It is a beautiful summer day. The sun shines warmly on an old house near a river. Behind the house a mother duck is sitting on ten eggs. "quack, quack." One by one all the eggs break open. All except one. This one is the biggest egg of all. Mother duck sits and sits on the big egg. At last it breaks open. Out jumps the last baby duck. It looks big and strong. It is grey and ugly.
The next day mother duck takes all her little ducks to the river. She jumps into it. All her baby ducks jump in. The big ugly duckling jumps in too. They all swim and play together. The ugly duckling swims better than all the other ducklings. - Quack, quack! Come with me to the farm yard! - says mother duck to her baby ducks and they all follow her there.
The farm yard is very noisy. The poor duckling is so unhappy there. The hens peck him, the rooster flies at him, the ducks bite him, the farmer kicks him. At last one day he runs away. He comes to a river. He sees many beautiful big birds swimming there. Their feathers are so white, their necks so long, their wings so pretty. The little duckling looks and looks at them. He wants to be with them. He wants to stay and watch them. He knows they are swans. Oh, how he wants to be beautiful like them.
Now it is winter. Everything is white with snow. The river is covered with ice. The ugly duckling is very cold and unhappy. Spring comes once again. The sun shines warmly. Everything is fresh and green.
One morning the ugly duckling sees the beautiful swans again. He knows them. He wants so much to swim with them in the river. But he is afraid of them. He wants to die. So he runs into the river. He looks into the water. There in the water he sees a beautiful swan. It is he! He is no more an ugly duckling. He is a beautiful white swan.
Today’s message: Be comfortable in your own skin. Not trying to be a Christian in the mold of somebody else. A swan that thinks it is a duck is pretty ugly, but a confident swan gliding silently through the water is amazing.
Paul compares us to a branch grafted into a tree. My grandfather used to have a pear tree with 5 different kinds of pears….Five varieties of pear all grafted onto a single trunk….from a single tree, variety, ripen at different times, different uses…. that’s how I think of the individuals within our church. That’s how I think of our church within the larger Kingdom. Years ago two people from a different religion knocked on my door and tried to convince me Christianity was wrong because there were so many different “churches” [they meant denominations]. I told him he did not understand Christianity… I have no problems with the different groups, the different expressions of faith, as long as we believed in Jesus Christ as Lord, the Bible is the Word of God, forgiveness is obtained through the death of Christ, only one way to salvation… different churches/people have different histories, different focus ~ one Lord/one root, yet many imperfect people doing their best to live under the grace of God. We need to be comfortable in our own skin. Sometimes we think too much of ourselves thinking we are better than others, at other times we are more like the ugly duckling, feeling inferior… We need to have confidence in Jesus Christ that we are grafted into the body of Christ, as individuals, as a community of faith…
Paul uses the image of grafting…one root. Out of the one root, wild olive shoots. When you go to Israel today and visit the Garden of Gethsemane, the place where Jesus went to pray, just a few nights before he was crucified, “If it be possible Lord, take this cup from me.” If you go to that place today there is a grove of Olive Trees that experts figure some of the trees are as old as the time of Christ. These are massive olive trees. Gnarled. They don’t even look like trees. Thousands of shoots. One shoot is not better than the other. But all are dependent on the roots. There is no place for arrogance of one shoot over the other, but there is no place for inferiority, either. My personal temptation is probably different from many of you. In my personality, I am more likely to shrink back and feel like an inferior branch, grafted in… that’s me. Others have more of a temptation of feeling superior, better than others. Arrogance, inferiority… either temptation keeps you from growing in your faith, because both are wrong. We need to see ourselves as fully dependent on the roots, the Lord Jesus Christ… it’s about Christ… no branch, whether grafted in or springing straight from the root is better than the other…
Many lessons. When you grow in the Lord there is no question but that you will look different from what you expect. Thanks to Scott Hugo, yesterday, during the men’s breakfast, sharing a little bit of his story. Among the many things he said, he described how when he first became a Christian he thought his life would take a certain shape, but then, in time, the dependency he found in Christ was astonishing, and his life took a different shape from what he expected… We do not live out our Christian life independent of other people, but rather, we are more like a grafted branch, with other branches also dependent on the root…
This means there is no room for boasting: read from The Message as I walk through today’s scripture: Rom. 11:17-18: Some of the tree’s branches were pruned and you wild olive shoots were grafted in. Yet the fact that you are now fed by that rich and holy root gives you no cause to crow over the pruned branches. Remember, you aren’t feeding the root; the root is feeding you.
