Frederick Buechner Sermon Illustration: Tree

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In our blog post every Monday we select a reading from the Revised Common Lectionary for the upcoming Sunday, and pair it with a Frederick Buechner reading on the same topic.

Next Sunday we will celebrate the the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany.  Here is this week's reading from the book of Jeremiah:

Jeremiah 17:5-8

Thus says the LORD: Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the LORD. They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. Blessed are those who trust in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.

Thus says the LORD: Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the LORD. They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. Blessed are those who trust in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.

The following was originally published in Beyond Words.

My brother liked digging holes, and the summer before he died he dug one for an apple tree that I see every day through a window in my office. Thanks to the tree, it is the one hole he dug that has not been filled in and forgotten.

By the side of an old dirt road in the woods is a big maple tree that is so nearly hollow that three children can get into it together and still have wiggle room. Year after year it puts out a canopy of leaves even so, and a friend of mine once said, "If that tree can keep on doing that in the shape it's in, then there's hope for all of us." So we named it the Hope Tree.

Sycamore, willow, catalpa, ash—who knows what their true names are? We know only that they are most beautiful in the fall when they are dying. They are craziest when the wind is blowing. In the snow they are holiest.

Maybe what is most precious about them is their silence. Maybe what is most touching about them is the way they reach out to us as we pass.

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