Just above me is a giant tree in our backyard. Growing up in Oklahoma the giant trees were few and far between, and were put on display at Christmas and people drove from miles around to take a look. Here, in Tennessee the trees are quite different. The rise so tall that you hurt your neck looking up for too long. They cover the landscape like a blanket and provide shelter and shade for everything below them.
Trunks so large it takes arms and arms to reach around.
They are wonderous.
There is a verse in Revelation that has been tucked in my heart for over a decade
On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
I sit under that tree in my backyard many times a week. I look up at it and that verse runs through my mind as I stare at the thousands of leaves whispering over my head. “How are the leaves the healing of the nations?” I don’t know, but I do know scripture says it. I also know that is Psalm 1 a righteous man is compared to a tree by living water. And although Jesus said he is the root of the vine, why not be the root of the trees? Would that not be a stretch to think that the leaves are….us?
Are we the leaves that are to be the healing of the nations?
He is healer, no doubt, but we are the messengers, the ambassadors, the one reliant on the root of the vine, where we are admonished to be “root and established in love.” Rooted. Roots that go down into someone who provides all we need for life. Roots so deep that when they are threatened, they cannot be uprooted, even when storms shake and whip the tops.
What if when we are rooted and established in love, even though he slay us, we never stop trusting him? What if our roots were the only thing that kept us from dying in the worst of times? What if our roots in Christ, though we are pruned and changed, we grew stronger and more powerful as a whole collective?
I wanted, for awhile, to be really upset with the Church, not a particular church (notice the capital “C”) but at the church of America. I was even thinking “Bring on persecution! It will only cause us to grow! We deserve a little tough times. We don’t know what persecution is! Let the storms come and cut us down a bit. Let the lightning strike and strip us of our pride!”
Then I realized that the church of Acts, when persecuted was scattered. Scattered like ants when their little ant piles are messed with. Scattered like roaches when the lights come on. They, our first brothers and sisters, were forced out of homes and displaced by persecution. Much like what is happening even now to our brothers and sisters.
Then I looked at the tree and wondered, “So, what happened between the times of persecution?” What happened as they rebuilt their lives and started again? What did they do?”
She discipled. She spread the gospel. She took care of her own. She fed the poor and took care of the sick. She supplied food and money to missionaries and housed them when they returned. She prayed for each other and encouraged them in Christ. She met for communion and eating, and I’m sure, laughter and tears.
She healed nations.
Now, we sit in a nation, one that is sick and dying, and I’ve wanted the Church of America to feel the pain our brothers and sisters around the world are experiencing, but have realized what an awful thing that is. I only meant it like how we talk to our kids “When I was your age!” as though our experiences might make them different. I wanted the experiences of others who were persecuted to guilt the American church into feeling bad about herself, and maybe even wanted us to “suffer” a little more and grow up.
There might be some truth in that. We have a tendency to be spoiled. Our freedom has made us comfortable and we can easily miss the suffering around the world, but that’s not true for all of us.
We have more than a great opportunity here. We have a great gift, obligation, responsibilty as the Church to be the turning tide of our Nation, and to be the ones who fund other other nations to take care of the displaced, the refugee, the poor, the homeless, the persecuted. We, as millions of believers in Jesus, have the time, resources, technology, and freedom to be those healing leaves, not only to the world, but to ourselves, to our neighbors, to our politicians, to our enemies.
No more do I say, “Bring on the persecution and watch us scatter!” No, I say,
Bring on the Holy Spirit and watch us explode!
I pray the prayer of the founding Church,
“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant, Jesus.”
And I pray, that through our unity, the same thing will happen among us:
“After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.”
We still live in a free country. We still have the freedom to pray and gather and stand up in boldness. Not in anger, not out of guilt, but in a great unity of believers, full of love and hope and faith, so that we will be filled with the Spirit to expand the kingdom. While we are in this freedom, let us not squander it. I pray we take advantage of it.
And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Rev. 22