A massive oak tree stopped me in my tracks. I looked up for a long time—marveled at its strength, wondered about its age, imagined the storms it had weathered, the animals it had sheltered and the people that found rest in its shade. Whenever I see an amazing tree, the admiration almost always leads to an intense desire to climb to the top of it. Growing up in these mountains facilitated a childhood in the trees. My first tree house was actually just a board—nailed to the lower branches of a small maple tree. My older brother Steve, because he was nine, got to have his tree board in the big oak. It was way up. I wasn’t allowed to go up there, which was fine by me. A healthy fear of death has been a strength of mine from early on. But Steve flirted with death. He would climb out onto one of the very top branches and swing upside down by his knees. I can still hear mom screaming at him to come down. He wouldn’t, and none of us were brave enough to go after him. My mom didn’t scream at me when I climbed high into the tops of Worth Crow’s cherry trees. Even though more went into my mouth than into my bucket, she knew at the end of the day there would be enough. Cherry cobbler would make it to Sunday’s dinner table. I’ve always wanted a really big tree in my yard—a really big cherry tree or a jaw-dropping oak tree. There is an old Chinese Proverb that says, “The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”
Our stewardship theme for 2020 encourages us to reflect on our time and what we do with it. When their world had been turned upside down in ancient Persia, Mordecai said to Esther, “Perhaps you were made queen for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). It feels like our world has been turned upside down these days. People say the pandemic has forever changed life as we know it. We grow weary of conversations about new normal. We miss old normal. When Hurricane Hugo ripped through Mooresville in 1989, the pine forest behind granddaddy’s house was completely upended. The tall pine trees I climbed as a child were all broken and mangled—not a single tree left standing. What does one do in a time like that? Well, the guy with the chainsaw got rid of the mess. The carpenter built a new house. The gardener planted a tree.
FUMC Waynesville was founded in 1831. That’s a long time ago. An acorn planted in 1831 is now a jaw-dropping oak tree. We’re like that, you know. We stop people in their tracks. Our church has deep roots and a long, tall history. When their time came, First Methodist people weathered storms, sheltered people, and blessed the world with fruit and flowers. And now it’s 2020, and we know it’s our turn. So let’s dig deep and climb high. Our generosity will make the difference our world needs today. We were created ‘for such a time as this.’
Charles Caleb Colton said: “The present time has one advantage over every other—it is our own.”