A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse and a branch shall grow out of his roots. Isa. 11:1
Outside the old Farmhouse at Koinonia, Highland Lake, NY, there was a broken apple tree. It appeared the tree had snapped in a wind storm long before my arrival. The upper part of the tree was bent over and laying on the ground. Some of its branches were even buried in the dirt. Where the trunk had snapped, rot and decay had taken over. All that remained of its connection to its root system was a section about two inches in depth and eight inches in width.
Out of this broken tree, new green leaves would appear every spring. In the summer, when passing the tree, I would be sure to watch the progress of the small apples that would begin to take form. Then in the fall, a full harvest of mature apples would hang from the branches. It became for me a tree of hope and a witness to faith. Out of the most visually fractured and broken pieces of life, a beautiful tree and a bountiful harvest can grow. I often wonder how many people took notice of that tree and drew from it the same meaning.
Today, the prophet Isaiah declares a new branch will grow out of a dead stump. What we do not read here is the stump comes from a tree cut down by the Lord. It can lead to an image of an angry God who smites people for faithlessness. The truth is, the people of Isaiah’s time were doing quite well destroying themselves. In these words of Isaiah 11, we begin to understand God is the one who makes something new out of what appears to be destruction.
I think of Black Friday when reading Isaiah. Every year the news is filled with reports of fights breaking out in stores while people Christmas shop. Even if fist fights do not ensue, there are still crowds to fight and tensions to endure. To some it may appear exciting, but I doubt anyone can make a convincing argument that it brings peace to the soul.
This year, REI, the outdoor retailer, made a break from the Black Friday fiasco. They intentionally closed their stores and invited people to go outside. The message on their website read like a sermon given by a pastor about Black Friday. “To opt is to choose. Outside over inside. Adventures over things.” The #OptOuside campaign was an invitation to discover the spiritual healing of creation and sabbath time.
Why stop opting to explore a peaceful existence? I would like to invite you to #OptReflection. Choose to spend a couple of minutes each day in spiritual reflection. Consider sharing a scripture verse, or a reflection like this one. Keep it simple, make it public and mark it #OptReflection. May it encourage people to experience the peaceful kingdom emerging out of the broken pieces of life.
Click to read: Isaiah 11: 1-9
Reflection Questions: When have you experienced hope in the midst of brokenness? Where have you discovered new meaning life by taking time to notice ordinary things? How can opting out help us opt in to daily living in a healthy way? What can you do to #OptReflection today?