Several years ago a tree in our backyard began showing signs of stress. Yellowing and dying leaves; a branch that lost life. I gave the tree special attention with deep watering and fertilizer along with cutting off dead or dying branches. The tree seemed to respond and it perked up. But then in early fall, a major branch dropped all its leaves. I consulted with a local nursery. They gave me some tree tending tips.
This spring began with new leaves budding and life returning to the tree. However, because the tree was vulnerable, the heat of the summer stressed the tree beyond its endurance. Every leaf dried and fell. The branches and twigs all became brittle.
It was time to bring the tree down and dig up its root ball so something new could be planted and bring life to the landscape.
I find these decisions hard — to end something so something new can begin. I have endless hope that the old can be revived and renewed. But then, I recall Jesus’ teaching about the need to cut off dead branches so the vine can flourish (John 15). I remember his teaching about how putting new wine into an old wine skin can lead to it bursting and losing all the goodness (Mark 2:22). And there is the teaching in Ecclesiastes about the right timing of things — a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted (3:1).
With the right tools — a shovel and a mattock — for several days, on and off, I worked hard to dig out the root ball of the tree. It finally yielded and I was left with an empty hole. But in that space, something new could begin.
A Heavenly Cloud Sage was planted in the open hole. A shrub which will grow to six feet and has been cultivated to thrive and bloom in a dry, hot climate.
The experience has been a life parable about our dry pandemic season and the opportunity to discern what needs to die and be re-born in our church ministries. What ways and practices can begin which will bring new fruit for a new time.
May we have the courage to do some significant pruning and even digging up of the old so there is space and opportunity for the new.
May we engage in the hard work of endings and beginnings of ministries, practices, and activities which have not been producing fruit. A work which must be done with great grace, care, and respect so what has been, is honored in thankfulness.
May we have eyes to see and ears to hear Christ’s call for us to enter a new season of our ministry of bringing new life into the world around us.
It’s Time for a Fresh Start.
In Christ’s Care and Service,