Thought for the Month (March 2013)

Christmas seems such a short time ago but, by the time you read this, Easter will be almost upon us. I would like, this month, to recount a story I first read many years ago. It's the story about three trees.

Many years ago three trees had grown together on the top of a hill. As they grew taller they became beacons. Weary travellers on seeing these trees knew they were nearly home. This was long before the days of any sort of mechanical travel or maps, which meant these trees were regarded with great affection by the local people.

One winter's day, smoke could be seen rising from the valley below, and the sound of the axe was heard by the trees. "Do you suppose", said the smallest tree, "that they intend to cut us down?" "Absolutely; no chance" said the largest tree, "we have been here for many years! They would not dare to cut us down!" As the days passed the sound of the tree fellers came ever closer until it finally became evident that the unthinkable was about to happen; the trees were to be felled. "What do you think will become of us", asked the smallest tree. The largest tree replied "What would you like to happen?" There was a long silence before the smallest tree said "I would like to be made into a throne and live in a palace; perhaps a king would come and sit in me!" The middle tree then said "we have stood in this spot all our lives looking out to sea. I would like to be a sailing ship so that I could travel to far distant places." Then they asked the largest tree "what about you? What would you like to be?" After a long silence the reply came and it was rather unexpected. The largest tree said "I have stood here many generations. People have been glad to see me, knowing that their long weary journey had nearly come to an end. Therefore, my wish is to be a signpost!"

Many years passed before any work on these trees began; they just lay where they had fallen. Then, one day a group of men came and took away the smallest tree but, rather than being fashioned into a throne, it was simply cut into lengths to form supports. It was then joined to an existing building to provide shelter for the animals. The rest was made into a manger for the animals to feed from. This was far from any hopes it had of being made into an object of grandeur.

The middle tree was taken away and its wood was sawn into long planks to be steamed ready for them to be fashioned into the shape of a boat. Not the fine sailing ship the tree had hoped for, but a simple fishing boat crewed by rough fishermen. The largest tree remained where it had fallen for many years unused and forgotten.

The fact of the matter is many Christians feel unused; their talents not recognised as they feel they should have been. "If only I could have been more use" we say; "if only more opportunities had come my way!" If you feel like that, take another look at the three trees.

The smallest tree, you will remember, became a manger in a stable. One particular week the village became very crowded. There were people arriving from all parts of the country. An unusual event occurred; a young lady gave birth to a baby boy in this stable. He was laid in the manger made from the wood of our smallest tree, the tree that had longed to be a throne. If only it had known who this baby was!

Our middle tree, now a fishing boat, was at anchor; the catch was being unloaded by the fishermen when a stranger came on board. This was no fisherman; there was something quite different about him. He was followed by crowds of people following him and gathering on the shore. He spoke to them he told them how to live their lives to be at peace with their fellow man. He was standing there on the planks of our middle tree. If only they knew who this man was!

So we come to the largest of our three trees. Many years passed before anything occurred. Then a group of Roman soldiers came and took the tree to a place far from where it had lain for so long. It was cut into two pieces; then one piece was nailed across the other. A man carried the cross to the top of a hill. His hands were nailed to the cross piece and his feet to the upright; the tree was then raised into the upright position.

The wish of the largest tree was, as you may remember, to become a signpost. How could it have known that, for over two thousand years, it would stand as an emblem of the greatest sacrifice the world has ever seen; that the Son of God would give His life and be nailed to its trunk, thereby pointing mankind to the glory that God has for everyone who believes in Him.

Through our faith, God works His purposes out in each and every one of us. May God bless and keep you all.

With Christian love always

Colin Owen (Hawkenbury URC)

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Tunbridge Wells United Reformed Church