Sunday, July 24, 2011
I once heard a great story while attending St. Stephen's Baptist Church in Kansas City, Missouri, where I was taking some theology classes at the St. Paul School of Theology. We were urged to attend other denominations services to get a better understanding of what was out there. St. Stephen's Baptist was, at the time, a 3,000 member African-American church. My friend and I were the only white people there that morning. We went to Bible Class with the men and then attended the two and half hour worship service. I have never felt more welcomed, more like a member of the family, than those gracious Christians made me feel. If every church could do what they did, there would be many huge churches out there. This was back in 1986, but this story has stayed with me ever since. The pastor told about three children standing at the top of a snowy hill looking down at a single tree looking a tad lonely at the bottom of the hill. The boys began arguing about the best way to walk straight to that tree. One boy argued that you had to look down and make sure every step was exactly as the last one. He tested his theory and ended up about twenty yards left of the tree. Of the remaining two boys, one argued that you had to turn around and look back at where you had come from. Only that way could you be accurate. He tested his theory, too, and ended up about twenty yards to the right of the tree. The last boy had no one to argue with. He just started down that hill keeping his eyes fixed on nothing but the tree. Because the snow covered the stones and roots, he tripped again and again, but each time he fell, he got back up and fixed his eyes on the tree again. He made it straight to the tree. The line of his steps in the snow had many circles where he fell, but the line was straight and true. At this point, the pastor looked out at the congregation and asked, "Do you get it? The tree was Jesus!" Lots of loud amens and handclapping indicated that they did indeed get it. It matters not how many times you fall, but only if you get back up and stay focused on our Lord as you make your way down your own snowy hill. I got it, too. It has sustained me many times over the years when I have stumbled. Just remember, "The tree is Jesus!"