For years, she has anchored the corner of Fifth and Spruce. Quintessentially Southern, deeply rooted in our space and place, a flowering gift of substance and beauty for all caught in her broad reach.
The story of our magnolia tree remains a bit of a mystery to those of us who enjoy her today. We don’t know exactly when she was planted (probably 80-90 years ago), or what the circumstances of choosing that tree in that spot would have been for the church newly planted in this corner.
What we do know is the way that this magnolia’s presence has signified our beloved community’s connection that which is deeper, broader, more grounded than that of the present. Providing shade, exuding beauty, extending those glossy leaves and towering limbs, she has been a gift.
But not too long ago, her limbs began to seem brittle. Bad storms would cause a number of the four-foot long ones to break off and crash to the ground. Arboreal evidence of her end-of-life, estimated for magnolias of her age and stature, became clear. Tree care experts warned that if we didn’t proactively respond, she might come down on her own, a potential threat to person and place. So after many months of discussion, our House & Grounds Committee made the hard but necessary decision to give thanks for what she had meant to us, and let her go.
It seems particularly fitting to me that such a relinquishing would happen during Lent, this season where we let go of that which keeps us from flourishing so that we can draw nearer to Jesus Christ who came that we may have life, and life in fullest expression. As we talked about on Sunday, Lent extends an invitation to us to do the holy work of emptying, releasing, fasting. But not just emptying for emptiness’ sake… rather, emptying so that we might be filled anew.
In the same way, we find ourselves readying for new life to come. Just as we now prepare our lawn for new seeds that will yield grass, plants, trees, life, we prepare our bodies for God’s grace to bathe us anew in bread and cup, in rest and care, in love so amazing. We prepare our hearts and spirits for this journey through the wilderness of Lent that leads from garden to grave, stopping in piercing truth at the cross. We prepare our relationships for truth and vulnerability that comes in the letting go — releasing fear, surrendering pride, liberating the grasp we have on being right. We prepare for God to meet us with the promise of What Will Be .
It starts with the emptying, the releasing, the letting go.
It moves through the grief, the disorientation, the fear.
But oh, how it ends with life, love, light… newly-streaming through windows, dancing in long-darkened corners, looking a bit like resurrection.
Together in God’s work of Love,