How big is a tree?

How might we measure
a mustard tree, Lord?
By metres or cubits?
Why, no, he replied,
For the measure that matters
Is this: hospitality.

How big is a tree?

Can it offer a perch to bird on the wing?
Can the pair of small sparrows
(once bought for a penny)
Have room here to build
an affordable nest?
Can they nurture their young,
In safety away from the predators
Prowling the night?
That is the way that we measure a tree.

Like the wilderness oaks
That offered their shelter
to Abraham, Sarah, and all that they had,
In order that he would be able
to offer the same to the visiting strangers
Who brought them the promise of hope
And the chance to fulfil the command
To be fruitful and fill all the land.

Like the wilderness broom bush
That gave to Elijah permission to stop,
And to sit and give voice to his grief and despair,
a place to find rest and be nourished
So he could continue his journey
To and come to the cleft in the rock
Where he met God in silence.

Like the sycamore tree
That was sturdy enough
To carry the weight
of a man who was rich
but had nothing of worth.

Like the tree that was felled
To be shaped like a cross
And offer a place
For all the world’s pain
to be faced and embraced
by the man who said,
That’s how you measure a tree.

When we measure with numbers
And money and cost
And reduce all the value
To what can be counted
We’ll find we have lost
All sense of what counts:

Our chances to offer the shade of a tree in the heat of the sun;
the grace to receive, sit down and admit that we cannot go on;
a way to stand tall when we’re burdened by all of the things we have done.
A place to feel safe, to love and be loved: a place to call home.

Hands holding a hazel nut

The seed is so small.
It’s a universe held
in the palm of God’s hand.
A hand that’s the only hospitable scale
for the measure of worth
For the God who loves everything.

 

Morning Prayer doodle – how do you measure a tree?

‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’

Mustard Tree

I love how Jesus measures tree size not in cubits (or whatever), but in hospitality. How big is the tree?  Oh, big enough for birds to make their home there. Big enough to offer safety and hospitality. Big enough for them to lay their eggs and raise their chicks.

We could ask ourselves, how big is my church? Oh, big enough for people to find themselves at home there. Big enough to offer safety and hospitality. Big enough that people will feel it’s a place they can bring their children.