The Great Oak stood at the top of the hill, overlooking the town. In winter the squirrels burrowed in leafy dens and kept warm. In spring birds built their nests in the oak’s strong branches. In summer children from the town brought picnic lunches to eat on the oak’s cool shade. In autumn squirrels, deer and birds came from the woods and ate their fill of the oak’s acorns. The people of the town said that it was the grandest tree that ever was.
One spring, twin oak seedlings sprouted on each side of the hill just beyond the Great Oak’s reach. Seasons passed and the little trees grew. Because the Great Oak was so large the seedlings on the east side of hill only had sunshine on the morning. The seedlings on the west side of the hill only had sunshine in the afternoon. The seedlings on the east side of the hill began to grow together and share the sunshine. The seedlings on the west side of the hill began to lean over each other to try to get the most sunshine. Seasons passed.
By the time they were saplings those on the east side of the hill had leaned together so tightly that they appeared to be a single sapling. They were growing straight and tall. The saplings on the west side of the hill bent outward now away from each other. They were, stunted, twisted and low to the ground.
That summer there was a terrible storm. Thunder rolled across the sky, rain pelted down, lightning tore at the dark sky and the wind blew and blew. The young trees on the west side of the hill were quickly blown over. The Great Oak that stood alone was split open by lightning and its large branches cracked and crashed down. Only the young trees on the east side of the hill that leaned against each other withstood the storm. In the morning, people from the town looked at the broken Great Oak, and they were sad. It had been the grandest tree they had ever seen. Now there was nothing to be done except to cut it up for firewood.
Seasons passed and the twin oaks grew even taller than the Great Oak had stood.
In winter the squirrels burrowed in leafy dens and kept warm. In spring birds built their nests in the oak’s strong branches. In summer children from the town brought picnic lunches to eat in the oak’s cool shade. In autumn squirrels, deer and birds came from the woods and ate their fill of the oak’s acorns. The people of the town said that it was the grandest tree that ever was.
I wrote that story for my children years ago. I was reminded of it earlier this year on a trip to New Zealand. My wife and I spent part of a day hiking in the mountains where there were kauri trees. These trees rival our redwoods. They are huge, and live for thousands of years. One kauri that we hiked to, or rather two kauri that we hiked to were known as the Siamese Twins. It was two trees that grew together and appeared to be one gigantic tree. My story in real life.
We are re-learning these days that we really are in this together. While “this” for many is the fight against COVID-19, it really is life. We are in life together. Community is important. We gravitate toward community because we reflect the image of our Creator who is by nature Community – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. One of Jesus’ first actions in his public ministry was to form community; we know them as the twelve apostles. The early Church gathered in homes as community. Today’s “spiritual but not religious” are correct in thinking that God is everywhere. But God is most powerfully present in community. That is why we gather for worship. “I have not spoken in secret, in some dark land; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, ‘Seek Me in a waste place’; I, the LORD, speak righteousness declaring things that are upright.” (Isaiah 45:19) Rather Jesus tells us, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)