This morning’s gathering was inspired by Fiona’s excellent input last Sunday, focusing on seeds and involving a beautiful walk in glorious autumn sunshine, our book that we are starting to study ‘Short stories by Jesus’ by Amy-Jill Levine and an article – worth googling – entitled ‘Trees have feeling too’ by Peter Wohlleben. I guess I was also influenced by my increasing love trees fostered by our meeting among them week on week.
We began reading literal translations of the 3 versions of the parable of the mustard seed (Matthew, Mark and Luke) noting that the seed was sown in the ground, by a person in his field, or cast by a man in his garden, where it became the greatest of vegetables – or a tree – and birds rested under its shadow – or in its branches.
We compared popular interpretations of the parable and why Levine dismisses these on the basis of misinformation of the context / Jewish law or the banality of a simplistic and non-challenging message. Parables are meant to challenge and provoke and unsettle… A suggested reading was as follows (acknowledging that these are not the only messages possible and that parables should speak to us in different ways in different circumstances just as Jesus would have used and adapted them…):
(i) Some things need to be left alone – the seed succeeds without our interfering! If we interfere it won’t succeed! Not everything or everyone needs our constant attention!
(ii) Sometimes we need to get out of the way! We are not always the focus. We are sometimes the facilitator for something bigger than ourselves but what’s sown and grows is much more important than the one who sowed it.
(iii) The setting is domestic – a field or a garden – the kingdom of God is to be found in our own backyard. Don’t ask when or where it might be. The when is its own good time and the where is that it is already present, inchoate, in the world. We might put it – find out what God’s doing – spot the kingdom! – and join in!
Taking the Trees article with us, we had 15 minutes or so to visit 3 different species of trees – to take time to wonder and to address a question at each:
Tree 1. Is there anyone or anything that I need to leave alone? Can I trust God to take care of a situation that I can’t fix?
We met up under the weeping beech to share prayer concerns and then bread and wine – using these brilliant words (which we aren’t sure the provenance of):
On this plate with the bread
We place, O Lord, our purposeful action:
Our aspirations, achievements, work,
Those who are closest to us,
Those whose lives are bound up with our personal lives,
Our neighbours and those with whom we work…
And with these, we unite those more distant to us:
The whole of anonymous mankind
Scattered in every corner of the globe;
Our distant brothers and sisters remembering you in bread and wine today
A multitude of people, each reflecting your image, each needing your grace…
And not only the living, but also the dead
We remember those who have inspired us and gone before us…
Into these cups we pour our sorrows
Our failings and pain,
Our joys and our successes.
May all life – past, present and future, near and far –
Now be elevated at this altar
In a glorious communion
And in the hope of your coming kingdom.
We hope this might inspire some readers to find the article or to get out and visit a few remarkable trees and learn to be challenged by them!