There was once a man who bought a forest. Only it wasn’t a forest, it was large wilderness. There was nothing much growing in the field except some grass, some weeds and scrubland bushes. How people laughed at him when he called it a forest. But he paid a huge price for this forest.
Some friends gave him some advice. To turn this into a forest, they said, you need to take some mud from the ground, and fashion it into the shape of a tree. They showed him. It was an impressive sculpture. But it did nothing. It did not grow, it did not seed, it didn’t even blow in the wind. In fact, soon it dried out and crumbled to the ground.
Then they suggested he take some of the weeds and bushes and twist them together into the shape of a tree. It was an impressive sculpture. But it did nothing. It did not grow, it did not seed, it did blow in the wind but the wind dried it out and it soon crumbled to the ground.
Instead, the man took 12 seeds. Oak. Birch. Ash. Cherry. Pine. All of them different. He imagined all his land covered in a rich mixture of trees. This would make a beautiful forest, he thought to himself, holding the seeds tightly.
He set to work. He dug a small hole, and in the centre of his land he planted the acorn. Soon he had planted all of his seeds across his land. He gazed across the expanse. It looked no different. Give it time, he thought. He watered his seeds.
Soon some other people came by. They laughed at him: how’s your forest coming along?! I can see a beautiful forest, he said. Most people laughed, and moved on. Some, however, stayed. And as time went by, the seeds began to grow. The man and his new friends watered them, tended them, protected them.
Soon, when the 12 trees blew in the wind, they dropped seeds. Some of these seeds landed in good soil, and began to grow. Other small trees grew around the 12 trees.
When this happened, the man told his friends he needed to go on a journey to oversee the growth of the forest. He told them that he was still the owner of this forest, and was entrusting them to tend it. But it’s not a forest, they said, it’s a huge area of wasteland with a few trees in. But it will be a forest he said, and I want you to tend the forest from its central oak to the edges of my land.
So the man who owned the not-yet-forest entrusted its growth to his friends, whom he had taught. As time went by the trees became a woodland, and the woodland a forest. There were big trees and small trees and clearings, and the forest attracted birds and insects and animals of all shapes and sizes. Over time the man’s friends passed on their knowledge of tending and growing the forest to their children, and their children… and the trees grew and grew and grew.
It turned out that the man really had bought a forest after all.
Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” [Acts 28, The Message]
All this energy issues from Christ: God raised him from death and set him on a throne in deep heaven, in charge of running the universe, everything from galaxies to governments, no name and no power exempt from his rule. And not just for the time being, but forever. He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence. [Ephesians 1, The Message]