Created in God’s image, we grow to be people who produce shade for all of God’s creation. A place where all can rest and experience the sheltering and protecting love of the Triune God.
Vicar Andrea Bonneville
The Third Sunday after Pentecost, Lect. 11 B
Text: Mark 4:26-34
Beloved in Christ, grace and peace to you in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
We have an apple tree in our front yard.
It was planted in a less than ideal location and now its roots are running out of room to spread and its branches are becoming heavy. Half of its branches are no longer bearing leaves while the other half is growing apples. It’s lopsided, its leaves are few and its branches are bent in uneven directions. It’s not a typical beautifully pruned tree and its apples are quite small, even though they’re delicious.
We inherited this apple tree when we moved into our home, but it is clear that its time is coming to an end. At the beginning of spring, I figured I would leave it to bear fruit for one more season, so that way we could enjoy its apples again.
Bearing fruit is good. We as humans are created to bear fruit through our love and service to our neighbor. We give our resources and extend ourselves. We know that part of our purpose is to bear fruit, fruit that will last. And we also know that bearing fruit takes a significant amount of energy and can be overwhelming at times. So much of who we are is assessed by what we produce, how much we produce, and the quality of what we produce.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus shares two parables to help us glimpse into what the reign of God looks like in the here and now. The first parable focuses on the mystery of planting, growing, and producing a harvest. A miracle and mystery that continues to amaze so many.
Yet the second parable doesn’t focus on what the seed will produce, the focus is on what the seed will become. Jesus says, “[the reign of God] is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
This is who we strive to be, a community of people living out the identity of who God has created us to be, not solely focusing on what we can produce, but focusing on how our very presence can be an invitation for someone to experience the sheltering and protecting love of the Triune God.
We become a living shade that provides comfort, shelter, and rest so that people, like every winged creature, can build their nests and find a home within us. Opening ourselves to how God is working through us and holding within ourselves the capacity to be a shelter for any one of God’s beloved, not knowing who is going to build a nest in our shade.
We are a living shade as we provide and create a listening presence to neighbors as they share stories of their lived experience, as we provide hospitality so that someone feels they have a place to belong, as we see each other for who we are and not solely for what we can produce.
How can we, not only bear fruit, but also be shade for all to feel safe, secure AND nourished under our branches?
We don’t exactly know how and perhaps there is comfort in that. But what we do know is that there is going to be growing involved and that God is going to do it.
And if we are being honest with ourselves there is probably going to have to be some trimming as we unlearn patterns and messages that kept people from making their home in our branches. Replacing them with new patterns of inclusivity and radical hospitality in which we are invited to change and grow by that impact others have on us. Only making our branches stronger and roots deeper.
We know that there are going to be growing pains. At times, we may feel like a small, uneven apple tree. The one with little fruit to share and a small patch of shade. But with God’s love and grace, we are sharing what we have with the rest of creation.
As small as it is, birds’ dwell in our apple tree all day long and while it was blooming bees were buzzing at every flower. Yet as often as we do, I only saw what the apple tree could produce for me and not the impact it has on all the other creatures that find a home within it.
Even when we’re tired and we’ve bore all the fruit we can in one season of our life, we know that the structure, the presence, of who we are will be a place where people can find shade, a place where people experience God’s love and see the ways that God dwells within us.
We are this presence because we have been created out of and rooted in the nutritious soil of God’s love and grace, watered with the waters of baptism, fed at Christ’s table, and sent out in community to grow branches and be who God has created us to be.
For we never know who will build a nest in our shade.