Clevedon Presbyterian Church
Kawakawa Bay
Clevedon Kidz

160 years of Plum Trees

December 2, 2018
Martin Baker

2 December 2018                   160 years of Plum Trees Martin Baker

Luke 21:25-36

25 "There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. 26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

29 Then he told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree and all the trees; 30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all things have taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

34 "Be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life, and that day does not catch you unexpectedly, 35 like a trap. For it will come upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."

Let Us Pray

I was talking to the Parish Council on Tuesday night. And I mentioned to them that beside our house is a plum tree. When we moved into the house, our landlord, Jim, remarked that the plums on that tree begin to ripen on December 3rd each year. Which is tomorrow.  Over the last 3 years that we have lived there, Jim has been quite correct. The first plums ready to eat on December 3rd.

I’m not sure what is going to happen tomorrow. But come to church next Sunday and I’ll let you know.

Look at the fig tree and all the trees, Jesus says; 30 as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.

The plum tree is not an especially attractive tree in the winter. Then spring, and the leaves and the blossoms and then the little green fruit and then on December 3rd plums. There is still something at least a little amazing about that.

So what Jesus is talking about here is the relationships between the present and an end.

If I announced this morning, the final score in an All Black match that was taking place during the service, in Ireland say,  and that you were recording,  because you also wanted to be here at church,  - you might find that vaguely annoying. You we really looking forward to the excitement that comes with any competition.  Not knowing the outcome is part of the excitement of any game.  But if you knew the outcome, it wouldn’t be all bad.   In fact, you may even watch the match in a different kind of way. There may not be the same excitement but perhaps more interest in the detail.

It’s not an uncommon technique in movies or literature to begin a story at the end.  In fact some of the books or movies we have really enjoyed, we may have watched more than once.  I want you to view this story in a particular way. Know that the end is secure, is known. That no matter what is happening now; you can be sure how it’s going to end.

Stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near." Raise your heads. Don’t look down. Spending too much time looking down perhaps?

33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

“Praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."

As we read through our scriptures there is a question and an answer.

From this chaos, from the primordial waters, from the darkness that covers the deep, is God going to bring forth creation? If that is what it was like, if that is what it might be like now, is new creation possible?

From the enslavement of the people in Egypt is God going to bring forth freedom.

From the Babylonian invasion and the destruction of our Temple – is there any future? How do we sing the song in a strange land?

What does hope and peace look like under the power and might of Roman oppression?

The birth of God’s son in a stable and our understanding of power, peace and hope re-imagined in a way we never thought possible. Which one is going to endure? The oppressive peace of Rome born out of the threat of violence and crucifixion, or the prince of peace who endured that very end.  Which peace is going to endure?  At the time, Rome would have seemed invincible.

We gaze at the fig tree or the plum tree in winter and things may not look so good, we might look on our own situation now and think that that defines what is possible, but here we are being asked to trust and believe that there is another story unfolding.

Jesus says be on guard so that your hearts are not weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life.

We may not all know about dissipation - which means a kind of self-indulgent materialism -  or a squandering of resources.  Perhaps we do or do not know too much about drunkenness but we certainly know what worry is all about.  Whether it’s a bad result from a medical test or news of the arctic ice shelf melting, in God’s word, God promises part of your future? And if we can trust God for the future, what does that mean for the decisions we make today?

Do we stand in a history defined by chaos or the certainty of new creation? A history defined by slavery or by freedom. A life defined by those things that are symptoms of hopelessness, dissipation, worry, drunkenness, or are we people who look to a different horizon?  Jesus says, be on guard for what is going on for you. Be on guard for how you are defining and understanding  your present and future.  

36 be alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things that will take place, and to stand before the Son of Man."

Our forebears in faith in this community built schools and libraries and little churches.  All the way from Orere Point to Ardmore. Reading Jessie Munro’s  book, things were tough for everybody.  But to help build a school when your own family was living in a raupo hut or a kahikatea shed that was busy rotting back into the earth. To build a church, to build a library. This robust Christian enterprise that has been so much a part of this church’s history. We can’t deny the fact that the colonial presence was a very mixed blessing for Maori. But right across the board we can hear about people driven by a greater vision than their immediate circumstance.

The Tainui canoe anchoring of Duder park 700 years ago, the Macleod community coming here via Nova Scotia and Waipu. Those who, over the centuries, have come up the Wairoa River in search of a new life.

Drunkenness, dissipation and worry  - they would stop you doing any of that.

26 People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27 Then they will see 'the Son of Man coming in a cloud' with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to take place, stand up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near."

A life lived now which gives testimony to our confidence in God’s promises for the future. Where we are right now - it may be winter or summer or autumn or spring. There are seasons, even seasons filled  with fear and foreboding , when our very grounds are being shaken.  But let’s join with our forebears in faith.

The shoulders of the saints upon which we stand.  We have a hope for the next 160 years. But always we are called to look up.  Raise up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.

AMEN