I saw a ‘shoot from the stump of Jesse’ all summer long unexpectedly blooming from a crack in my driveway. A purple petunia, a remnant seed, no doubt, from a previous summer’s planting against all odds found root and nourishment and the wherewithal to bloom in this unlikely place.
I did not plant it.
Nor water it.
All I did was do my best to not run over it.
And all summer long and deep into fall it bloomed.
A sign, surely, of a power far greater than my own.
No, surely not Jesus as we usually think of when we hear about the ‘shoot from the stump of Jesse.’
And not a nation in all its reconstructed glory as sometimes we think of it, too.
Just a petunia, reminding me by its very existence in an unexpected place, that God is not done yet.
- And oh, isn’t this always so whenever we see life where there was only death?
- Whenever we witness a new beginning at what we were sure was a certain ending?
Just a mere splash of color pushing up out of dull gray cement and we begin to consider the promise to be true that anything is possible.
Perhaps even what the prophet points to now:
A world where sworn enemies lie down together, share a meal together, setting aside old appetites and animosities. A world where there is not more hurt, no more destruction, no more fear.
Indeed, I saw another ‘shoot from the stump of Jesse’ just this week. It came via my email inbox a few days back.
My sermon was yet incomplete. The holiday was bearing down with all its varied demands and I had little yet to say as I prepared to preach a few days hence. And then there was this word that a message from prison was waiting for me. And so I logged in and opened a message entitled, “Random Thought of the Day.” Which, at least to my eyes, turned out not to be so random after all. Or so it seemed to me as my heart soaked up the words on the screen typed the morning before Thanksgiving.
If you have walked alongside me for a while, you have heard me speak of her before: a woman in her 30’s who I had called on at the county jail. I brought her a Bible then, the first she had ever owned. She was sent away to complete her sentence last spring and since then we have corresponded occasionally. I have marveled to see faith blossom in her, in the most unlikely of places. Or so it seems to me. Here is part of what she wrote a few days back:
I’m learning that Thanksgiving is more about being thankful for the things God has brought into your life, rather than anything traditional.
Being here, I am surrounded by moms, grandmas, daughters, etc. We are all hurting in some ways. Some more than others. Hurting… longing…just plan sad… we hare here, not with our families. We should be busy making cookies, pies, yummy food, turkey, crafts, shopping, helping those in need… but again… we are here. We are in what is considered the most miserable place in the U.S.
As I sit in my room and look out the window at the sky and the trees that are almost bare, I am thankful that I am so very blessed.
Unlike some people, I hold the Holy Spirit in me. I hold the Father and the Son very close to me.
With them… they bring me peace.
I have a brighter outlook on nature, people, the world. Family… family means the world to me. I have a greater love for my family than I ever have before. I now realize that I may not have appreciated every little thing. I CAN now… with the help of the Trinity.
With this greater sense of peace I am able to help those around me find their peace. Whether its a conversation, a short sentence, or a scripture… I am able to bring a smile to their face.
That to me is far important to me now. I have made it my personal goal to make five people smile a day.
Can you imagine how peaceful the world would be if everyone could make five people smile a day?
Indeed, can you imagine such a world?
- Might it just be a world where the wolf lives with the lamb, the leopard lies down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together?
- Might it be a world where a child leads us, where the cow and the bear graze and their young lie down together and the lion eats from the same menu as the ox?
- Might that be a world where children are never in danger and where no one is hurt at all ever again?
Oh yes, I saw it this week — this tender shoot from the stump of Jesse. I saw this sign of hope and promise in a most unlikely place in words on my computer screen written by a woman whose faith is yet new. By one who finds herself still near the beginning of many, many more years in that place which is marked by loneliness and grief more than by companionship and joy.
It is a sign of life in the midst of death.
A new beginning in a place which we were afraid would be the end of all that mattered to her.
It is a sign, surely, that God is not done yet.
It is the very gift of Jesus in an unexpected place.
In danger of being ‘chopped off’ or ‘run over,’ to be sure.
But thriving: growing and blossoming, nonetheless.
Bringing hope in a time and place where no one would have seen it coming.
For me, at least, it holds all the power of the promise of Advent this year.
This ‘shoot from the stump of Jesse,’ indeed.
- How do you hear the promises of the Prophet Isaiah today?
- Have you seen a ‘shoot from the stump of Jesse’? How and where have you seen it?
- How does seeing it hold the power of the promise of Advent for you?