A "Noble Cedar" of a Church1
This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will take a shoot from the very top of a cedar and plant it … I will plant it … I will plant it; it will produce branches and bear fruit and become a noble cedar … (Ezekiel 17:22-23).
Most of Ezekiel 17 is a sobering parable about the righteous judgment and justice of God. But it ends with a beautiful messianic promise: in the midst of all these eagles flying about and clipping the tops off of trees and flying off with them to far-away places, God is at work, preparing to plant on the earth the kingdom of heaven.
Like God’s ancient people addressed by Ezekiel, we too can become enchanted by and enamored with our own “local politics”: if only we had some kind of glorious “eagle”-leader! Having the right “eagle” in power will mean that everything will go the way it should. Could this leader be our eagle? How about that one? Should we throw in our lot with the eagle with the bright and impressive plumage, the one with the sharpest beak and talons, the one with the most impressive wings?
We should know how this always goes: every “eagle” disappoints, fails to deliver on its high-flying promises, inevitably becomes corrupted, by power, by wealth, by pride.
Notice that when God acts (Ezekiel 17:22-24), he does not send an eagle; he plants a tree. This tree grows and bears fruit and becomes a “noble cedar,” and birds of every kind will find shelter, safety and sustenance in the shade of its branches.
In Ezekiel’s language in this chapter, “eagles” are emperors, “trees” are kingdoms, and “birds” are people, what we might now call people-groups. God’s kingdom-tree becomes a place for people-groups of every kind: every race, every political party, every age group, every economic class; the strong and the weak, women and men, children and the elderly, all of them, all of us, nested and at home in God’s great kingdom-tree.
Chatham Church is a local planting of God’s kingdom-tree. We want to continue to grow into the “noble cedar” DNA that God has embedded within us, into a church that is “for” … everyone. Birds of a feather and odd ducks (I know: ducks don’t nest in trees; work with me here); dirty birds, angry birds; free birds, early birds, yard birds, odd birds and all the rest of God’s glorious avian (i.e., human) family!
The key to the Kingdom is the King. The King is the root of everything God plants. God plants his king-tree in local soil, first in Jerusalem, then throughout Judea, then in Samaria, now everywhere, including Chatham County.
Don’t focus on the birds; pay attention to the King. As the life of the King really takes hold of our lives, as the sap of the Kingdom flows throughout every root and trunk and limb and branch and twig, through each blossom and every fruit, the birds will come.
For what kinds of “birds” (people) are you especially hoping our church can become a home? What kinds might be a challenge for you, for us? Pray about both questions, for yourself and for us all