We have a lush fruit-filled orange tree in our front yard. We did not plant him. We inherited him. For 12 years he has come to bear large juicy oranges. And while the bold, fragrant blossoms are like the smell of sweet perfume, the oranges have been sour and filled with pulp. Year after year, I return to the tree anticipating freshly squeezed orange juice. Each year I am disappointed. I have loved, this tree, nurtured it, treated it and cared for the soil.
Perhaps the message of today’s sermon based on Matthew 7:15-20, “A bad tree cannot bear good fruit,” was true. He is a bad tree and should be cut down and thrown in the fire. But perhaps, transformation is possible.
You see, this year I have gone beyond the methodical care of the orange tree. I made a new year’s resolution to lift this tree up. I would not accept that he was bad. January 1st, I named him: The tree of OJ. I would wash his leaves, spray his branches and I would converse with him daily, letting him know he was loved no matter if his fruit was not delicious. Meticulously I carried out this task.
Today, the Reverand’s message haunted me, “by their fruit, you will recognize them.”
Resting under the branches of the tree of OJ this very hot, winter afternoon, I held a ripe orange in my hands. I cleaned it with a cool, wet rag. I peeled off its thick, tough skin and carefully ripped apart the segments. I raised one fleshy slice to my mouth. A miracle occurred. The tree of OJ had achieved near perfection. This bad old tree can bear good fruit.
Perhaps, with love, patience, kindness and understanding even an unsuspecting orange can be changed.