Friday, March 16, 2007

Nurture the tree called church

“One of my favorite children’s stories is The Cherry Tree, written by Daisaku Ikeda. This story, set in post-war Japan, tells of two children who one day stumble upon an old man who is attempting to nurse back to life a barren, aged and war-damaged cherry tree. At first the children are puzzled by the man’s devotion to a tree that already appears to be dead. When they inquire about this, the old man explains: ‘It’s true she hasn’t blossomed since before the war. But one day, with a little kindness and patience, she may again. Not in my lifetime perhaps, but one day! I’m sure of it.’

The children, inspired by the old man’s devotion and hope, agree to join him in his efforts to nurse the tree back to life. They work hard, but much of their time is spent waiting and hoping.

And then one day a single pink petal appears, followed in due time by a rapturous display of fruit-producing blossoms.” Philip Kenneson

The church may appear dead at times, but all those in Hebrews 11 didn't give up. Neither should we.

By an act of faith, Rahab, the Jericho harlot, welcomed the spies and escaped the destruction that came on those who refused to trust God.

I could go on and on, but I've run out of time. There are so many more— Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets....Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves. They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection. Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons. We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless—the world didn't deserve them!—making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.

Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.


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