Monthly Archives: April 2014

A Fruity Tale

I’m not a gardener.  I like a good garden (which might take any number of forms – a formal garden with sculpted shrubs, a natural-looking haven for wildlife, or even a simple expanse of lawn where children can run and play), and I even like being out in the sunshine with secateurs, shears, spade or trowel.  But I’m not a gardener.  Other things tend to draw my attention first (e.g. making music).

Recently I was introduced to something that surprised me, though proper gardeners will almost certainly be familiar with this kind of thing; an orange tree which fruits at the same time as blossoming.  It was a beautiful sight to behold.  First of all the deep, but slightly varied shades of green in the leaves formed the perfect foil for the vibrant orange fruits just developing in the sunshine.  Then there were the smaller fruits, still green in colour, dotted around the plant.  And finally, the blossom still everywhere present; flowers producing a sweet and gentle fragrance which permeated the whole conservatory and which would, in turn, develop into fruit themselves as the petals faded and fell.  Fruit and blossom present on the tree at the same time; I’d never heard of such a thing.  (Told you I’m not a gardener!)

The very fact that I’m writing about it probably gives you an indication of how much of a surprise it was to me; though I have to confess I am one who likes to share good news and positive experiences when I come across them.  Fruit and blossom all at once; this did seem to me to be a very good thing – a tree which produces fruit for a long season rather than all at once.

And so it reminded me of heaven.  The Bible uses a variety of images in its description of heaven, all of them entirely positive and attractive.  One of them is the presence of the Tree of Life. We first encounter the Tree of Life in the opening chapters of the Bible; it stands at the centre of the Garden of Eden (literally the “Garden of Delight”) where God placed Adam.  After Adam’s decision to reject God’s rule and try to run things his own way, God banishes him from Eden to prevent him eating from the Tree of Life and living forever.  Adam’s rebellion brings the consequence of death.

The Bible explains that Adam’s experience is also ours – like him, we live in exile from the perfection of Eden, cut off from eternal life in God’s loving presence by our own sin.  But there is hope.  We discover that the Tree of Life still thrives.  The book of Revelation paints a picture of heaven in which the Tree of Life stands somehow on both banks of the river of the crystal clear water of life which flows from the very throne of God.  We read that the tree has twelve kinds of fruit and yields its fruit each month.  Each month!  Not once a year, but continually!  Even more than the orange tree I was shown, here is an image of abundance which resonates so well with the other things the Bible teaches us about the character of God; in His presence there is abundant life.  So how do we lay hold of this for ourselves?  It’s all about Jesus, who described His own life’s purpose by saying, “I have come that they might have life; life in all its fullness.” (John 10:10)  Will we come to Him?

The Easter Mystery

Over the last few years, the Meaningful Chocolate Company has been selling what it calls the Real Easter Egg.  There are a number of features of this egg that set it apart from the others on the market.  First of all, it’s made with FairTrade chocolate.  This means that the people who grow the cocoa beans are being paid a fair wage for their labour.  Furthermore, their communities are being helped because the proceeds of a small premium added to the price of each egg are spent on a community project like a school or a well.  There are other FairTrade eggs, of course, but this is a good selling point for anyone with a conscience.

Secondly, a percentage of the profit is given to charity.  This is very rare, if not completely unique.  From egg sales since 2011, the company has donated over £40,000 to different worthy causes.  For a start, there are regular gifts to Traidcraft Exchange, a development charity which helps small-scale farmers and producers all over the world.  In addition to this, money has been given to Baby Lifeline, The Leprosy Mission, and Christians Against Poverty.  This latter organisation is a national charity working across the UK to lift people out of debt and poverty, offering free debt counselling through a network of 252 debt centres based in local churches.  You might like to know that Christ Church Ware is one of those churches – help really is “at hand” in these financially troubling times.  Buying a Real Easter Egg really does produce all kinds of ripples of good in this country and overseas.

But the third aspect is what makes this egg the Real Easter Egg; it has the Easter story on or in the box.  The company’s founder wrote recently, “When we first revealed the Real Easter Egg, I was asked by a journalist, ‘What’s Easter got to do with the church?’ I had to explain that Easter is in fact a religious festival and not owned by Cadbury!  This year, The Real Easter Egg radio advert was rejected by the radio authority.  They seemed unsure if Easter was Christian and so wanted our advert to say that our eggs had a copy of the ‘Easter Christian story’ in the box.  We argued the point and they have decided that, ‘on balance’, Easter is a well-known Christian festival.” 

But it’s less well known than it was.  In March 2005, the Daily Mail reported that just 48% of British people questioned said that Easter was about the Resurrection of Christ.  Two years later, on 3rd April 2007, a press release from Somerfield supermarket declared, “Brits will on average be enjoying over 3.5 eggs each over the Easter weekend alone.  But over a quarter don’t know why handing them out symbolises the birth of Jesus…” (My emphasis)  This was later corrected to read ‘the rebirth’ of Christ, and then, after consultation with the Church of England, a third version correctly identified that Easter celebrated the resurrection of Christ from the dead.

There’s no doubt about it; ignorance of the world-changing story of Jesus’ death and resurrection is increasing in what has historically been recognised as a Christian country.  Will you be celebrating it this year?  What example does your practice set to your children and grandchildren?  There are plenty of church events, and everyone is most welcome…