Peach Trees and the Kingdom of God
Week of Sunday August 11 - Pentecost 12
Gospel: Luke 12:32-40
32 ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. 33Sell your possessions, and give alms. Make purses for yourselves that do not wear out, an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
35 ‘Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit; 36be like those who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding banquet, so that they may open the door for him as soon as he comes and knocks.37Blessed are those slaves whom the master finds alert when he comes; truly I tell you, he will fasten his belt and have them sit down to eat, and he will come and serve them. 38If he comes during the middle of the night, or near dawn, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.
39 ‘But know this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into.40You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.’
A peach tree stands startling green against the yellow stubble which lines a country road. Despite the dry heat ripples on this bare plains metal road, the tree is laden with fruit.
Years ago a watchful grader driver seems to have driven half star picket close to the seedling tree to flag it for the other drivers. The council staff, in an act of whimsy far from the eye of the town clerk, have slightly altered the contour of the table drain. The tree has a couple of hundred metres of drain running into it from each direction. Someone has done some work with a shovel; the tree has its own little reservoir banked around it to make the most of every drop of summer rain.
The local farmer approves; there is a slight track worn in the stubble, where she detours on the way to the bottom paddock. And I can see that the locals pull up by the roadside. No greedy sod has stripped the tree; people take a feed and leave the rest for others.
I smile to myself. The tree is so well tended I could almost expect bird netting! Somehow the galahs and lorikeets have left it alone; perhaps there is so little water out here this time of year that none of them have spotted it yet.
Is this like the kingdom of heaven? The Sower passes who knows when, or where, and sometimes against the odds a seedling manages to get down through the unwelcoming rubble of a table drain, and survive the limestone and take root. People who are watchful, ordinary road workers, protect and nurture this unlikely, fragile invader of a barren roadside, and a little outpost of milk and honey begins. There is fruit.
Back home someone wants a computer seen to and I take the train into the city. That evening a group of ten year olds run wild at the station, down on the tracks, across the platform, hurling ballast at each other in a savage battle amidst the commuters. It's like a pack of wild dogs in a mob of terrified sheep.
And in the shopping centre a woman screams at her daughters and granddaughters, who scream back, while the morbidly obese look up from their chips and fat with mild interest, before going back to discussing what to buy next. Or glaring at the slender Muslim woman who is walking past.
Welcome to the Lucky Country.
Do I still believe in peach trees and the Kingdom of God?
Faith is not to believe in unlikely doctrines about some pie in the sky God. Faith is not to believe in wonderful miracles wrung from God by the right fervency of prayer. Faith is to believe in the peach tree.
Faith watches for little signs, the unlikely signs, that things can be different from the humdrum and the agony of everyday life. Faith sees the hero even in the snarling cornered dog-women fighting in the shopping centre. Faith sees the hero in the brute bully who Lords it over her yet wants only to be loved, and to matter, and to have some hope in the world. And they both persist despite very little.
Faith believes there's something in the Universe which is beyond mere chemistry and physics, something whose pleasure it is to give these poor folk the Kingdom, to grow the peach tree beside their path in life.
So faith watches for the signs, and nurtures them. Faith stops its own journey and banks the soil around the peach tree, and brings the water of love and time, so that it may grow.
Will we give our lives to the peach trees we find as we journey? When the sower returns, with fruit richer than ripe peach, will he find the garden tended? Or will we take the train back to a safer suburb, with nice people who only throw their stones behind dosed doors?
Life does not consist in the abundance of possessions, or in the pretence of being safe. There will always be a time when there is no nice suburb to move to, or not enough money to buy distraction, or to protect us from the dog fights outside our artificial manicured gardens. And our life will still be required of us.
Do you really believe in peach trees?
Direct Biblical quotations in this page are taken from The New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please note that references to Wikipedia and other websites are intended to provide extra information for folk who don't have easy access to commentaries or a library. Wikipedia is never more than an introductory tool, and certainly not the last word in matters biblical!