In our Advent reflections we looked at the tree in winter as an image of the structure of our faith. We can now learn more from this image, starting with the seed.
The text in brackets are suggestions for things you may wish to try or look up.
Any tree starts life as a seed. (Mark 4:30-32).
The seed puts one shoot downwards into the earth and another upwards towards the sky. The downward shoot reaches into the earth in all directions spreading into strong roots which grip the earth so that no force of wind or weather can uproot it. The upward shoot makes a strong trunk which branches out to create a huge, gravity defying canopy. (Take time to stand before a tree and ask yourself why something that shape does not fall over. Did you ever see a building with the top so much bigger than the foundations?)
At the tip of each branch twigs bear buds which, in spring, break open into new shoots. These are soft and supple, like the original shoot from the seed, and will grow into branches in their turn, but they do not have roots, instead, they rely on the strength and nutritious sap of the rest of the tree. Before they harden into branches these shoots will make leaves and, possibly, flowers and fruit. This is the active part of the tree, where the work is done, carried aloft by the branches and trunk.
In a similar way we could consider the church as connected to the earth through roots that we call the Old Testament; the trunk is Jesus and branches are the different parts of the church, all connected. The shoots at the tips of the branches are individual Christians, vulnerable, but ready for anything.
The Old Testament is the part of the church that we do not see, although we know that it is there. The story we read there tells us a lot about human nature, and rather less about God, because it is written by people and we tend to misunderstand God. (Have you ever been horrified when somebody tells you what they think you said?)
The New Testament tells us about God, and the good that people can do if they ask His help. That is the difference. The Old Testament shows us our foolishness, and the patience of God. Lent is a time to remember that.