Like a Stump of a Tree

Several years ago, thick branches had fallen down after another, so two large fir trees were cut to prevent any future accidents.  The land became a bit bare, but more sunlight was shining in on the front side of the chapel, and it no longer froze in the winter time.  The stump can be seen right outside the rector’s office.  After a while, I came to realize that an interesting phenomenon occurs daily with the stump.  On numerous occasions, I see people counting annual growth rings, or even sitting down and taking a break on the stump.  Young people and children enjoy taking pictures on their smartphones posing on the stump.  In spring and fall, there are people sitting down reading books sitting down for quite some time, while others are drawing pictures. However, the most interesting thing is that although less than half of the visitors actually set foot inside the chapel standing right in front of the stump, visitors from all around the world, of all ages, beyond gender and sexuality are drawn toward this stump.  I even feel that stumps have some sort of strange power that stimulates human instincts.

What I recollect from the stump is a slide show I saw at Sunday School when I was a child, “That’s Why the Tree was Happy.”  I later learned that this was based on Shel Silverstein’s picture book, “The Giving Tree,” which was a bit talked about when Haruki Murakami translated it about 10 years ago.  It is a story about a boy’s life from his childhood to his later years depicting the relationship between him and an apple tree.  The tree continues to give its own fruit, branches, and trunk to the boy when asked for in certain stages as the boy grows up to be a man, and the story ends with the tree providing the now grown-up boy a stump to sit and rest.  The giving tree repeats the phrase, “And the tree was happy.”  I think this storybook should be read from different points of view, but when I first saw this slide show at Sunday School, it left a strong impression on me even as a child.  I understood that God is of a presence as pure as this apple tree.  In particular, the last scene where the boy, now an elderly man, given a stump to sit, left a deep impression on my mind.  And, the image of God I felt at that time seems not to have changed fundamentally even now. 

Each gospel says many people always gathered in the place of the Lord Jesus.  He welcomed them with love, and taught that each one of them was living within the blessings of God.  He then said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) The overflowing love of the Lord Jesus for people lead to the way of the Cross in the form of dedicating himself in the end.  Even in the extreme state of loneliness and suffering, the love of the Lord Jesus for the people does not change.  Far from it, he even prayed for the weak (us) who betrayed the Lord many times and lived a self-centered life. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

The longest ever 10-day Gold Week has finished.  There were again many tourists around the stump which became one of their many moments in life.  Over time, it will probably be forgotten from people’s memories.  However, I saw in the figure of the stump, always accepting quietly and unconditionally the one scene in the precious life of each one of us, overlap with the Lord Jesus.  I hope to be as close as I can be to that stump. (Bible citations take from the Japan Bible Society Common Bible Translation)

Revd Timothy Hirozumi Doi
Karuizawa Shaw Memorial Church