Each year while vacationing in Colorado I say I am going to learn to paint (and one of these days I will!) How I would love to create my own large scale canvas of Aspen trees and bright red poppies covering the mountain side!
In the meantime I keep trying to take the perfect picture, but can’t seem to capture what I see. The trees are just so tall and there are so many. To photograph the top of the trees you miss the density of the forest and vice versa, missing out on the full beauty of what is there. Recently though I learned what makes these trees even more spectacular than what can ever be visibly seen on the surface.
While at church in Colorado about a month ago the congregation was celebrating the completion of their newly remodeled building. (I must admit with our own church being a “church-plant” meeting in a school, I found myself daydreaming about someday dedicating our own building!) But like the pastor said that while the building is a blessing, it is not the church. The church is the body of believers. The bride of Christ, God’s people.
Then he connected the church to the Aspen tree in three important ways.
The Aspen tree never grows alone.
The dense patches of Aspen trees you see are called “colonies” and they always grow clumped together. Unless someone has cut them down you will never see one all by itself. In the same way, believers in Christ were not meant to be “Lone Ranger” Christians thinking we can just get alone with Jesus and that is enough. No, we were created to be part of community, involved and deeply connected in one another’s lives. Created in the image of God, who as Trinity is relationship.
The Aspen tree grows tall, fast and strong.
The Aspen is the only tree resilient to wildfires! Not only that, but the distress of the fire actually spurs growth; strengthening the trees in the process. Wow! Makes me think of this passage in 1 Peter 1:6-7:
“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith- more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
When the Word of God comes to bear on our lives in the midst of trials and fires, we too are strengthened. He uses them to grow us, not to knock down and destroy!
The Aspen tree is connected by an under ground root system.
A fascinating fact and beautiful picture. Underground, beneath what is seen, is a massive expanse of roots. If one tree receives really good soil and nutrients that another tree needs, it is shared through the roots to build it up. This system enables all the trees to remain strong, as a group.
We too cannot grow and thrive without the body. The church, like the unseen roots, is a living organism. It is not just an organization (to be run like a business), but when functioning as it should, the body is fed the Word filling them with grace and enabling each member to then be built up for the good of one another. One of God’s gift to us is His people, the Church.
If you are not connected to the body or have not viewed the church in this rich way, I urge you to seek out a body where the Word is upheld and grace and truth reign. Like the joyful sound of the Aspen leaves quaking in the wind so should the effect of the “body of Christ”, the Church, be in this broken world.
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