Thursday, March 15, 2007

New Life in the Tree

The Garden of Eden that once appeared in a tree at Mount Vernon Place was removed long ago. When the Barbie doll figurines, the plastic snake and the bright bandanna disappeared, I knew it would not be long before something new would emerge in the tree. My colleague, Nathan, pointed out to me this week that our neighbor, Dennis, has again created a theological masterpiece in the tree outside of the church.

The crucified Christ is hanging in the tree. It is positioned on top of a beautiful cross that looks more like new life, with flowers and greenery coming up from the bottom. All of these things are then glued on several large, beautiful shells. At the bottom of the work you can see small, colorful beads glued together and several smaller shells. And, Dennis added bright colored M&Ms inside the shell -- M&Ms that were no longer there when I showed the shell to a friend yesterday.

When Nathan asked Dennis where everything came from, Dennis did not seem to want to talk about his work of art. I have not seen Dennis this week to ask him about his creation or what everything means, but I do keep thinking about this piece -- the shells, the crucified Christ, the signs of new life, and the placement of the M&Ms. I continue to believe that Dennis has a lot to teach me about Jesus.

Jesus came so that all might have life -- life abundant and life with out end. Jesus called people to give the hungry something to eat, to clothe the naked, to visit the sick -- to ensure that people have the basic necessities of life. Jesus inaugurated a new kind of kingdom -- a kingdom that stands in stark contrast to the ways of this world. In Jesus' kingdom, everyone is taken care of. In Jesus' kingdom, everyone has a place to call home.

Dennis has a place to call home -- but it looks nothing like my home. His home does not have a heater or an air conditioner. It does not have a lock that can keep his belongings safe or even a door that he can close in order to keep people or rats outside. While I go in and out of the church, Dennis spends most of his days on the church's lawn. I have never seen him eat a full meal. I rarely see him in different clothing. Still, I have never heard him complain -- even on the coldest of days. He often has a kind word to say, and he always takes time to call me by name.

Dennis brings signs of God's presence to our church. Through the Garden of Eden, he reminded us of a time when everything was just right. Through the newest creation, he reminds us that resurrection and new life are taking place all around us -- because of the death of Christ on a cross.

I wonder what Dennis has received from us. Has Dennis learned anything from the people who go in and out of our church? Has he received any signs pointing towards how we are a people who are trying to work to make all things right once again, through the grace of God? Has he received any signs of resurrection and new life from us? Have we given him a glimpse of grace?

Like I said, Dennis has a lot to teach me about Jesus and what it means to faithfully follow him.

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