The Two Trees

The Two Trees

A young man became the minister of a country church. The people gave him a warm welcome, and did everything they could to make him and his small family comfortable in the parsonage. Both the congregation and the minister were happy.

During his first year there the young minister planted two apple trees directly in front of the church. They were only small trees. The people wondered why these trees were planted in front of the church. Some even suggested that the apple trees should have been planted on the grounds behind the church, and that beautiful shade trees would be more appropriate in front. But the minister had good reasons for wanting the apple trees just where they were. It was his first year in that church and it also was the first year of the trees in front of the church. Every Sunday the people saw him in the pulpit, and he wanted the people to see the apple trees also as they came to church to worship. But he never told them the real reason for planting the trees where all could see them.

The first year the trees did not show much growth, but the second year they were well started and by the third year they flourished. They were well-shaped trees and the people remarked about their beauty. The minister gave them his best attention, dug around them to keep the soil loose and pruned the branches. Time passed by, and after some years they were full grown trees with heavy, wide-spreading branches.

During all the years of their slow but steady growth, the minister stayed in that church and worked hard. His congregation had grown, and on Sundays the church was filled with people. The people loved him and hoped that he would stay there all his life.

Year after year the people walked under the branches of these apple trees as they went in and out of the church. Yet no one had ever learned why the trees had been planted there. They had grown to be very old, and the minister had grown old with them for they had come to the church in the same year.

The trees were a symbol of strength. They had stood for years battling the winds and the storms. But the minister had been disappointed in one of the trees for many years. Yes, this one tree seemed to be a tower of strength just like the other one but it grew no apples, there was no fruit on it. For several seasons there were a few crippled apples on its branches, but beyond that there was never any fruit.

One day a storm swept through the valley, and the great fruitless tree which looked as if nothing could move it, fell. The minister was surprised to see the fallen tree, but when he came near to examine the trunk, he found that it was almost hollow, eaten away by years of dry rot. Its strength was gone and it fell before the storm. There it lay on the ground beside  the good tree which had borne fruit for many years. The sexton of the church immediately wanted to clear away the fallen tree, but the minister said, "Let it lie just where it is."

That Sunday as the people came to church they were not only surprised to see the fallen apple tree but also were a bit angered that the sexton had left the tree where it had fallen so that it was even a bit difficult to get into the church. In his sermon that morning the minister said, "The fruitless apple tree has fallen. When I came here many years ago, the first thing I did was to plant two trees. I planted them there to be a lesson to us all. I purposely left the fallen tree where it fell to teach us a last lesson.

"My text this morning is taken from the first psalm, `And he shall be like a tree . . . that bringeth forth his fruit.' This tree did not stand in front of the church by chance; I planted it there. We are not in this world by chance, God put us there. That fallen apple tree had the best chance in the world to bear fruit but it never did. It was beautiful to look at but it had no apples. The other tree which is still standing has borne fruit for many years. We also are meant to bear fruit and to be useful in this world. We are not in this world just to be looked at. This fallen tree once was strong and sturdy. God has given strong bodies to most of us but we are to use our strength for Him. When you leave the church, look at the trunk of the fallen tree; it is hollow, eaten by dry rot. The heart of the tree is rotten. Then look at the other tree. There it still stands, strong and sturdy. The storm did not blow it down. Look at its branches which are full of fruit. The heart of this tree is sound. A strong body is of no value if the heart is not good and pure. God tells us to be like this good tree 'that bringeth forth his fruit.' In all my years here we have looked for fruit from the fallen tree, but there was none. We have all been disappointed. God is disappointed in us if He comes to look for the fruit of love, mercy, meekness and reverence in our lives and does not find it. The one tree has fallen; it was not what it should have been. How sad when God says of us that we are not what we should be. When you leave the church this morning take another look at the two trees. Then decide for yourself which tree you wish to resemble."

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