Presented to Columbia Drive UMC. March, 1, 2020.
Thank you for the powerful message, Pastor Thompson. When Pastor Thompson shared the title and scripture of the message this week I started to meditate on it to see what art and story could come out of it. Being able to resist temptation in our deserts is built by hours of time with our God learning to love what he loves. Learning to think more like Him.
Here is a story about a boy and a tree his grandpa planted for him when he was born. It is meant to show how a few minutes every morning with his grandpa grew the boy into an oak of righteousness similarly to how a huge oak tree is grown tall and strong by little increments.
Terence's grandpa caught Terence hiding behind a bush. "You aren't supposed to be up here, little man," He said sternly.
Terence's voice wavered, "Why do you leave before anyone wakes up? Where are you going?"
His grandpa took a slow, discerning breath, then said,"Alright, come on." At the top of the hill he put his bag down and knelt at the base of a sapling tree that stood no taller than he.
Terence asked, "Is this tree a baby?"
His Grandpa replied, "It's about 5 years old."
"That's how old I am," Terence replied.
His grandpa nodded as he pulled things out of his pack. He said, "It's exactly as old as you are." Together they carefully dug up weeds, watered it, and inspected it for disease.
He was looking at Terence when he had an idea. "Do you want to pray for the tree with me?"
"Okay," Terence replied.
"Put your hand on the tree." After Terence did it his grandpa put his hand on Terence's shoulder and prayed, "May the roots of this little one go deep, growing slow and steady even if no one else can see it but You, Lord. May he grow into an oak of righteousness so that someday his branches will give countless people peace in his shade."
Terence listened for his grandpa to wake up every morning and they did the same thing. He cherished those few moments with his Grandpa every morning, and he learned so much from him. He was so wise. Even long after the tree could hold its own they kept going. Terence felt like the quiet time with his grandpa watered Terence's soul.
They held his grandpa's funeral 60 years later, under that same big oak tree, now the largest thing on the hillside. Most of the people there were Terence's kids and grandkids and they all rested in the tree's shade.
At one point, Terence's uncle stood up to talk. He looked directly at Terence and spoke loud enough for all to hear. "As we sit under this big tree today, Terence, it reminds me of the day we baptized you. Of course you were too young to remember it but your grandpa whispered a prayer over you. He said something like, "Make this one into an oak of righteousness," His uncle struggled to remember the phrasing, "so that people will find peace in his shade.' Or something like that. He poured himself into you through all those moments you spent with him, Terence. And you have become that Oak of Righteousness."
Terence bit his lip and looked down. He knew the exact words of the prayer. He had heard it a thousand times. He just hadn't known it was for him.
May we remember this week that spending quiet time talking and listening to God, and seeing through his eyes a vision of what we can become, helps us grow, even if by little invisible increments, into the strong people he wants us to be. Ones that when the hard times come are well-rooted, and are swayed less by the ways and temptations of this world.