Jesus said, “Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life”
Up until last month, Emilie provided fresh cut flowers from her garden to adorn the altar here at Faith every week. Not only did Emilie gift flowers, but she also gave trees. I want to mention three trees she gave.
The first tree, she gave to me. It was barely 10 inches tall. I think it is a green spruce. It was October around Thanksgiving when it showed up at the church in a flowerpot. So, late one evening when I came home, I got out the shovel and put it in the ground. I didn’t want to leave it too long before the frost would freeze the ground and snow would pile high.
I also learned that especially after transplanting anything alive, it was important to soak the tree with water. I must have dumped a dozen large pailfuls over the tree those first few days. The lawn around the tree was saturated. And I repeated this process for the weeks leading to the first snow, and also the following Spring. This tree had water.
And it responded positively. It grew quickly. A couple years later, and it’s now pushing four feet. Its lead is long—a robust, strait javelin pointing up to the sky.
The second tree Emilie gave to the church. When we took down a dead poplar at the street behind the church building, she replaced it by gifting another birch. If I recall correctly, it was late in the Springtime a few years ago—that year when there was hardly any rain. That was the year the grass was brown by the end of June.
I remember Andrew coming to church on a Sunday in June holding a bucket and saying we needed to water that thing—which we did when we could. But it didn’t get enough. And by the end of the season that year, it was dead.
The third tree Emilie gave to the church was during the 500th anniversary year for Lutherans, back in 2017. That year, the national church encouraged congregations to plant a tree commemorating Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg Church in Germany, thus inaugurating the 16th century Reformation.
It’s also a green spruce, I think, and you can see it on the east side of the church above the community mailboxes. In 2017 the confirmation class planted that tree when it was also barely a foot high. Our neighbours generously placed a chicken-wire fencing around it for protection since pedestrians like to cut across the lawn there, coming to and from the bus stops along Meadowlands Drive.
I’m not sure how it has survived. It hasn’t taken off like the one I have at home. But it’s filling out and I have confidence it will survive. And maybe even some day, thrive, surrounded by its mature neighbouring trees.
Three trees. Three tales. The first received an almost constant nourishing and abundance of water. The second received not enough water. And the third benefitted from its surroundings for protection and just enough nourishment over time. I like to think that these three different tales reflect different aspects of Emilie’s life and character. And they point to ways in which we live ours.
The first tree.
It appears Emilie, despite humble beginnings, found life and even life abundant. She was uprooted in her youth and transplanted into a new world. Mobility and change were fundamental to the dynamic of her life. Maybe she was even energized and stimulated by what these changes brought to her and the possibilities before her. Metaphorically speaking, she found lots of water, saturated with the fullness of what life could be for her. Emilie employed all the resources at her disposal and took risks to make it happen. She lived life to its fullest always reaching for what was within her grasp.
The second tree.
But as we all do at times in life, Emilie also experienced seasons of drought. These were times when her world turned upside down. And sometimes for reasons beyond her control. Relationships ended or changed. A re-ordering of life happened, but not without first suffering the pain of enduring and then of losing. Of doing without.
Disappointment. Tragedy. Failure. Like something that used to be secure and stable is no longer. When we face the gaping chasm and fall into it. It feels like dying. Certainly, these last few months she lived under the threat of her growing illness and of this day that we gather to mourn her death.
Finally, the third tree. This tree is the most curious. A little bit mysterious in the sense that it somehow finds a way to live without our constant and full engagement all the time. There’s uncertainty about it.
But, perhaps by the help of neighbouring humans and trees, it finds a way. Perhaps its environment protects it, to some degree. We don’t often see it but it’s there. We might not notice it; it doesn’t stand out. But beneath the snow and behind our conscious awareness of it, this little tree continues to live, and grow.
Emilie understood the mystery of growing things. She understood that we do our part. But flowers bloom and trees reach for the sky according to forces beyond our constant, active involvement and even awareness. I think this respect for growing things gave her such an amazing ‘green thumb’.
Though in winter and early Spring months the circumstances on the ground do not always show evidence of the final product, what motivated her to continue going and gardening year after year was the vision of what that flower or tree could eventually become. Regardless of the actual outcome. That’s the secret. That’s faith. It’s the hoped-for vision: Going for it, a vision of what can be—tall, solid and majestic trees; flowers exploding in brilliant colour under summer sun.
A vision of what can be, in our lives, is what motivates us and to which people of faith aspire and around which we order our days.
The vision from the book of Revelation, the last book in the Bible, contains the images of water and trees. Here we find the divine promise that despite suffering, and during seasons of drought and despair, God will offer the river of life to nourish the tree of life. And what is more, the purpose of the tree of life is “for the healing” of us all! Including you and me.
It’s about life, and even living beyond the days of our lives on earth. Deep within our lives, not always visible, perceptible nor noticeable, lives the Spirit of God in Christ. And this gift of grace will nourish us and grow us, forever.
 John 4:14
 Revelation 22:1-5
 Revelation 22:2