March 17, 2022
A beautiful, distinctive feature of our Florida landscape are the huge old live oak trees with massive trunks and far-reaching branches dripping with Spanish moss. A very old live oak can have enormous horizontal branches that extend out from the trunk at least the height of the tree. These branches may even graze the ground. When looking at such an old sprawling tree with the low branches it can seem like the tree is too old to hold up its limbs. Too ancient to support them. Lacking the energy or strength to send the branches up instead of down and out. The tree can look like it is sagging with age, something we know well as human beings.
But it turns out those far-extending low-hanging branches are intentional. As the tree grows up and out it extends the lower branches horizontally for stability. They keep the tree from being inordinately top-heavy. They distribute the weight of the huge limbs counterbalancing the upper branches. The lower branches may touch the ground offering support to steady the enormous tree. This is especially important during the heavy winds and rains of stormy weather. The lower limbs brace the tree; prop it up. So, far from being evidence of sagging or losing strength and vibrancy, the lower limbs are steadying the tree providing stability, balance, and strength.
Throughout the history of the Christian church, there are those who have condemned the meekness, humility, and anti-violence of Jesus as weak and impracticable in the real world. These teachings are seen as pathetic or to be more charitable, fancifully idealistic; of heaven not earth. They are also viewed as impractical, ancient, quaint. Like the limbs of the live oak, they are seen as aged and sagging. Maybe even pulling the tree down. But as we know, those oak limbs are actually helpful supports especially when the tree is stressed by wind and weather.
We are living in a stormy time. The winds of war have kicked up with Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. There is much blustering and much bombing. The Christians teachings around peace may seem inadequate for the conflicts threatening the globe. And yet how well are drones and bombs and shells working? Are they creating more peace? Hardly.
Maybe the teachings of Christianity seem ineffectual because they haven’t actually ever been fully implemented. Maybe meekness, humility, and anti-violence are needed for greater stability. To offer support, provide balance, and a steadying influence to the global community of nations in all of its diversity. Especially when there is a storm. And there seem to be more storms.
In the wildness of mercy, something that seems like a weakness or a liability may actually prove to be a strength. Christian teachings about peace are needed now more than ever in this day of catastrophic weaponry and minimal morality.
Prayer: Take time to look at an old weathered oak tree. Notice the low spreading branches. Consider how they provide support and stability in a storm. Think of how in the wildness of mercy, the meekness, humility, and anti-violence of Jesus provide strength and stability in trying times. May we lean on the wildness of mercy. Amen.