“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.
Our 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