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“It is like a mustard seed…..it grew and became a tree and the birds of the air perched in its branches.”  Luke 13:19

“You are like whitewashed tombs which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.”  Matthew 23:27

It is well into spring where I live and everywhere you turn you see the lushness of God’s creation.  You see abundant flowers filling the air with their sweet scent.  The grass has returned exchanging its brown coarseness for a green suppleness.  The trees are awash in green hues of every description as their leaves burst forth in life’s exuberance.  That is all except one tree.

You see in the midst of this spring explosion of life, in the center of this celebration of renewal and regeneration, sits a dead tree.  Not one solitary needle (for it is a pine) protrudes from its craggy branches.  No breeze stirs its solemn stand.  While birds will come and momentarily perch on a branch, none will stay long for the tree provides no shelter; while they sit there they are exposed, so their visits are fleeting and momentary.  Little by little the tree becomes more diminished; a tip of a branch breaks off here and another limb falls there.

Yet the tree still stands as if in some defiant way wanting to proclaim its value or perhaps it believes it can fool others into thinking it is alive as long as it stands there; maybe even fooling itself as well (please understand I know that I am anthropomorphizing).  This particular tree is in an adjacent yard next to ours so I’ve seen its decline.  I saw the needles go from green, to yellow, to brown and fall off.  I saw pine cones cease to form.  From the outside, there is no apparent cause.  The try was not hit by lightning nor does it appear to have some sort of blight or the ravages of some insect pest.  Whatever has happened, seems to have come from the inside out so that the exterior was and is the last thing a person can see, the last indication that there has and is a problem that has taken its life.

I get a sense that this is the very thing that Jesus Christ spoke about when He described those as being like whitewashed tombs.  On the outside they stand tall, on the outside they radiate a full life, worldly power, earthly confidence.  All the while, inside, they are dead, full of old rotting bones.  And here’s the thing about a vacant building, a building that has no life or no one living within it.  A vacant building decays much faster than one that is occupied.  When there is someone within, especially someone who cares, then the building has strength from the inside out and the seeming strength on the outside will be matched by the strength and beauty on the inside.

Here’s the thing for us Dear Sisters and Brothers; if we are not careful, we can become like those tombs, like that tree.  Yes, we can go to church, we can say certain things, abstain from certain things, yes I can even write a blog, yet unless there is life within, life that comes from an active relationship with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; I am dying inside and eventually death will be my end.

So I will not concentrate on the outside or outside appearances.  I will strive to abide in Christ understanding that what sustains a branch abiding on the vine comes from the inside, not from without.  I will pray prayers of thanksgiving and praise and yes, I will also make prayer requests knowing that He will faithfully answer sustaining me from the inside out.  Let us diligently seek out His word and the word of His and through Him, our Father in heaven.  Understanding that it is the word of the Lord which is the Living Water which nourishes and refreshes each and every moment.  Let us be first open to His Love knowing that there is no life apart from His love and then strive to pass that love on to others who are in such need of that love.  Let us never take for granted the life which Our Heavenly Father has put within us.  Let us never forsake that life in running after things from without which can never sustain.

Sadly, in the end, that dead tree will fall.  Sadly, vacant buildings end up collapsing in on themselves.  Yet we can be confident that will not be the end for us.  We know that we were created to have life and have that life abundantly, not through ourselves, our strengths, our talents; no, we are to have life abundantly through the Love and Power of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  Let you and I from now until the end of time, quench our thirst once and for all through the living water which is Jesus Christ our Lord.  It is by living into that inner life, given to us freely by the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, we can be confident that we will not see death.

