It looks rather more akin to the brood of vipers than those who are like sheep without a shepherd.

“You’re inviting slime and you’ve done it in a slimy way,” says a resident about children in the prison system. “I know what these animals are capable of,” says another resident about children of God. Another opinion, “Don’t bring your liberal progressive ideas to a God-fearing community.” However, “If I give all that I have to the poor but have not love, I am but a sounding gong and clanging cymbal,” writes the apostle Paul to the church in Corinth.

I believe in the living God and that for whatever the reason of circumstance, people make poor choices. I believe in redemption and reconciliation of all persons through Christ Jesus. Therefore, when the opportunity arises, shall not the witness be consistent with the belief?

Your servant in Christ,

Pastor Sam