August 14, 2011 Tree by Flowing Water
Genesis 40:4-20 Psalm 1 Romans 11:1-2a, 29-36
Repeat Psalm – Trees are beautiful sights to see, so many varieties, shapes, branches that go in varying directions, leaves, fruit, a strong foundation from which to hang swings, bird feeders, build tree houses, hang ornaments for Christmas, wonderful piece of God’s creation, each tree unique, none other like it
Those who meditate on the Lord’s law are like trees by a spring of water. What does it mean to be a tree by a spring of water? To have deep roots, easy access to life sustaining water, able to drink deep, not easily uprooted, able to stand firm, yet bend in the wind, able to produce fruit in season yet withhold fruit/hunker down through winter and through droughts – wisdom in this, trees are wise, JR Tolkien recognized this in his Lord of the Rings trilogy, Ents, wonderful characters, trees who spoke and walked, but slowly, did not move to action quickly, yet once mobilized, what a sight. In C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series, the trees whispered to each other. They were among the wisest of God’s creation. Image that comes to mind is of Thoreau, sitting beside Waldon Pond, perhaps under a tree, reflecting on the beauty of nature around him, reflecting deeply on life, being transformed.
Unlike chaff – chaff has no roots, blowing about by the wind, the latest fad, certainly see a lot of this in our society, people who are not just blown about by latest fad, but latest emotion as well, don’t stop to really think about life, just reacting to life, easily disturbed, dismayed, no sense of abiding peace, might experience momentary happiness, but that too is gone in an instant, shallow, unhappy, give up easily for they have no substance to hold on to, example, those who follow the stock market have had a rocky road these past few weeks as stocks have gone up and down in a crazy roller coaster ride. If your hope is in stocks then have reason to feel despair, there are people who are up or down with the stock market, feel richer when stocks go up, poor when they go down. Craziness.
How do we become like these trees? Psalm tells us through meditating on Torah, God’s law, Sacred Scripture – puts it all in perspective, reminds us of sins of our ancestors, yet they were loved and forgiven, reminds us of God’s love for the Hebrew people, all people, reminds us of God’s justice and our need to be just as well, to care for the widows and orphans, the poor among us. Reminds us of our faith history, the great people of our faith. Genesis reading today we have the reuniting of brothers, Joseph story, wonderful story of forgiveness and how God works in strange ways, ways we don’t understand. Joseph was sold into slavery for this moment, in order to save his people, and yet for those of us who know the story, we know it doesn’t stop here. Joseph brings his people to Egypt where they prosper and multiply, only to be turned into slaves and need rescuing later – but that’s for another story.
What is this law that we are called to meditate on? Is it just a listing of rules, eg. Leviticus 11, laws on food, laws on leprosy, laws about the land and inheritance, long legal list goes on and on chapter after chapter. Is that what we are called to meditate on? Yes and no, all of Scripture is good to study, including these laws but Torah/Law is greater than that, more than just an enumeration of do’s and don’ts. To meditate on Torah is to know the story and apply it to life today.
Law/Torah, God’s word, living, eternal, true, happy are those who spend their time reflecting on God’s word, rabbis spent whole live reflecting on Torah, studying, midrash, debated the fine points of the law. Those who study the Lord’s law have inner resources that others don’t have, they will not be easily dismayed or destroyed, they are strong, like a tree, can bend when necessary but only so far, remains steadfast.
To be by a stream of water means we have what we need to sustain us, it’s there, deep within us, we don’t have to go to a well and carry it back to our homes, we just need to go deeper, dig deeper, not remain on the surface, not live life on the surface. Teresa of Avila, when speaking of the prayer life said at first it can seem like going to a well, raising the bucket, hard work in order to get some refreshment, but as one grows in their prayer life, they learn how to dig irrigation ditches whereby the water can flow more freely to the person, one who is learned in prayer though discovers a stream within, living waters that flow freely so you no longer have to work so hard at it. This is to be a tree by a stream, tapping into those living waters within us, waters of prayer where we meet our Lord and Savior.
Prayer needs to be daily, reflecting on God, reflecting on Scripture, not looking for “great revelations” quick fixes or transformation, that’s the way of chaff, way of our society, but not the way of trees. Scripture needs to be read over and over, memorized so that it becomes part of our living and breather, part of our very nature, so that it is easy to recall the passages, easy to pray to God, as easy as breathing, as easy as it is for the tree by a stream to receive the water it needs.
This week we begin our study of the Psalms, we begin it with this beautiful Psalm about meditating on God’s law – very appropriate beginning. It is good to meditate on God’s word, good to reflect on the psalms, the early prayers of God’s people. They are worthy of a lifetime. In them you will find all of the wide range of human emotions expressed in poetry. You will find the heart of Christian Scripture, leading us always to our God and to Jesus. It was a tree that held Jesus on his last day.
Monks that pray the hours of the day pray all 150 psalms over the course of each week. They become intimately aware of each psalm through praying them over and over. Through doing this they are immersed in them and in their spirituality, it forms them and transforms them. They don’t show up each day expecting to get something, expecting to be entertained or see miracles, they show up because it is who they are, part of them, and so their whole life becomes a prayer, wrapped in God’s love as they memorize the psalms from their daily repetition of them. They are so rooted in them that they are like the air they breathe, the water that sustains them, their daily bread. They are not easily swayed by outside forces, yet are aware about what is going on in the world outside of them to pray for it. They truly are like trees planted by flowing streams, streams of prayer.
While we will not be praying each of these psalms during the course of one week, we will be reflecting on them individually and hopefully making them a part of our daily prayer life where they can’t help but transform us.
Romans, Paul speaks of the depths of God’s wisdom and knowledge. We are just barely touching the surfaces of that wisdom. It can take a lifetime to plumb the depths of these riches; it is a venture worthy of a lifetime, meditating on the richness of God’s word. We need to dig deep into this fertile soil, put down strong roots where we are able to drink deep from living waters, God’s word. And so, as we begin this journey into the prayers of God’s people, the psalms, may we, too, become like trees by flowing streams, ever attentive to God’s word in our life and our world. May God’s words sustain us, encourage us, strengthen us, enliven us, wherever we may go, wherever they may lead us.
Robertson, Copyright November 2011