Bonzai trees are amazing. The Japanese discovered that they could trick a big tree into thinking it was always meant to be a very, very, small tree. They would take a cutting of a maple or oak tree and coax it to form its own roots and then plant it into a very shallow glazed earthenware pot. Each time it developed a shoot they would prune it back appropriately. Once the root system was developed, they would upheave it out of the pot and trim its roots back before repotting it back into its shallow pot. They would then repeat this process over and over and over until the miniature tree resembled its fully mature huge relative — except in miniature form. At some point the bonzai tree becomes convinced that it was always meant to be a miniature tree. Again, I think there is a spiritual parallel to draw from this process of bonzai tree making…
It’s only in the last few years that we have felt the Lord lead us to adopt a theme for the year. Last year, before many of us went into lockdown in our homes, we had felt the Lord put on our hearts the theme, Welcome home. This year, we have felt the Lord lead us to focus on the theme, grow. The word grow conjures up different emotions in me. There was a time, quite early in my pastoral ministry, when it was recommended to me that I engage a ministry coach. It was my desire to do all I could to see our little church at Legana grow. The ministry coach agreed that this should be my focus. It just so happened that at this time I was in the throes of my doctoral studies.
Anyone who has experienced being a part of a relationship as a friend, spouse, in business or within an organisation will probably appreciate the importance of maintaining a good connection between the persons who are interacting within the relationship. When our connections become intermittent or cut off completely, communication also breaks down and the relationships that we value can become degraded as a result. Examining the reason behind degraded connections is the first step in repairing them.
If COVID has taught us anything, its taught us just how much we need each other and probably (for many of us) how much we didn’t know it! When we’re born we are utterly dependent. As we grow up we increasingly become independent. When we become an adult we learn to get along with others and become interdependent. But adults also experience seasons where it is necessary to be temporarily dependent upon others. These are times when we need the help and care of others. Ironically though, its often the people who are called upon to help and care for others that are the least likely to accept help and care themselves…
“I am about to – or I am going to – die: either expression is correct.” These were the last words of French grammarian and Jesuit priest, Dominique Bouhours. While his last words clearly demonstrate his passion for grammar and devotion to language, I’m not so sure that I would choose them to be my last words.
Do you ever wonder what your last words will be? I would like to think mine will be profound, or memorable. I’d like to think they would honour Christ and leave a lasting impression on those with me. But who knows what they will be? Will I even have a choice? Maybe I’ll tell Stephen to make sure he tucks his chair under the table when he gets up.
In the lead-up to Easter, I spent time considering Jesus last words on the cross. There are seven sentences uttered by Jesus on the cross, collated from across the four gospels.
One thing that struck me was that three of the seven sentences He uttered were expressions of love and care for others. He hung on the cross in excruciating pain and agony. He had been betrayed, deserted, beaten, humiliated, stripped, flogged, had a crown of thorns placed on His head, and then nailed to a cross.
Did He rail against the injustice? Did He curse those who crucified Him? Or those who betrayed Him? Did He exhibit self-pity?
Jesus asked His Father to forgive those who were crucifying Him. He assured the criminal on the cross next to Him that he would be with Him in paradise. He commended His mother and His disciple John into the care of each other.