Now it’s been four years. So far, I’m cancer-free. What the drugs have beaten down, the trees have helped to build back up. If I were a tree, you could count my growth rings. And as I said then, I say now: "I am grateful that God (and my church!) has given me the time and opportunity to be with the trees, because by God’s grace, they have enabled me to be free of fear and anxiety and to feel full of life and faith despite my diagnosis. And I do pray that my reflections have planted a few seeds in others. If my 'tree therapy' encourages even one person to seek their own healing in the forest or gives hope and strength to one person who is struggling through a challenging season, then I give God all thanks and praise."
Shepherds are supposed to protect the sheep. So what do we do when shepherds say things that incite others to go after the sheep? The question of how to make our communities safe is being asked by city councils and school districts all over the country.
So, when Jeremiah buys a piece of land in prison, knowing that that land is going to be overrun by Babylonians, what is he doing? For one thing, he is standing on the promises that God made to Abraham. And he is sending a message of hope to the people of Judah, saying: "I put my trust, not in kings, not in armies, not even in a piece of property. But I'm going to buy it to show that I put my trust in God who will bring us home."
The question is: why don't we believe it? Why do so many followers of Jesus Christ act as if there were no cure, as if there were no good doctor, as if our situation were hopeless and our God, helpless? I suspect it's partly because we don't want to confront the fact that there is a connection between the crisis in our lives and the condition of our souls. While we may not always be the cause of all our problems, we are sometimes pretty good at getting in the way of the cure.
Well, I have some good news. It looks like we made it. This church has survived six years of the most severe economic crisis since the 1930's, without losing a pastor, without sacrificing programs, and without selling properties. We've done far better than a lot of nonprofits. And while we're not out of the woods, we're not in exile, either. So I don't have to tell you to build houses and plant gardens in Babylon. Let's rebuild a life here in Willow Glen. And listen while I preach to you a future with hope.