“On that day, A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A Spirit of counsel and of strength, a Spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD…” – Isaiah 11. 1 – 2
In Peter Wohlleben’s enchanting book, The Hidden Life of Trees, he tells a story of walking through the forest he manages in Germany and discovering what appeared to be moss-covered rocks. Upon further exploration, he realized that the “stones” were actually small living stumps, forming the periphery of a large rotted-out tree stump, felled over five hundred years ago. Though the tree was long dead, with no living root system for nutrient delivery, or leaves for photosynthesis, somehow the small stump cluster was alive! When Wohlleben cut into them, the wood was green with chlorophyll. This unexpected discovery helped him realize that somehow the root system of nearby beach trees were giving the old, felled tree some of their nutrients by way of their intertwined roots. Perhaps the beach trees actually loved the old majestic tree and missed it?
We are discovering that all of creation is relational – more like a social network than a cog in a machine. The Whole is superabundant to the parts. And the parts are superabundant to the Whole. Interrelated is the key word. Harmonious. Loving. Self-giving. Inter-being.
From nature and its living systems, we can gain insight as to what the sprout off the stump of Jesse might be. The sprout symbolizes the Presence of Life itself. The stump is the past – God’s legacy with previous generations. The sprout is Life – and its unfolding will toward evolutionary love and human development into Christ.
It is new Life that is emerging forth from the stump of God’s prior work and activity among humankind. We are participants in this process of unfolding Life. We are Spirit embodied beings unfolding, evolving, generation by generation, toward the fullness of Christ, which is, in a certain sense, the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge. The contrast between the past and the future is that much development occurs in between.
Allegorically, in the Book of Genesis (first book of the Bible) the past and early levels of our human development are represented by the Garden, where the “trees” once flourished. They represent our innocence and more primitive behaviors such as shame, fear and violence; all behaviors which also still lurk in our present.
The future and our potential future human development is represented in the Book of Revelation (last book of the Bible) by the City of God, where the trees will flourish in the fullness of light, which represents wisdom – as well as Divine Presence – which includes us. Another way of saying that, is that we are becoming a universe of love, intertwined together by the force and motion of Life Itself – deeper forward toward the Body of Christ (1 Cor 15.28).
As for the practical, in our day to day life, notice where you feel dead inside and request help from Life and Love to nurture and support you, to come along side of you and intertwine Love’s roots with your human root system – and be renewed by the Remedy of Advent Life.
This might require letting go of other roots that choke out life – the deadness of entertainment, gluttony, laziness, drunkeness and other such distractions that limit your flourishing.
You know the difference. You were not created to be a cut down stump. You are here to flourish, and the mystery is that in God’s love-life-energy, we can and do flourish, even as we are dying. Remember, Mary’s Advent consent, “let it be in me according to thy Word” leads to Holy Week’s paradoxical hosanna: “into thy hands I commit my spirit.”
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