You need to be comfortable in your own skin. Of course you are an ugly duckling because you are not a duckling at all, you are a beautiful swan… You begin getting comfortable with yourself by recognizing the source of your life comes from the roots. The Lord Jesus Christ sustains you, nourishes you, feeds you.
This scripture causes us to see ourselves the way the Lord sees us… I like one person’s description:
We look at the outward; God looks at the inward.
We value popularity; God values character.
We look at intelligence; God looks at the heart.
We honor those with money; God honors those with integrity.
We talk about what we own; God talks about what we give away.
We boast about those we know; God notices those we serve.
We list our accomplishments; God looks for a contrite heart.
We value education; God values wisdom.
We love size; God notices quality.
We live for fame; God searches for humility.
Our view is shallow; God’s view is deep.
Our view is temporary; God’s view is eternal.
We have nothing to boast about except that we are to boast in the Lord, the one who nourishes us and feeds us. If we are to believe in this passage it will change the way we think of ourselves, the way we talk about ourselves, it will cause us to keep pointing to the root. When I am with other Christians, people of other backgrounds, different stories, it’s fine to talk about how we are different, but let’s spend more time talking about the common roots, let’s talk about the cross of Christ, the grace of Jesus, the presence of the Spirit. Let’s emphasize the common roots. Some of you are getting to know my brother, and I am always amused when you discover how different we are, his personality, what gives him pleasure, yet we have common roots in the same parents, the same town, the same church…. We are so similar in so many ways…yet we are different… Woe to me if I should boast that I am a superior person, or if he were to do the same… There are so many Christians out there I do not get, yet the Lord is calling them to serve him in their setting, with their gifts, a different branch from me… should I say my Christian Service is superior… by no means…
Getting comfortable in your own skin. Don’t boast, and Rom. 11:19-21 Be Humble… (The Message) It’s certainly possible to say, “Other branches were pruned so that I could be grafted in!” Well and good. But they were pruned because they were deadwood, no longer connected by belief and commitment to the root. The only reason you’re on the tree is because your graft “took” when you believed, and because you’re connected to that belief-nurturing root. So don’t get cocky and strut your branch. Be humbly mindful of the root that keeps you [supple] and green.
There is a humility that comes with being a branch on a tree. I see the Eagle’s Nest way up high in the branches. The eagle always chooses a strong tree. The strength starts with the roots, with the trunk, then the branches. There is a humility that comes with being a branch. I produce one kind of pear, you produce another, you produce another…
I find it interesting about the wild olive shoot grafted onto a cultivated olive root ~ everyone who has accepted Christ sees themselves not as the natural branch, but the grafted branch. I was a wild branch, untamed, and now because of what Christ has done I am a living branch nourished by the roots of Christ. It is humbling to know that the Lord Jesus Christ has saved me.
I once had a funeral for a man in the Lummi Nation. I was chosen to officiate because about four people ahead of me were not available. One of the most amazing/humbling experiences I have ever had…to lead the processional in the Lummi tribal center, like a parade, me at the head, then dancers, then the pall bearers walking alongside the casket, every once in a while they would stop and spin the casket, representing the circle of life, then the flower girls, then the tribal elders, then the family, then the tribe… What a great honor for a white man like me to lead the procession with the drums, the Lummi songs, the mourning…. But it was none of my doing. Humbling.
I am saved by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Nothing I deserved, yet I am a branch nourished by strong roots… how easily I could have been cast off, for I am nothing, yet the Lord Jesus Christ has granted me salvation… and you too…
Rom. 11:22-24 Don’t take your Blessings for Granted (the message): And don’t get to feeling superior to those pruned branches down on the ground. If they don’t persist in remaining deadwood, they could very well get grafted back in. God can do that. He can perform miracle grafts. Why, if he could graft you—branches cut from a tree out in the wild—into an orchard tree, he certainly isn’t going to have any trouble grafting branches back into the tree they grew from in the first place. Just be glad you’re in the tree, and hope for the best for the others.
Just be glad you’re in the tree. God deals with every person on their own. Why me and not them? I don’t know. Why was I given such advantages. I don’t know. But be grateful for the opportunities you are given. Be grateful for the grace the Lord has given to you. Others that have been pruned away will be given an opportunity to be grafted back in. God can do it.
Be comfortable with who you are. When you accept Jesus Christ as your savior, you are like a branch that is grafted into an amazing root. Don’t you dare boast, because without the root, you would be dead. There are other branches that look different, but we are all nourished by the same root, the same Lord. And don’t feel inferior either, like the Ugly Duckling, feeling like you don’t belong. God chose you and grafted you into the tree of life. God is nourishing you and giving you purpose, creating you into a beautiful swan.