Matthew 21:18-23

18 In the morning, when he returned to the city, he was hungry. 19And seeing a fig tree by the side of the road, he went to it and found nothing at all on it but leaves. Then he said to it, ‘May no fruit ever come from you again!’ And the fig tree withered at once. 20When the disciples saw it, they were amazed, saying, ‘How did the fig tree wither at once?’ 21Jesus answered them, ‘Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, “Be lifted up and thrown into the sea”, it will be done. 22Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.’

23 When he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, ‘By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?’

Matthew Ryan, whom I’ve quoted before on the blog, penned these words on a tiny album that he pretty much sold out of the trunk of a car.

It’s one of my favorite songs that he’s written, and it meanders like a long slow river, weighed by its grief, but determined in its hope.  I believe he wrote it while his brother was incarcerated in prison.  I wish you could hear it, but it’s not available on the internet so the words will have to suffice:

 Early in the morning when you’re still shaking
and all you want is to come down
when you’re so pale and your heart is growling
and all virtue seemed to have drowned

when all you’ve given and all you’ve stolen
kneel down at your side
when all that seemed mended shows itself still broken
and you’re feeling swallowed alive

shake the tree shake the tree
shake the tree that sleeps in you and breathes in me

Now in your writing when you’re so desperate
and all you want is to be touched
when you’re so dry and your head is pounding
when your love becomes your crutch

When all your suffering and all your addictions
kneel down at your side
when all that seemed mended shows itself still broken
and you’re feeling swallowed alive

shake the tree shake the tree
shake the tree that sleeps in you and breathes in me

one day your misfortune will shine like a crown
one day your misfortune will all crumble down
if you’d just shake the tree shake the tree
shake the tree that sleeps in you and breathes in me

 

Many of us have experienced a lot of death in the Waverley Pastoral Charge of late.  We remember in prayer especially this week, Michael Sachs and his family, and the Sunday morning that changed everything in their lives, and many in our community.

At such times of the greatest pain and loss that goes beyond what we imagine could ever break open in the midst of our lives, we often draw on the deep wells of scripture or seek solace in the well intentioned words of friends.

We’ll often hear the words “God won’t give you any more than you can handle”.

A dear friend of mine once recalled skating on a pond when she was a little girl many years ago.  Her friend fell throw the ice suddenly.  Before anyone could get to her, weighed down by heavy winter clothing, she drowned.

The attending clergy told her parents that often quoted saying that seems inscribed on our souls.  In the midst of her weeping and to be fair, wanting to give her some comfort, he proceeded to sit my friend down and tell her not to worry about how helpless she felt and the senselessness of what happened, whispering “God won’t give you more than you can handle….” And “God needed another angel in heaven…”

I will never forget the look on her face when she told me her response.

Mister, God has enough angels.”

We are desperate to find healing in the midst of the dull ache of grief that gnaws at the soul long after a funeral becomes a memory of the past.  As we reflected on Friday, life is meant to be lived and learned…not all things are understood.

In our