The United Reformed Church Chesham

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March/April/May 2023 Newsletter

Dear Friends

"So all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come and reign over us.’ And the bramble said to the trees, If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon."

The above is two verses of scripture which I have never read before. I wonder if you are familiar with them, I wonder if anyone can tell me the reference without using a concordance or a search on an electronic Bible. Hopefully you are now curious as to why I am starting the Elder’s letter with these rather obscure verses.

You may recall that in a recent service I brought two bramble branches, one was a weed and one was not. The difference between the two branches was firstly where in my garden they came from and secondly that one had ripe blackberries and the other was barren. The gospel reading that day was of the landowner who planted good grain but his slaves discovered weeds growing and asked if they should remove them. But the master said no, leave them to grow together till the harvest. The gospel story illustrates our experience of the Kingdom of Heaven as we seek to follow Christ and build his kingdom in a world where good and evil coexist.

In truth we are all weeds and it seemed to me the bramble, the blackberry bush, is a good metaphor for us as Christians, a bit prickly but bearing fruit. Intriguingly since my sermon our blackberry has been prolific in producing fruit, I have been enjoying them on my porridge and Lorraine has been making large amounts of jam. We did not plant the bramble and we have not watered or tended it and yet it has produced an abundant harvest, reminding me of God’s abundant grace and seeming to me to be His blessing on my choice of sermon illustration. This led me to search on “bramble” in my electronic Bible and find the verses I started this letter with.

We have inherited an amazing world and have a great responsibility to pass it on in good shape to our successors. In the coming months we shall be learning from our Church Carbon Neutral Group how we can better do this.

We have inherited a wonderful Church, both building and people and it is good too see we are continuing the good work, we may be a bit prickly at times but we are bearing fruit. I am very grateful to all those whose hard work enables our worship and witness.

Ps. I looked up the verses I started with in a commentary and learned that it was a type of fable that reflected a poor opinion of kingship. The fig tree and the vine were too productive and useful to have time to be king of the trees, whereas the bramble, good for nothing else, has the leisure to become king of the trees, but it cannot afford them shelter, and is more likely to catch fire and ruin them all. I am relieved I am called to be an Elder and not a king.

Alan Callow