The Tree of Life
April 2nd 2017
The readings for this Passion Sunday, which marks the beginning of the journey into Holy Week and Easter, are a mix of prophesy, prayer and poetry. They focus on bringing the dead back to life; not new life in an original way as the Easter story is so often read, but old life, rescued and transformed.
The Annual Parish Council Meeting marks a new year in the life of St Peter’s, with the appointment of new church officers, PCC members and deanery synod representatives. So as we reflect on ideas about new life, let us, like the prophet Ezekiel, be aware of the breath of the spirit of God blowing through our bones, putting sinews and flesh on our hopes, dreams and tentative plans for the future.
Reflecting on the life of St Peter’s over the past year, I have been struck by the image of the church as a tree. The rhythms of church life echo the natural seasons in Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, Harvest, Remembrance – interspersed with weeks of ordinary time. And like new shoots on a tree, new people appear with fresh ideas and insights.
There are branches or structures that need pruning, training and reshaping for fresh growth. Like blossom on a tree in spring, our common praise and worship sings of the glory of God. And then there is the mulch of dead leaves – the departed and those moved away – who leave a rich compost. The roots of this church go deep into this neighbourhood community and the Anglican parish tradition. The whole church, like a whole tree, needs constant nurture – for tired old branches and tender new shoots.
In the Book of Job, the life of the tree is compared to human life:
“For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease. Though its root grows old in the earth, and its stump dies in the ground, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth branches like a young plant”.
Even though we die, even though the trees are aging and will die, even though springtime is a trick of looking new, rather than a genuine resurrection, we can long to start afresh, with the sap rising in us.
“As I have reflected on the life of St Peter’s over the past year, I have been struck by the image of the church as a tree.”
As we meditate on the raising of Lazarus, let us hear the words of the Nicaraguan poet, Ernesto Cardenal: “We want God’s voice to be clear but it is not….We want it to be clear as day, but it is deep as night. It is deep and clear, but with a dark clarity, like an x-ray. It reaches our bones”.
Jesus waited for Lazarus to die so that God’s glory could be revealed. From the tiniest flowers in the church garden to the steadfast faith of those who have loved and served this place for generations, may St Peter’s reveal the glory of God to all who come to this place and in all the places we travel to.
As we approach this Passiontide let us prepare to free ourselves of all that binds us, as individuals and as a community and let us pray that we will learn to hear God’s voice in our very bones.