Good morning all!
Today’s scripture: Judges 9:7-15
When it was told to Jotham, he went and stood on the top of Mount Gerizim, and cried aloud and said to them, “Listen to me, you lords of Shechem, so that God may listen to you. The trees once went out to anoint a king over themselves. So they said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us.’ The olive tree answered them, ‘Shall I stop producing my rich oil by which gods and mortals are honored, and go to sway over the trees?’ Then the trees said to the fig tree, ‘You come and reign over us.’But the fig tree answered them, ‘Shall I stop producing my sweetness and my delicious fruit, and go to sway over the trees?’ Then the trees said to the vine, ‘You come and reign over us.’ But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I stop producing my wine that cheers gods and mortals, and go to sway over the trees?’ So all the trees said to the bramble, ‘You come and reign over us.’ And the bramble said to the trees, ‘If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon.’
When I googled “bramble” for images this is the first image I got in the search. I am trying to imagine what it would mean for bramble to rule. All of other other lush plants are too busy producing and yet the bramble is left on to rule over the vines and the trees. Bramble still produces in abundance…especially this bramble.
I grew up with blackberries all around. I grew up in a house on 3 acres in town with a field just across from our front yard and a small filbert (you may say hazelnut) orchard that surrounded our driveway and a view of the canal that ran through town out of our backdoor. There was blackberry bramble all over the place. My brothers and I would spend time outside in the summer and come in with purple mouths when the season for ripe blackberries came. They were delicious but the vines were also super annoying.
The vines are annoying because they sprout up EVERYWHERE! They are invasive and take over. It just takes one little piece of the bramble for the plant to spread. I hate seeing a little sprout of blackberry bramble in my garden now. I dig it out and pull on roots and then I throw the remains away so as to not spread the vine all over my yard…it doesn’t take long for it to spread.
I would much rather have other things spread around…those delicious other vegetables that are a little more controlled.
So when I googled the bramble and saw these dreaded blackberries (although a pleasant sight sometiems too) I could relate to how ridiculous this parable from Judges is. When no one else wants to rule…we get bramble. I am not quite sure what to do with this story in our lectionary today but somehow it sticks out to me. Sometimes it is the people that we least expect who will step up to the day? You know, when I hear about the mustard seed later on in our gospels I actually go back to this image of blackberry vines. Because here in the Northwest, it is like the mustard seed…invasive…all over the place…starts from very small starts…produces something delicious and yet we try not to spread it around…
Sorry I am rambling a bit today but sometimes we have to do that with scripture. In the end, if the bramble rules then we can take shade in the bramble. Sometimes the least likely leader steps up and gives us the best possible option?
Struggling with what to do with the story is all part of Lent. Struggling with scripture is a good thing in my book. We can relate to life experiences, look at the context, and deal with the story from many different angles. Struggling with the scriptures contextual experience is necessary in living out what we hear, how we interpret the story and where we go from here. Sorry to not have answers for you today but I hope you struggle as much as I do….
What do you think about the bramble?
2 Comments Add yours
This passage for me is more about apathy of the people. Sometimes we are asked to take on a leadership role that would push us beyond the boundary of our known and comfortable gifts. We basically think, “Someone else will do it. I’ll keep doing my own thing.” What can end up happening is that the one who ends up in leadership is not out for the common good but would rather serve his/her own needs…overrunning the people and perhaps even burning the place to the ground!
My own personal bias, I know, but I think this is in many cases where the church ends up when dealing with justice issues. Someone else will feed the hungry. Someone else will stand up for low-wage workers. Someone else will stand up for marriage equality. We’re too busy being the church to become the Church in the world.
Courtney, your story and reflection make me want to comment this morning. I did not recall this story at all, and so thank you for sharing it with us. My gut reaction to this story is that it is another story about how we ought to live in God’s kin-dom, not with some lording it over others, but rather as sisters and brothers, as children with one perfect parent (which ranks up there with the omni’s when talking about God’s superiority over people).
In looking at the context of the story, I think that this still bears out, as it follows the story of Gideon (who is sometimes referred to as Jerubbaal, just to keep things confusing), and his refusal of the kingship in favor of God’s reign. The trouble here starts again with the next generation, where one of the sons is claiming authority and slaughtering his brothers to solidify this power.
Perhaps this parable is more about being fruitful in the way that God has made you fruitful, and to not look for rulers in the first place,but rather to look first and always to God. A takeaway may be to not look for someone to be in authority over us, but rather to accept the fruitfulness and authority God gives us as enough. Although even as I write this, I am not totally satisfied with my own takeaway.
Thanks for challenging us to wrestle with this text today. I would love to hear other people’s take on it as well.