The prominent ones

All that hard work, and the garden was a failure…or so it seemed. The beautiful Kwanzan cherry tree was dying out, and the eagerly awaited billows of pink fluffy blooms did not materialize in the splendor of years gone by. 

The tree was the highlight of the patio garden; the central hub for the whole yard, really. Without its expected glory, everything else was lackluster in comparison.

It didn’t matter that the violas under the disappointing tree were particularly robust and colorful this year. The graceful nodding of the Hawera daffodils went largely unnoticed as well.

All too often we pick out our heroes or the central figures in our lives, and even in our churches, and if they disappoint us it seems all is lost. Maybe it’s time to start focusing on individuals — including ourselves — instead of figureheads. 

We shake our heads at the apostle Peter for his denial of the Christ, as he plodded unthinkingly down the path that was foretold only hours before. 

“Then Jesus said to them, ‘You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, “I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered.” But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.’ But Peter said to Him, ‘Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I say to you that this very night, before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.’ Peter said to Him, ‘Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You’” (Matthew 26:31-35a, NASB).

Oh, that impetuous, unreliable Peter! But how many of the others even came to see what would become of the Master? Besides, Peter wasn’t the only one who made a promise he didn’t keep. Look at the rest of the passage; “All the disciples said the same thing too” (Matthew 26:35b).  

Why do we focus on Peter? For the same reason we expected more of the Kwanzan cherry tree or the roses; he was more prominent. He was there. He is the one who volunteered to walk on the water with Jesus, even though he was told he could have done better with even more faith (Matthew 14:28-31).  

Peter later ran to the empty tomb and went in, rather than just looking (Luke 24:12). 

He was a doer, not a hearer! His mistakes were more prominent because he was out there doing more. More action equals more opportunity for missteps. 

That old cherry tree sent roots twenty feet into the ground (and almost into our septic tank) to find moisture and nutrients to give us years of cheerful pink wonderfulness springtime after springtime after springtime. This year, not so much. Those violas underneath the tree didn’t last a year. 

I see two lessons from the cherry tree. First; enjoy all the blooms in the yard, not just the “big splash.” Individuals who let the beauty of Jesus shine in their lives in their own small corners are doing exactly what they should be doing! Second; we need to refrain from criticizing those who work tirelessly among us when they don’t do the job we had expected. When a person (or plant) does an outstanding job 93.7% of the time, or for the better part of their lives, it is wise to be gracious about the other part.

Besides, that twisted old tree is still good for holding up a few strands of mini-lights to keep us from stumbling in the dark.

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