The pastor preached on trees tonight, based on the reading from Ezekiel 17. God is a great gardener. He plucks a sprig from a cedar and plants it on a mountaintop where it will produce much fruit. He makes the dry tree flourish.
The concept of flourishing like trees continued in Psalm 92 with the refrain reminding us to be grateful that we can produce fruit: Lord, it is good to give thanks to you. In the Gospel, Jesus uses the parable of scattered seeds to illustrate that God is a gardener who will harvest when the grain is ripe and that even the smallest seed can become the greatest shrub where birds will make their nests. The pastor talked about God making plans, plans that are amazing, even more so than ours. He told the story of a blind Jesuit who he had met during his formation. This man’s life took an odd turn when as a child he fell out of a tree and lost his sight. Step by step, his vocation was revealed to him and those around him, including the Pope. We never know how God will use us. More often than not, I am convinced that it is not in the ways we predict. Our plans may run parallel with God’s most days, but sometimes the plot swerves in a direction we did not see coming. I have always said that my God is a God of surprises. Strap yourself in and enjoy the ride.
A former pastor used to recite the Merton prayer:
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
These words always stir emotion deep within me. Many of us can be strong willed but yielding to God’s voice and will requires a vulnerability and openness that smooths the clenched fist to an open palm. May you flourish like a strong tree planted by water as you discern God’s will for your life and raise your voice in praise: Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.