Wood is our metaphor for transformation. If you pay, attention there are a few themes you’ll see biblical writers return to over and over again. One of these themes is the ‘tree of life’ theme. You see, God is described as a gardener and all that is good and life-giving is represented in the this ‘tree of life’ theme. The Jewish people understood that after the blessing of Eden was lost, God began to cultivate a new blessing. They understood that when God called a people, Israel was being grafted into this ‘tree of life’. So strongly was this belief that even the root meaning of the Hebrew word for tribe or family is ‘branch’. Every family or clan is really just a ‘branch’ of this ‘tree of life’. Sometimes the expected messiah is called the ‘Tsemach‘, which is a similar word also translated as ‘branch’. So, the Jewish people were all about remaining attached to the ‘tree of life’ and waiting expectantly for THE branch to come and make Israel a great and wonderful blessing to the world.
So, why is all this important? Well, I think that if we don’t know a little of this ‘tree of life’ theme, it’s hard to really understand Jesus when he says, ‘I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener…you are the branches.‘ This is Jesus’ plan for spiritual formation. It’s pretty simple really, ‘remain in me, and I’ll remain in you’. Together we bear much fruit, but apart you can do nothing. That’s it really, no fancy bible study curriculum, no annual conference to attend. Simply abide in Jesus and let the gardener cultivate your heart toward growth and transformation. As we remain branches in the true vine we grow like the mustard seed from Jesus’ parable. The branches of God grow up into a place where ‘creatures of every kind’ (read also, people of every kind) will live and find rest. Spiritual formation for the sake of the world. We just can’t get away from the fact that we are blessed to be a blessing, can we?