Thursday, March 3, 2016

Maple Tree as Icon


For nearly ten years, I've hosted a small meditation circle, Tuesdays and Thursdays at the church.  We gather early, before work, and sit together in silence for thirty minutes.

As grace would have it, there are a couple of Japanese maple trees, just outside the huge windows where we sit.  As the seasons circle, these trees are something like icons of beauty and discipleship.  They remind us of the invitation, mysterious and daring, in Jesus' gospel.  "Those who want to save their lives will lose them; and those who lose their lives for the sake of good news will find true meaning, purpose and grace."  In the later weeks of autumn, the maples release their leaves again, their once glorious, once radiant red leaves.  And through the winter, they wait.  And so do we.  

Is it this, this releasing, this loosening, this surrender to winter, that now makes springtime so fragrant and green?  Is it the maple's willingness to die, to let last year's wonder fall, that allows her branches to bear new shoots now?  Again, I see Jesus in her bent limbs, in her silent and lovely angles, in her bearing branches.  An icon of his gospel.  An invitation to discipleship.

In a busy season of activity and duty, I'm devoted to this meditation practice and its many blessings and challenges.  During Lent, I turn to the Jesus Prayer (or a form of it) for my mantra, the words that bring me back to the center when my mind wanders and anxiety creeps in.  "Lord, make haste to help me. Lord, make speed to save me."  These words calm me, reminding me of Jesus' constant presence and guidance, even in the midst of stormy days and complicated politics and uncertainty.

The lesson here isn't so much a lesson, as a window.  Even the brightest leaves will fall, and must.  Precious things are fragile in the wind, and it's good this way.  Love released, set free, is love transfigured.  And so it is.  The maple tree is alive again now, and her branches are green again now.  Hope flutters in the early spring, and it is alive and thrilling and very much at hand.  And so it is with me.  And with us.  God's gift.  This day.

(By the way, if you're in Santa Cruz, you're always welcome to join us on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 8:20 to 8:50 am.  We're in the sanctuary at Peace United Church.  By the window by the maples.)