“Blessed is the one. . . who is like a tree planted beside streams of water, which yields its fruit in proper time, and its leaves never fall off. In all that they do, they prosper.”– Psalm 1
I am a fan of Jewish writings and literature. Over the centuries, rabbis have taught through story. Perhaps this influenced Jesus’ teaching style and the use of parable. Congregations need storytellers as well. These are people who remember and retell the narrative of a congregation’s mission and purpose. To be true to our past and successful in moving forward, we need to have periodic reminders from where we have come and the principles on our congregations were founded.
The Talmud has a revered place in Jewish culture. It is a record of Jewish thought, stating who they are as a people and what they are called to do and be. One story I have grown to appreciate is “Honi and the Carob Tree.” As a young boy, Honi was out walking when he saw an old man planting a carob tree. After watching him for several minutes, Honi asked, “How long will it be before the tree bears fruit?” “It will be many years,” said the old man. “Do you expect to ever taste the fruit of the tree?” asked Honi. “Probably not,” said the old man. “Then why bother?” asked Honi.
The old man replied that when he was a boy, he was able to enjoy the fruit of trees that were planted by his parents and grandparents. Now he feels that it is his responsibility to plant trees for future generations to enjoy.
We are called to recognize that we also reap what others have sown. Out of a grateful spirit, we are called to sow seeds and plant trees that we may never harvest so that future generations can benefit from our having been on this earth.
A question we all should ask ourselves at least annually is this: “What do we want to see outlive our involvement with this community? What legacy will we leave behind? Are we making progress toward that goal?”
Making the world a better place may seem like a lofty goal. Maybe we should bring that idea closer to home. Psalm 1 calls us to bear fruit right where we are planted. Some may be called on to branch out and make a global influence. But most of us are called to serve right where we are planted, in our neighborhoods and in our places of work. The streams that have nurtured us are where we can best give back and bear fruit.
My goal in life is not so much to change the world as it is to live a life that expresses and manifests God’s spirit of gratitude. This gratitude must be shown not only with mere words but especially in action – such as planting trees. A mature tree provides the gift of fruit to be enjoyed here and now. My hope for us is that the fruit of trees we plant will benefit persons we may never meet, even as we have benefited from the work of forethoughts of others. If that happens, we will be truly joyful as we end our lifework in this world!
Grace and Peace,
Pastor Jay Eckman