Text: Matthew 28: 16 – 20
Carol Kniseley /
As I gazed out my window at the College of Preachers…listening to the sound of birds chirping and the breeze blowing ever so gently the leaves in one of the most grandiose of trees…I heard a startling sound. One familiar, yet seemingly out of place in such a tranquil and holy setting. For you see, I had come here “looking for God” expecting to hear His voice in the quiet waters of fountains running nearby, but instead I was rudely interrupted by the sound of chain-saws blaring as they hacked away at a nearby tree.
And not just any tree at that. A larger than life giant of a red oak loomed precariously just on the edge of the manicured lawn of the College green. And as I was drawn to the scene that lay before me, I began to sense that there was “something going on here” that demanded my attention. A lesson perhaps that needed to be gleaned from one so old about to be silenced for good. And as I watched the tree-trimmers apply their trade, with ropes slinging and saw-dust flying like gusts of snow…stripping the beauty of her once glorious limbs…it occurred to me, that just perhaps…it was God himself whom I was seeing going about the never ending business of “re-creating”.
Sometimes, I suspect, we become so enamored of our setting, so engrossed and comfortable with what it is we think and believe…that it’s almost impossible for God to get our attention. Take the Doctrine of the Trinity for example. An age-old teaching that has been around since the 4th century and the Council of Nicaea, when people yearned for “words” in which to describe God. In her wisdom, the church was quick to respond with a description of God that to this day “no one” fully understands. And yet, we use it to explain to our children the “new math” of God’s creation.
Sunday School teachers especially cringe in their seats when we dust off such props as a three leaf clover and pointing to each leaf with the best of intentions, we dare to utter the utterly impossible and speak of God as (yes)…’three persons, and yet…one in the same’. Pulling out a 3 Muskateers bar is always a hit with the kids, as they love to raise their make-believe swords and shout:
“…all for one…and one for all!”…
yet, not really understanding the meaning behind their words. And yet, when push comes to shove, can’t we all state the same? They say that confession is good for the soul, and so I must confess that even on this particular day…when we in the church are to be about this business of ‘teaching’ one of the most fundamental understandings about our Christian faith…even I don’t fully understand!
There are days when I go in search of God…and instead of seeing Him as either the Father, or the Son, or even the Holy Spirit…I discover God more as a ‘gentle breeze’ blowing ever so gently as He carefully turns through the pages of my life. On other occasions, God comes not as a Shepherd as Jesus once described, but more as a ‘mothering hen’…who longs to gather her chicks up under her safe and protective wings.
And so it begins to occur to me…that perhaps, just perhaps…our images of God have become far too limited. Perhaps what the holy tree-trimmers are daring to suggest is that this God of the universe can be found in a million different ways. And that sometimes, we do have to “lose the tree…in order to regain sight of the forest.”
God is the God of “all” creation certainly capable of infusing God’s self into any mold of God’s own choosing. And perhaps when I think about it, there was a lesson to be learned and yes, a lesson to be taught from the cutting down of such a magnificent old tree. It reminded me that nothing in this life is permanent. As quickly as one life ends, another will take its place…and space does give way to room for greater understanding. “Holy space”…where God chooses to move…and affect God’s being in all of God’s infinite glory. That…is where I’d like to be.
And if that takes traveling to places like Washington DC and spending time at the College of Preachers, listening to chain-saws blaring…and yet instead, hearing them as ‘holy interruptions’…then so be it. You see, we are all in the act of being re-created. And what is being stripped away from me may very well be the work of the divine surgeon…the holy tree-trimmer Himself…exercising the right to not only shake a few of my “doctrinal trees” of religious understanding, but to on occasion…even dare to cut them down.
Making way then for us…all of us…to take our rightful place alongside of…the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit…(and whomever else God chooses to be)…as we proclaim together…God’s “good creation”.
(A special note: this week’s
sermon, ‘Holy Interruptions’, was written during Pastor Carol’s stay at the