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Speaking to the Soul: King of the Trees

Speaking to the Soul: King of the Trees

Week of Proper 13, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 88 (morning) // 91, 92 (evening)

Judges 9:1-16,19-21

Acts 4:13-31

John 2:1-12

In today’s first reading, a man named Jotham tells a story about how trees choose their next king. Jotham is a youngest son, and the only one of his brothers to survive a purge by his brother Abimelech, who wanted to be a king with no competition. He tried to kill all of his brothers so they wouldn’t become his rivals, but Jotham managed to escape. After Abimelech is made king, Jotham climbs to the top of a mountain and shouts this story to the lords who anointed his brother.

The story goes like this: The trees decide that they want a king, so they ask several different botanical species to reign over them. At first, none wants to give up their essential purpose just to hold power. The olive tree is first to decline, asking, “Shall I stop producing my rich oil by which gods and mortals are honored, and go to sway over the trees?” Likewise, the fig tree responds, “Shall I stop producing my sweetness and my delicious fruit, and go to sway over the trees?” The vine also turns down the trees’ offer, saying, “Shall I stop producing my wine that cheers gods and mortals, and go to sway over the trees?”

In the end, the trees have to settle for the leadership of the bramble, which will either provide them with shady refuge, or set them on fire. Jotham just wants the people to know what they’re getting themselves into with Abimelech as their king.

But the beautiful heroes of Jotham’s story are the plants who refuse to choose power over fulfilling their purpose. They want to produce rich oil, delicious fruit, cheering wine. They would bring honor, sweetness, and joy to all beings rather than sway over them. These plants are rooted in their essence and purpose, grounded by the service that they give to mortals and to God. May we stay as deeply connected today and never cease production of the oil, fruit, or wine that we are created to offer.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as Priest Associate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and assists with adult formation and campus ministry at St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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