Friday, December 6, 2019

Devotional for Second Sunday of Advent

Read Isaiah 11:1-10

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and of might,
    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.  
Isaiah 11:1-3a

The Stories of the Trees

There are many, many trees on the campus of Stony Point Center where I live as a member of the Community of Living Traditions, a multifaith community committed to the work of radical hospitality in the world and for all creation. Over the years I have learned the stories of several of the trees on the SPC grounds during community ‘tree walks.’  On these walks, we pause at a number of trees to share the stories and memories we have of the trees we encounter. We grieve by trees planted to mark the loss of good friends and children gone too soon. We note the beauty of those trees planted in grief, now firmly rooted like the memories of those they commemorate. We stop and celebrate by trees planted to mark the birth of babies; trees whose roots are nurtured by the placentas that sustained life in the womb. We offer gratitude at the base of some of the big, glorious maples on campus - gratitude for shade in spring and summer, for the blazing red-orange leaves of fall, for the sweet sap we collect in the cold of winter. The tree walks journey through all seasons of life and of creation. Together, we remember and are strengthened by the stories of Love’s presence in all seasons and of the new life that grows even from what we plant in our grief.

The trees we visit likely tell their own stories to one another.  Through networks of support invisible to us, the larger trees send nutrients to smaller trees not yet prepared to weather the harsh winter winds.  They signal one another when it is time to conserve energy and when it is time to put on the new green leaves of spring.  They care for one another, carrying one another through the seasons. 

The poem we read in Isaiah 11 is like the conversation between these trees and among the community that loves them. It is a message spoken on a tree walk, pausing at the stump of despair to let everyone know that new growth has been detected. All is not lost. In fact, a new inbreaking of justice for all creation is gaining strength to stand tall with deep, sturdy roots.  

And it is growing even now. This Advent let us pause at the roots, trunks, and fruitful leaves of justice and peace we see growing all around us and supply them with all the nutrients needed for the seasons ahead.

Tree of Life, invite us under the canopy of your love in this Advent season.  Gathered at your roots, may we remember the stories of your faithfulness in all seasons.  Send us out to nurture the inbreaking of a new order in which the voices of the vulnerable are heard and all creation is restored.  Amen.

Sarah Henkel is a Presbyterian pastor with roots in the Mennonite tradition. She is a resident of the Community of Living Traditions at Stony Point Center and currently serves as Parish Associate at White Plains Presbyterian Church (White Plains, NY). Sarah is a member of the Faith Working Group of the Alliance for Fair Food, a national network of people working in partnership with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers for farmworker justice, as well as a founding Support Team member for Proyecto Faro, a grassroots immigrant rights group growing in Rockland County. She is a birth doula and finds birth to be a powerful lens through which to expect and envision the new and just world always coming to life around us. Sarah works in a variety of hospitality roles at Stony Point Center and enjoys developing art and graphics for use in the community.

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