A Tree and Its Fruit
No good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; for each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.
~ Luke 6:43-45 (NRSV)
What an appropriate time of year to hear scripture about trees and the fruit they provide since we find ourselves in the midst of the harvest season. Everywhere we look, we see the leaves changing on the trees, providing us with amazing landscapes of vibrate color and breathtaking scenery. And all you need to do is to look outside to the top of our ramp, or stop by a farmer’s market, or drive by the church on the hill to see the pumpkins and the cornstalks and other reminders of the harvest and the awesome gifts that the earth provides.
I think that much of today’s scripture reading is true because when we live lives of abundance, we learn to appreciate the people, places, and things around us. And with hearts of thanksgiving, we look at the world through eyes of love and joy. Now that is not to say that there isn’t struggle around us and even within us. That’s not to say that we won’t face stumbling blocks in our everyday lives and face difficulty and strife. Because friends, we all do. But when we live lives of faith, when we learn to be humble and to hope and to pray and to be patient with ourselves and others, we learn to rely on God. Not that God is going to step in and take care of everything for us, but we eventually we learn that God will guide us and give us strength and courage along the way, assuring us that we are never alone and that we are loved no matter what comes our way.
I wonder, have you ever had a tough day? Have you ever been cranky, or irritable with a friend or a family member? I think we all have. But have you ever felt that way and then someone says something kind to you? They said something kind, even though you were cranky and hard to deal with? Now I know that there are some days when you just don’t want to hear it. You want to wallow in your anger or sadness or frustration. But, there are other days that a simple word or act of kindness reminds you that you are not alone. It reminds you that everything is going to be okay, that you just need to take a deep breath and keep moving forward.
Several years ago, a woman named Megan Murphy stated something called the Kindness Rocks Project, which is based on the profound truth that one message at the right moment can change someone’s day, their outlook, and, indeed, their whole life. It started with one rock and one message on a Cape Cod beach, and it is now happening around the world! Megan says that the messages on these thoughtful pebbles take many forms: gratitude, affirmations, encouragement, and offers of hope. But each and every one of them offers a signpost along the way for someone to find at exactly the right time. And the project is simple: put an encouraging word or phrase on a rock and put it somewhere that someone will find it during the day. You don’t need to know who the person is or when they will see it. You don’t need to know what their issue is or what they need to hear. You just need to take the time to share a kind word and know in your heart that it will make a difference. “Good trees sharing good fruit,” as our scripture reading would say.
Today in Household Huddle, we made some kindness rocks and we will be bringing them out into the world, placing them in unexpected places to share a little bit of love and kindness with others, because everyone needs a little encouragement sometimes, don’t they? And what a simple and yet profound way to share a little light with the world!
Now here in Oldtown, we often talk about the fact that we like to hear about the good news. We like to talk about hope and joy and love. We like to be inspired and encouraged, and we like to feel good about what we do. And that is wonderful!
But friends, in order to do all of those things, we also sometimes need to have difficult discussions. We need to confront problems and shortcomings because simply sweeping issues under the rug and hoping that they will go away is not healthy. It doesn’t solve anything. If anything, the problem only starts showing up in different places, if it isn’t dealt with. So as your Pastor here in Oldtown, I am going to try to do a better job in the coming weeks and months to model exactly that. Because being a healthy church takes not only cooperation and hard work, but also honesty and open communication.
That being said, I would be remiss today if I only shared the good news of today’s scripture reading and didn’t also talk with you about my struggle with it. You see, the idea that good trees produce good fruit and evil trees produce evil fruit makes sense on the surface, doesn’t it? From good comes good, and from evil comes evil, at least that is what the world tells us.
But as a follower of Jesus, and as a human being that tries very hard to see the good in every situation, I struggle with today’s scripture reading. Now, maybe it’s just a play on words, but in my mind, I want to stick close to something that is good and keep a distance from something that is evil. That is where the problem lies for me. Filling my heart with gratitude and compassion and kindness makes sense to me. It’s the focus on evil that I struggle with.
In superhero movies, we hear about good and evil, and luckily, good always prevails. But have you ever seen an “evil” tree? I’ve seen “healthy” and “unhealthy” trees, and the healthy trees produce fruit while the unhealthy trees do not. And I’ve seen thistles and briar bushes, but actually if you think about it, raspberries and roses come from those!
But what about good and evil people? I have worked in many places, including schools, nursing homes, churches, and even psychiatric hospitals and prisons. I’ve seen healthy and unhealthy people, and people who make good and bad choices. But like trees, I would not label any of those people as inherently “evil.” I guess what I am ultimately trying to say is that if we only share kindness and love with the people we consider “good,” we are missing the point.
Every human being on this earth, including each and every one of us, we all have days when we are good and days when we are not so good, days when we are healthy and days when we are downright unhealthy, days when we make good choices and days when we make terrible choices. Because friends, some days are tougher than others, and sometimes we face bigger obstacles and stumbling blocks. It is usually in those difficult times when we might come across to others as a little less than compassionate or kind or loving. It’s in those times, when we are physically or emotionally or even spiritually unhealthy, that we need the kindness of others.
Sure, when we are feeling good and healthy, we do look at the world through the eyes of gratitude and love, and we are able to share our gratitude and love with others because our pitchers are full and we have an abundance to share. But remember that it is often the people that are unfairly labeled as “evil” who are simply unhealthy and struggling and in need of our love even more. So, don’t keep your distance from them, but reach out to them with kindness, so that they might begin to heal and see beyond the darkness that they are in.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, as you go out into your busy week ahead, don’t judge those around you as “good” or “evil.” Simply share a word of kindness with them. Share one of the kindness rocks that are out in Maxcy Hall, or make some of your own to share. Because you never know the extent of what your kind word might mean in the life of another. And finally remember, as we always say here in Oldtown: in shining a little light on the world, you can’t help but shine it on your own path!
Friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God. Amen!