Sunday, December 21, 2008

the stump

Please read Isaiah 11:1-9

Years (and years) ago, I was visiting friends who were getting ready to move into a new home. We were over at the new house one day, painting and such, when the former owner stopped by to pick up some things. At one point, I looked out the window, and there was the fellow, his hand resting on an old tree, just standing there. My friend, Robert, who noticed what I was looking at, simply said, "he's remembering, and thanking the tree."

At the time, I thought to myself, "What?" But as I look at the empty space that stands where our tree used to tower to the sky, as my eyes are drawn to the fresh stump (that even seems to glow in the dark), I finally understand. The sweet gum tree, which had been damaged in the hurricane, back in September, has finally had to be cut down - it was just too broken, too shaky, too much of a danger.

But I remember. I remember the tree that had stood and watched over Teddy and his friends, and the church's youth group, as they bounced higher and higher into the sky. I remember the old tire swing that had hung on the sturdy branch long after Teddy had outgrown it, yet the tree was always ready to give a little kid a ride. I remember the cool shade of its leafy branches on hot days after mowing the lawn. I remember the comforting sound of the Spirit moving through the branches on crisp fall evenings.

As I stare into the empty space, and try to avoid the stumpy reminder of our loss, I remember, and I give thanks.

Isaiah says that from the stumps of our toppled efforts, God will bring a time when the meek and the poor will finally find the justice we seem unable to offer.

Isaiah says that from our failed attempts at peace and reconciliation, God will bring forth a kingdom where the worst enemies share bunkbeds at night, and where the person who has hurt us the most will hand us the Bread of life and the Cup of grace.

Isaiah tells us that as we stare into the empty spaces where our comfort and strength once towered, God will come and fill us with that joy which has no end, with that hope which holds us up when we are about to fall over, with that Spirit who is our constant ccompanion and caregiver when everyone else has wandered off.

Isaiah tells us . . . do we remember?

Prayer: Indeed, God of trees and stumps, it was Isaiah 'twas foretold it.' Help us to remember, and in that remembering, to give thanks. And in that thanksgiving, to look for the newness you are bringing into our lives. Amen.

(c) 2008 Thom M. Shuman

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