 

DSCN1977Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father we thank You for the life that You created for us and put within us.  Forgive us, Most Merciful Father when we choose the paths that lead to death instead of life.  Grant that we would partake of Living Waters provided by Your Son Jesus Christ that we may never thirst for the ways of this life and strive to share that water with a world so parched.  That in our inward living we might have a life that leads to praise in Your Most Holy Name.  In the name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

“Blessed is who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly but his delight is in the law of the Lord.  He is like a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth fruit.”  Psalm 1:1-3

“Whoever drinks of the water I shall give him shall never thirst….will become a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”  John 4:14

I, at one time, flew helicopters.  Due to the age of the helicopters I flew, they did not have state-of-the-art navigation systems or autopilots.  Our primary method of navigation was good old fashion paper maps (and yes there is a point to this).  So I was always looking for landmarks to tell me where I was and rivers made for good landmarks.  You might think that rivers are easy things to pick out and if you’re talking the mighty Mississippi you’re right.  But smaller rivers, not so much; you see they’re flat.  Helicopters, at least the ones I flew, fly low so you could be very close to a river and not see it; except for the trees.  That’s because rivers are most always lined by trees.  In the east where there are a lot of trees, you can tell where the river is because that is where the trees grow the tallest and have the greenest foliage.  In the west or in the plains states, the contrast is even greater.  You can be flying for miles and miles over stark, brown, barren ground and then in the distance, you see them.  I line of trees stretching out for miles; then you know, you’re coming to a river.

The author of the first psalm knew this.  That person knew that trees grow strongest by the river.  He knew that trees are given life and abundantly nourished by the waters of the river.  He knew that a tree isolated; trying to survive without water, in a land with no other trees is most likely doomed.

Jesus knew this as well.  Jesus knew the sustaining power of water and our absolute need for it.  He knew and taught about two types of water.  There is the worldly water that seems to satisfy, yet that satisfaction is only temporary.  Thirst will come again.  Then there is the water from Christ which completely satisfies and will never leave a person thirsting again.

My point in all of this?  First, I will completely concede to anyone who sees a flaw in this analogy as it concerns choice and agree that we must understand it.  For unlike a tree that has no choice in where it is planted or where it decides to stay; we have that choice and the psalmist is exhorting us that our choice is a vitally critical one.  Where will we plant ourselves?  Will we decide that we want to try to grow out in the world apart from other believers deriving our sustenance from the waters of this world?  That is a very desolate and dangerous place where in the seeming midst of prosperity; devastating droughts can come bringing damage and even death.  Or, as Jesus invites us, will we come to Him and with the fellowship of others, drink in His water of everlasting life.

One other very important piece to this exhortation.  In this case, it is best to think about the trees surrounding an oasis in the desert or lining a river running through a parched and arid land.  The trees taking in the living water do so not just for their own growth so that they can become the tallest, healthiest tree with the most branches.  No like the trees in the oasis or along the river in a parched land, the trees provide fruit for others, they provide refuge and shelter from the ravages of the world.  Jesus Christ told us that those who take in the water become fountains of water themselves.  Think about how inviting those trees are what a symbol of hope they become to those parched and dehydrated living out in the desert of the world.

Thus Dear Sisters and Brothers, let us decide to place our roots beside the spring of Living Water provided freely by Jesus Christ.  A water flowing for eternity which no earthly dam can ever block nor worldly drought ever cease its flowing.  Regardless of our growth let us always humbly remember that the fruit we bare and the shelter we provide come not from our strength, but from the water that nourishes us.  That we might be vessels of that water, forging new streams that nourish the new trees of followers who come thirsty to drink the water of everlasting life.

Our Most Gracious Heavenly Father, Your Mercy, Love and Blessings last forever.  We are thankful for Your Gift of Jesus Christ and His promise to forever quench our thirst for life and love with His everlasting Living Water.  Help us to come together and grow ever stronger in You, baring fruit and providing shelter for those who are so hungry and so tossed by ravages of this world.  May it be that we become vessels of living water being not so concerned about our own thirst but striving to quench the thirst of those who are in such need.  That in baring fruit, providing shelter and quenching thirst, we would be bringing praise to Your Most Holy Name.  In the Name of Jesus Christ we pray.  Amen

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