“Baptism, Trees & Sin”
The Rev’d Wendy Morecroft

In the name of God, our Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. Amen.

Did you know that trees are mentioned 288 times in the Bible?

I am still buzzing with joy from the occasion of the baptism 
of my twin grandsons last weekend in the Parish of Belair. 
There is something tangibly holy 
about watching a loved one being baptised. 
When I had lapsed in my faith, it was on my Father’s insistence 
that we brought our children for baptism. 
I felt incredibly moved in the spirit at both baptisms 
and my own Christian journey was reignited.

This sense of joy at watching a child embraced as a child of God 
and as an inheritor with us of the kingdom of God 
is why I was especially drawn to the words 
from our Old Testament reading this morning, Isaiah 55.12 
“For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; 
the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, 
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Have you ever had a sense of creation,
rejoicing with you in your times of joy? 
As a church, we’ve been hearing about, and
talking a lot about trees lately.

At the new Hills Home Group 
One of our members read a reflection about trees
and then invited us to meditate on the surrounding trees. 
I was impressed with the trees which seemed to 
stand as guardians of the home.

My husband Andrew, recalled 
how when we cleared a building site for our new home 
27 years ago, 
there was an eeriness, 
a kind of mourning from the land and the remaining trees. 
It was two years before the birds returned 
and slowly the bushland seemed to embrace us.

Then our Tuesday baptism and confirmation class coincidentally meditated on the Old Testament reading 
set for the forthcoming Sunday. 
It was Jeremiah 5. 
The following verses really struck a chord with the class:

“Blessed are those who trust in the Lord
Whose trust is in the Lord
They shall be like a tree planted by water
Sending out its roots by the stream
It shall not fear when the heat comes
And its leaves shall stay green
In the year of drought, it is not anxious
And it does not cease to bear fruit.”

We reflected on how our faith is like the roots of a tree. 
How we need strong and deep roots 
to sustain us in times of difficulty.

But we also got talking about the intelligence of trees. 
I had never heard that trees, with the help of fungi, 
communicate with each other about threats 
and also sustain and protect their young.

I found the following excerpt at ABC Science on-line:
“Forest ecologist Dr Suzanne Simard, 
from the University of British Colombia, 
studies a type of fungi that forms 
underground communication networks 
between trees in North American Forests. 
Big old trees – dubbed ‘mother trees’ 
are hubs in a mycorrhizal fungal network, 
playing a key role in supporting other trees in the forest, 
especially their offspring…
So when a seedling establishes on the forest floor, 
if it’s near one of these mother trees 
it just links into that network 
and accesses that huge resource network.” 
Simard has shown that every tree in a 30 by 30 metre forest stand was connected to every other tree, 
with an estimated 250 to 300 trees 
being connected together in this single forest stand.”

Couple this research 
with today’s words from the book of Isaiah that,
“all the trees of the field shall clap their hands”, 
and we have a beautiful image 
of creation rejoicing when we live as God intended.

Today’s evocative image of trees clapping, 
also sadly means that our land can mourn. 
We are reminded of the devastating effect that our own sins 
may have on our families, communities and our land.

Recently, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby wrote: 
“As human beings, the destruction we cause by sin 
runs through everything – 
from broken communities to broken friendships, 
broken families to a broken world.”

We’ve seen a colossal example of the destruction sin can cause, 
in the Roman Catholic Church this week. 
We pray for all survivors of abuse 
and our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ 
who together with us, 
are members of the one holy, catholic and apostolic church. 
We are all hurt, and we feel their pain. 
The words of Hosea 4.3 sadly resonate 
“the land mourns, and all who live in it languish”.

Whilst those who have been abused carry their scars 
and their wounds may have been opened 
by the judgement this week, 
Justin Welby reminds us that “there is good news.
The whole story of God, throughout the Bible, 
is one of reconciliation. 
Bringing people, families and even nations back together – 
and back to God.”

Today, we are all truly blessed by the one small child, Molly,
who is brought for baptism. 
We are reminded that by our own baptism, 
we are delivered from the powers of darkness, 
and that God leads us in the light of Christ 
to his everlasting kingdom.

Jesus reminds us in today’s Gospel, 
that when we notice the sin of others, 
we must also notice our own sin.

He uses a tree metaphor when he says, 
“‘No good tree bears bad fruit, 
nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit; 
for each tree is known by its own fruit.’” 
The Gospel continues with Jesus 
emphasising the importance of living as he taught us.

In Baptism our parents and Godparents promise on our behalf, 
and we affirm at our Confirmation, 
that we will by God’s grace, 
strive to live as a disciple of Christ, 
loving God with our whole heart, 
and our neighbour as ourselves, until our life’s end.

When we come to Church each Sunday, 
we are reminded of the promise that we make 
at the end each baptism 
that “We will support each other in this calling.”

We come to Church to be nourished in body, mind and spirit, 
for our faith roots to be deeply watered, and for them to grow, 
We also come to be as Christ to one another – 
to support one another in our Christian calling.

Let the trees remind us that we are not individuals on a journey, 
we are connected as brothers and sisters in Christ.
How we treat each other really, really, matters. 
As members of the body of Christ – 
let us be the nurturing mother tree to all whom we meet.

Once Molly has been baptised and is presented to us as the
newest member of the body of Christ
Let us join with the trees, and clap our hands. Amen.