Advent 2: The Shoot

When You come back again
Would You bring me something from the fridge?
(Steve Taylor & Peter Furler, “Lost the Plot”)

Remember praise?
It fed your roots back when you learnt to crawl,
back when you burrowed into soil
eager to receive all the earth had to say.
And today?
Defeat is the last refuge of the desolate stump.
Promises of orchards seem taunting,
a mockery. We hoped such things when we were young
but now…
Even Nebuchadnezzar, cut down,
hangs no gardens, only grazes like a cow.
But remember Job of the cutdown tree
when the first shoot of green
defies the brown stump.
Remember the farfetched, microscopic life
that burrows like a promise
and fells kingdoms with its might.

Advent 1: The Stump

If no good as a tree –
no fruit budding,
no birds to rest in its shade –
then cut it down.
The wood may serve for a building or,
at the very least, a fire.
Get in first before inferno comes;
better to be a stump when the fires rage.
Resignation rests in the undergrowth,
but the faint song of Maranatha stirs
the itchy roots that remember praise…

Going Without (Glenroy Lent #9)

And so,
the first breath of autumn
hovering
above the freeway ramp, the breeze
has blown the top of a leafless tree,
all severed head, onto the road
where cars, eager to catch the green,
dodge that bunch of twigs and race.
I too have raced,
and now I race – in head, in heart.
The day begun, its chase in me,
I would be severed
from all that I’ve considered green
to see where I must rest.

Catechism 50

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What does Christ’s resurrection mean for us?
Christ triumphed over sin and death by being physically resurrected, so that all who trust in him are raised to new life in this world and to everlasting life in the world to come. Just as we will one day be resurrected, so this world will one day be restored. But those who do not trust in Christ will be raised to everlasting death.
(New City Catechism)

And so, like the first fruits, He shows us what will be,
like the early fig I saw when winter had ravaged the tree:
hopeful, I return every day, expectant of the taste.
So it is for the spirit.

Sometimes its workings are invisible
yet it is firm, this life which grabs you, arrests you.
Step out and see. Today is not like that first garden.
That day we clutched onto life that was not ours
This will not end. Though it linger, wait.

First you ate the fruit of death; now life’s fruit is on the tree.
You sow each day; tomorrow, reap
what life or death may bring.

My Jonah Heart

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Recite this catalogue of wrongs:
I loved this tree   –   if you loved me
I always knew    –   I told you so…
And all the while in Ninevah
the people weep in ash.

Uphold your cause; God may forget
the hurts you hold, the wounds you bear.
The tree’s shade is your natural right.
Shake fists; see God reply…

The merciful, the good, the just:
perhaps He lost, amidst the dust
of Ninevah your noble case.
You must bemoan your tree.

Or turn your eyes to kings in ash
and rags. See hearts turn round.
You know His name; you know the truth.
Turn, Jonah, and arise.

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas

image
Xavier Romero Frias, Wikimedia Commons

For most people, Christmas is now over. The supermarkets are already stocking hot cross buns. But in the traditional church calendar, today is the last day of the season of Christmas – a season lasting twelve days, as we remember in the old song. Why remember Christmas for twelve days instead of one? If nothing else, it gives us a chance to think about what it really means, once the distractions have died down, and to look more closely at what comes next in the story.

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas

Tradition says to put away the tree,
Though yours perhaps has already come down,
The children sullen, home a new-year frown,
And resolutions stowed in the pantry.

“Back to work,” you say. And in the streets
The same straight-fixéd gazes all around,
Ear-buds containing every inward sound.
My-true-love-sent-to-me, pit-pat your feet.

Perhaps you’ve still some toys to play with, or
There’s thank-you letters now for kids to start.
Yet on the twelfth day, Jesus still grew strong
And Mary treasured all things in her heart;
And stars still blazed for those who journeyed on,
Not numbed like us who know the yearly score.

Shoots and Stumps

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“At least there is hope for a tree: If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail.”
(Job 14:7)

And new life sprouts where old life is cut down:
See little shoots burst forth from severed trunk;
The earth is singing where its joy was sunk;
The smallest hope will make the largest sound.
And see the stump of Jesse? In the ground
Are rumblings of roots. The soil is drunk
With prayer and fear. What once was lost is found!
It shall not shout; the hope’s a baby still.
Yet stars are guiding wise men to its bed
And shepherds know the shepherd from the herd.
In winter snow, an unexpected thrill
Is stirring in the leaves. The rocks which said,
“Prepare the way,” now echo at His Word.

Max Richter – Vivaldi Four Seasons Royal Albert Hall

Boab

IMAG0657Upside-down-like, you bulb from earth –

your beauty breaks in root-like branches.

Spindly fingers reach to sky,

gaunt and stretching, delicate,

your certain trunk a monument,

a stout and stolid testament

to passing years, millennia.

Shedding pods to paint; a home,

yet prison; sacred; den for slaves –

drawing, standing, reaching out –

a sign for us of hands which hold

in spite of everything.