Rev Michelle's Message August 19, 2021

The past two Sundays, I was practicing what I had preached a few weeks before and taking some Sabbath time to rest, reflect, be in solitude, and spend special one-on-one time with Alexander. I spent two weekends in the Santa Cruz mountains among the redwoods—one (deliciously!) by myself and one with Alexander where we stayed in a magical little treehouse that had two redwood trees actually growing right through the house! As many of you know, I have a very special love for and connection with the redwoods. I have long admired and felt inspired by many of the qualities they embody: strength, steadfastness, groundedness, longevity, equanimity, and ingenuity. I love the way they stand tall and live through the storms, fires, earthquakes, and plagues of life, as well as the many innovative ways they have of reproducing. They are kindred spirits and I regularly seek out their companionship, guidance, and example.

While we were staying in the treehouse this past weekend, Alexander and I came across a wonderful children’s book called A Voice for the Redwoods, which tells the story of the life of a redwood tree from its own perspective beginning as a sapling. In one part of the story, the tiny sapling becomes afraid during a rainstorm, fearing he will be washed away by the heavy waters. Suddenly he feels something—a connection, an energy—something is reaching out to him, wrapping its roots around his own roots, and helping him to remain upright and weather the storm. Looking up, he realizes it is the ancient redwood tree standing next to him who has intertwined its roots with his. You see, redwood trees, as incredibly tall as they are, have quite shallow roots. The way they manage to stand up for hundreds or even thousands of years is by intertwining their roots together, forming a vast network of connected roots that keep them all grounded, supported, and held securely in place.

I thought about that, and what a wonderful metaphor this amazing fact is for us, as humans, and for our lives. In many ways, our own UMB community is like those redwood trees—sending out our roots to one another, connecting with each other, and holding each other in place, helping each other to weather the storms of life. Together, we are all able to stand tall, to remain steadfast, to grow, and to flourish. And so my beloved redwood trees continue to teach and share their ancient wisdom with all of us.

I feel most connected to God when I am in the redwood forest and I had one of my most powerful mystical experiences a few years ago while seated inside a burned-out redwood tree. In this Sunday’s lesson, I will be talking about mystical experiences—those instances in which we feel we have had a direct experience of the divine. We’ll explore what characterizes a mystical experience, how those experiences impact and transform us, and how they strengthen our faith in something greater than ourselves. I look forward to seeing you this Sunday—whether you join us in person, via livestream on Facebook, or on our YouTube channel.

Many blessings! ~Rev. Michelle