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“Trees Beside the Stream”

Rev. Katherine Todd
Jeremiah 17:5-10
Psalm 1

 

Jeremiah 17:5-10

Thus says the Lord:
Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals
and make mere flesh their strength,
whose hearts turn away from the Lord.
They shall be like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see when relief comes.
They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,
whose trust is the Lord.
They shall be like a tree planted by water,
sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
and it does not cease to bear fruit.

The heart is devious above all else;
it is perverse—
who can understand it?
I the Lord test the mind
and search the heart,
to give to all according to their ways,
according to the fruit of their doings.

 

Psalm 1

Happy are those
who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or take the path that sinners tread,
or sit in the seat of scoffers;
but their delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees
planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.

The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.


 

These two passages, the first from Jeremiah and the second from the Psalms – they are strikingly similar.  They both contrast two different ways of living.  In Jeremiah, the contrast is between those who trust in mortals, in people, and those who trust in the Lord.  Then in Psalms, a contrast is drawn between those who follow the advice of the wicked and those who delight in God’s law.

These two different takes however, seem to be describing a related phenomenon because our actions and inactions reflect what we trust.  If we trust in our own minds, we rely on our own understanding when we make decisions.  If we trust in our own determination, we muscle through life’s obstacles.  If we trust in our parents, we rely on them in times of trouble.

 

In other words, our actions directly correlate to our trust.

 

Of course there are times when we rely on those we don’t much trust, but even then, we are choosing to rely on that person or tool because we think that’ll give us the best outcome.  And in that way, we are trusting in that person or tool for the outcome we want.

And in these verses, the authors are questioning WHO and WHAT we run to, when we face life’s challenges and enjoy life’s blessings.

 

Many of us are intelligent and resourceful.  We have come through storms.  We have found our way when all around us was scary and unclear.  You have sought to make sound decisions.  You have saved up for a rainy day.  You’ve disciplined yourself in order to get where you want to go.  You’ve worked hard and long.  You’ve made sacrifices.  You’ve given your life blood to provide for your family and to make the world a better place.

And it is easy to think we’ve gotten there on our own.

It is easy to forget the gifts of our parents and guardians – who may have taught us how to save and work hard, who may have given us a leg up in the world, who may have shown us what it means to be loved…

It is easy to forget the gifts of our teachers, those who poured themselves out so that we might learn – who may have taught us how to balance a budget, who may have taught us how to read and write, who may have taught us how to solve complex problems…

It is easy to forget the gifts of our friends – who may have taught us how to love one another, even while we disagree; who may have taught us how to work together to accomplish a goal; who may have taught us to laugh and not to take ourselves so seriously…

 

We stand on the shoulders of so many.

And even for those of us who remember and give thanks for the gifts so many have given us through-out our lives, it is easy to think that these visible gifts along our pathway are all that’s really going on.  It is easy to credit those who have loved and nurtured us with our successes and accomplishments.

 

But WHO gave us the gifts and talents we are wired with?  Who causes the crops to grow that feed us?  Who waters the earth with rain and warms it by the sun?  Who authors the peace that gives us space to live and grow in the world.  Who is light in a darkened world?

 

I hope you have met many who partner with God in the world.  I hope you have met those who coax life out of the dry earth.  I hope you have met those who do the hard work of peace-making, sometimes building bridges between people, sometimes drawing boundaries of protection.   I hope you have those in your life who are like the sun – brightening your world with the warm of their love.

But we love because God loved us first.  God IS love, and we learn what love is from God.

We experience true peace, peace that passes understanding, as the Holy Spirit grows the fruit of peace in our lives, as we spend time with and learn from Christ, the Prince of Peace, who claims us as God’s own, bridging the divide of sin between us.

We light up the world when Christ lives in our hearts.  We radiate the love and light of God, when we spend time in God’s presence, delighting in the Lord and remembering God’s mighty works.

 

In other words, all that we have, comes from God, Maker of all, Love embodied, the Prince of Peace, Light of the World, Bread of Life! 

 

When we remember that God is the true source of all good things, we find a Rock for every storm, we find our Guiding Light, we find our Mighty Fortress, our Refuge, our Deliverer, our Friend.

And as these scriptures so beautifully illustrate, we become like trees planted by the stream.  We are not anxious in times of drought, for our leaves do not wither.  We have placed our trust in God.  Our trust IS GOD.  And we do not cease to bear fruit.

It is perhaps why some can go through hell on earth and still give thanks, find joy, and grow.  It is perhaps how some have accessed more strength than they ever imagined possible.  It is perhaps how some have lost everything but not lost their faith or their gratitude.  It is perhaps why we are beaten down, despised, afflicted, forsaken,…and yet new life appears, new growth, fruit in the desert…

 

Wherever you are in your life – be it a time of drought or of plenty – I encourage you to take stock of all who gave of themselves so that you could be and grow.  I encourage you to remember all those you have learned from, even those who’ve taught you painful lessons you might rather have skipped, and even those from whom you’ve learned what NOT to do.

May we remember that every good and perfect gift comes from God, and that insofar as we live and breathe and have ever experienced goodness and joy, we have experienced God’s goodness and love poured out over us.

 

Therefore, may we place our trust in God.

 

Trusting God does not necessarily mean ignoring our minds or emotions.  It does not mean we are to be reckless with our lives, our finances, or our resources.

But it does mean that we rely on God.  We place our bets on God.  We remember that what we see is only part of the whole picture, and that the giver of all good things is our Maker and our Friend, who loves us and gives us a future, with hope.

We do our very best.  We use all that God has given us – our minds, our hearts, our talents, our skills, our resources, our time, our energy – but in the end, we don’t place our trust in those things to save us or to provide.

We place our trust in the GIVER of all those good things.

We place our trust in the SOURCE.

We place our trust in GOD.

 

May we be a people who remember.

May we be a people who place our trust in GOD.