Easter Sunrise Service

One spring day a photographer living near the Southern shore of Lake Vattern, Sweden took a picture of a tree and posted it on Instagram because he thought it looked like a stalk of broccoli sticking up out of the ground.   Forty-three people hit “like” on the photographer’s Instagram post.

Over the next several months, the photographer began uploading more pictures of the tree and life that took place around the tree in the park.

Nearly a year after he took the first photo, the tree had its own Instagram and was being photographed through the seasons showing all kinds of life of the Swedish people.  The audience grew into the thousands.

The photographer staged an exhibition of his photos of the Broccoli Tree at the Broccoli Tree.

A Broccoli Tree calendar was published and was well received.  People all over the world began to purchase Broccoli Tree prints for their homes.

Three years after the first Instagram post, a tree that most people just ignored was now famous.  People who went to Sweden went to this park just to photograph the Broccoli Tree.

It could easily be found on Google maps.  Its Instagram followers grew to nearly 30,000.

The Broccoli Tree became the Internet’s single most famous tree… until last September when someone or multiple people entered the park and sawed the tree down.

The next Instagram post made by the photographer contained these sad but true words: “You cannot unsaw a tree.” https://www.wimp.com/thebroccolitree-a-parable/

Today we live in a world where we have become afraid to share what is good, beautiful, and pure for fear that some person with evil intentions will come along and desecrate it, shoot it up, cut it down, destroy it, or kill it.

So we pull back out of fear.  We cease to offer ourselves, our resources, our abilities, our time, or love, because these stories and many more like them tell us that if we put ourselves out there; if we offer our gifts, someone is going to cut us deep, cut us off, cut us down, and we will be sorry for trying to bring beauty into the world.

But if that is who we become; if that is what we allow the world to do to us; if that is what we allow evil to take from us, we have missed the message of Easter.  We have allowed darkness to remain for someone, somewhere.

What happened to the Broccoli Tree has been going on for a long, long time.  But God has always been at work for a long time to bring hope to the hopeless.

When the Northern and Southern Kingdoms of Israel were taken away into exile by the Assyrians and the Babylonians, nothing was left of these kingdoms but the stump.  They were both sawed off, and people were carried away.  Some remained to pick up the pieces.

God raised up those with courage to bring hope back to the people.  One of those was Nehemiah, who lived in exile and was a cupbearer to the king.  But when he heard that the walls of Jerusalem were destroyed, he got permission from the king to gather supplies and go back and help rebuild the walls.

For 52 days, they worked, even though they were under constant threat from being attacked, until the walls were rebuilt and once again, the people in Jerusalem could live in safety and peace.

Another great prophet was named Isaiah.  Isaiah came along and said that “a shoot will come from the stump of Jesse; from its roots a Branch will bear fruit.  The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord—and he will delight in the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:1).

With Isaiah’s words, hope was born.

So when Matthew and Luke wrote their genealogies, they did so in part to show people that when Jesus was born of Mary, through the lineage of Joseph, Jesus was the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy.  He was the long awaited for Messiah.  Hope came through the birth of Jesus, and he was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.

It is true.  You cannot unsaw a tree.  But it is also true that darkness cannot survive in the presence of Light.

When Jesus was born, light came into the world.  God has ways of overcoming evil.  Just as God raised up people like Nehemiah and Isaiah, God still wants to use people like us to overcome evil in this world.

You can be among them.

Paul told his disciple Timothy that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

We see this evidenced in Jesus’ life.  In many ways, his life mirrored the Broccoli Tree.

For the longest time, he went unnoticed working in Nazareth, likely doing the work of a carpenter.   He tried to tell his mother that his time had not come when she suggested that he do something about the embarrassment the wedding host felt when they ran out of wine at a wedding in Cana of Galilee.  Even though Jesus discreetly made the miraculous happen, word began to spread about what Jesus could do.

Ministry began to happen around Jesus.  He called disciples who gathered around him and he began to teach them.  He caused a scene when he cleared the temple of the money changers. He spoke to a Samaritan woman by the well about eternal life.  He healed people.  He fed multitudes.  He taught about the Kingdom of God.  He raised a man from the dead.  His followers grow into the thousands.  Then, his life was cut down, just as he predicted it would be, when the Romans nailed him to a cross between two thieves.

However, Jesus taught us that mankind can kill the body, but not the soul.

Easter is God’s answer to evil, which seeks to silence and stop all efforts to promote love, peace, and joy in this world.

You cannot unsaw a tree and you cannot uncrucify a man.

Easter is God’s answer to those who believe that evil can stop people from sharing love, or their ideas about what creates community among us.

Sure, every time evil seeks to destroy someone or something beautiful, we are tempted to pull back from efforts to share love in meaningful ways because we fear the backlash we might receive.   Sure, there are many stories of suffering, sacrifice, and even those who have been martyrs because they refused to be intimidated and maintained their allegiance to Christ and his ways even though it cost them their lives.

Sometimes, it is costly to follow Jesus, but there is a greater cost to this world if we don’t.  When those temptations occur, remember Jesus taught us that if we keep our lives to ourselves we will lose them.

Instead, Jesus has taught us to give ourselves away. If we do that, that is how we will find life.

The author of the broccoli calendar and Instagram site wrote, “If we hoard and hide what we love, we can still lose it, only then we are alone in the loss.”

Even today, with its stump in that park, more people know about the Broccoli Tree and have its picture than ever would had one photographer never brought its simple beauty to the world.

If Jesus’ resurrection means anything to us, we should share Him with others.  Jesus is meant to be shared.

The resurrection of Jesus should mean enough that his love and our resources should not be hoarded but shared; that our church should be opened to all; that our hearts should not be hard, but loving and open to truth; and that we should be open to following God into the future and the possibilities and changes it offers and will bring for us all.