Let’s Birth Something Fruitful
First, it is great to be here serving alongside all of you in this District. This is a short gig, only nine months. It is just about the right time to birth something fruitful.
One of the potentially fun things about the life of a pastor is staying connected to the places you used to live. Doesn't always happen but when it does, it can be fun. I will never forget when Craig Nelson (St. Pete, First) sent Sally and me a photo of a picture that our kids drew on the wall behind the dishwasher before it was installed because his family was living in the house where we used to live, and that same dishwasher needed to be serviced.
That house in Miami had a huge banyan tree (very abundant tropical tree you see a lot in Miami and the Keys) in the front yard. It was a tree our kids loved to climb. One of the features of that tree is that it has a central tap root that reaches down into the underground aquifer to pull up the needed moisture for the tree to thrive. Another feature of that tree essential to its thriving is that it drops aerial prop roots down to the ground that supplement the taproot but also provide needed stability for the tree. That's essential when the high winds of tropical storms and hurricanes blow your way. The problem with banyan trees in suburban yards is that more often than not the prop roots get trimmed away so they don't overtake the yard where the tree is planted.
The current resident of that house in Miami sent us another picture a couple of years ago. It was of that banyan tree toppled over in a recent storm. As we shared it with our kids, our daughter Abby wrote back in the Facebook group message, "I never thought I'd cry over a tree! The years we lived there, I always found comfort sitting up in its branches." Of course, we all knew she would cry over a tree, just who she is!
And now to the point of this story: Like a big banyan tree, our faith is best cultivated by our central-tap-rootedness in the redemption and liberating love of Christ. It is what hydrates and renews our faith. Like a big banyan tree, our faith is also strengthened by the aerial-prop-roots of love we share not just with those we already know and like, but the love we share with strangers, people who are different than we are, dare we say our enemies.
There was a great song sung by people of faith while marching for voting rights in Alabama during the Civil Rights struggle. It has had different variations over the years, but as I learned it, the song went, "We shall not, we shall not be moved. Like a tree planted by the water, we shall not be moved." This past year with all of the necessary isolation of this pandemic, we have sometimes felt the howling winds attempting to uproot us. And so we pray, like the verses of Jeremiah that inspired that song, trusting in the Lord, that we shall be unmoved, like trees planted by the water.
Happy are those who trust in the Lord, who rely on the Lord. They will be like trees planted by the streams, whose roots reach down to the water. They won’t fear drought when it comes; their leaves will remain green. They won’t be stressed in the time of drought or fail to bear fruit. (Jeremiah 17:7-8 CEB)
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Clarke Campbell-Evans
District Superintendent, Gulf Central District