Planted by the stream

Sunday, February 17, 2019
Jeremiah 17:5-10
Psalm 1
(We are going to journey - mind and soul as we consider the words of Jeremiah.  Place both of your feet upon the floor, and breathe gently in and out, relaxed.
Close your eyes if you wish)
The words of Jeremiah:
Those who do not know God
are like a shrub in the wilderness.
Let us look at the wilderness as Jeremiah would have known it.
Let us walk into the wilderness for a time - 
under the bright sun, 
dry heat,
your skin baked where it is not covered,
clothes to protect, yet hot....  
And then the wind swirls about, the sand kicks up and for a moment you cannot see ahead, behind – and the wind whistles about, and then settles, leaving grit in your hair, grit on your skin.
Bright sun.
skin baked
grit inescapable
And as you look around - sand.  Rocks.  And a few sad, dried-out shrubs, most of which will never know if rain comes again, for life has left them.  
Indeed, rain may come and go sometime - - and they will remain as they are today until the wind tears off the last desiccated leaf on yet another hot, dry day.
And as you look around - the fox, out hunting later into the heat than normal, for there is little to find, seeks its burrow – gaunt and hungry it disappears into the earth for a few hours rest before being driven by hunger back into the light to seek sustenance once again.
The viper slides along the ground, tongue flicking red as it wends around the rocks in it path - looking for an unwary lizard that might be too slow to leave its low perch, or even a mouse that has no more life within itself, but still - food for the slithering creature with venomous bite.
Far above, the vulture circles.  It would not mind the mouse either, but it would prefer something larger, something that already smells of death in the wilderness.
Those who do not know God are like a shrub in the wilderness.  Who may or may not know if the rains come and go - but for now stand, dry under the hot sun.
Jeremiah’s wilderness.
Kilometre after kilometre of wilderness.
But walk on - and there in the distance you see something different.
And you move ever closer and you see a tree.
And you see a stream.
And you are not sure which to admire first.
But finally, you turn to the water.
And you dip your hands into the water, cupping the cool liquid, 
first to wash your face, and then to drink.... and then to drink.
And as the waters touch you, you remember.
You remember the waters of Creation itself, back in the womb of time - 
the waters from which life was birthed by the breath of God.
As the waters touch you, you remember.
You remember the waters that parted before Moses and the people - 
parting to give them a life of freedom from oppression.
And the rock that Moses struck, so that God-granted waters might flow forth, 
so that they could drink thirst-quenching, 
life giving water, even as you drink from the refreshing stream.
And as you cup water again to your face, you remember the words of the Psalmist 
..... he leads me beside still waters....  And the anxiety of having trekked through wilderness seeps away, rinsed away by the cleansing waters of the stream.
As you look into the waters again, you stand and you see, like a dream, like a vision, into the future, and you see another stream 
and there a man preaching and then leading individuals into the stream, lowering them into the waters, raising them out - again and again, as people in the multitude come forward, some excited, some trembling with anxiety, all rising with a new look upon their faces, transformed.
And then one in particular.  This one rising from the waters of that other stream.  And a sign like a dove descending upon him.  And you hear the distant echo of a voice in your dream, in your vision “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
But still, as you gaze into the water there is more.
You see people of all nations gathering by rivers, and lakes, and gathering at fonts,
water touching them
as the water of this stream has touched you,
giving you life,
giving them life.
And then that vision fades,
and you look around and see again the tree that brought you here in the first place.
Beyond the tree: still the wilderness with dry shrub.
But here - a tree, anchored and steady.
Roots large and strong above the ground
and you know more roots below the ground
seeking the stream
seeking the waters
seeking the living waters
the waters of life.
But this is a tree.
Not just roots.
And you look up into the rich dark green foliage and realize:
It grows here beside the river, 
for here it is nourished in the times of abundance
and here
it is nourished even in time of desolation and drought,
it remains green even in the worst of times.
Even in the worst of times
And then
as you continue to look up into the tree
you see that even now
even now
when the wilderness beyond is so hot and dry and full of death
you see that even now
it bears fruit
And, as in wonder you gaze up into the green above,
and as you look it becomes clear the names of this fruit
not one fruit
but three fruit
and you know their names:
These are the fruit that weigh heavy, indeed abundant on the branches of this tree
And your gaze lingers upon the fruit,
and then you look down the trunk
and there
on the tree
is a sign.
And on that sign:
Your name.
And you realize: this tree: It is you.
You – planted by the side of the stream
with the waters of life.
You, with your roots that show, and the ones that are hidden
stretching to the waters, stretching to the waters of life.
This is you.
In the good times, and the times of desolation, planted by the stream of life.
This is you - growing
and bearing fruit
And Jeremiah says:
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.
(As the words of Jeremiah echo, come back to this time, come back to this space.  But, even as you do: be that tree, rooted by the streams of the water of life.)