Minister's letter

A message for January


from Jo Strange


Licensed Lay Minister





One of the many tools I have found really helpful in respect of my work with young people over the years has been the ‘blob tree’ – I am sure a number of you will have experienced these, but for those of you who have not a brief explanation from me (see picture below!).  Basically we are asked to look at the figures on and below the tree and think about where we feel we are at this moment – to identify with one of the figures and then think about why we have chosen that particular position, on or under the tree, in respect of our own personal feelings at that point in time.  It may be that we feel very positive and are sitting high up in the branches surrounded by friends, maybe we are feeling quite sad and low and feel we are the person sitting on our own under the tree, or we may feel as if right now our life is a bit out of control and we relate to the person falling out of the tree!  As a visual learner I think a ‘blob tree’ can be a really helpful way of creating a picture of how we are feeling.



Recently I listened to an inspiring reflection focussing around the New Testament character of Zacchaeus.  As you may remember from Sunday School days, Zacchaeus was a tax collector (in those days tax collectors were very unpopular because they often took more money then they should).  He had heard a lot about Jesus and wanted to see him for himself.  So he decides to climb a tree to get a good view of Jesus as he passes by.  But Jesus spots him and tells him to come out of the tree because Jesus is coming to his house there and then!







As I thought more about this story the ‘blob tree’ came to mind.  Where in the tree would Zacchaeus put himself – a person who had few or no friends, a person who no doubt was troubled by the guilt he felt at his unscrupulous tax collecting, a person who was undoubtedly very lonely and of course a person who in hearing about Jesus I am sure felt he, Zacchaeus, could never be accepted let alone loved by this amazing preacher.  Perhaps this may ring a few uncomfortable bells for us - I know it does for me.  Maybe we are not unscrupulous tax collectors but for most of us there are parts of our lives that we feel, at times, ashamed of or uncomfortable about.  And so like Zacchaeus we climb possibly to the top of the tree, hidden by the leaf canopy so nobody else can see us and peep down at what is happening, feeling unworthy to be a part of the scene, just a hidden lonely bystander.


But what happens next is good news not only for Zacchaeus but for all of us who may relate to this story.  Jesus looks up into the tree canopy and says to Zacchaeus “come down, I am coming to your house right now!!”  Or in the words of the well-known Sunday School Song ‘I am coming to your house for tea’!!!!!  How must he have felt?  How would you or I feel – no time to run the vacuum around, clear the dirty dishes or bake a cake!  And yet that is exactly how Jesus is with each one of us – he comes into our homes, our hearts, our lives and accepts us just as we are – our spiritual dirt from lack of spiritual vacuuming, our spiritual hunger from lack of spiritual food because He loves each of us unconditionally and sees beyond our ‘dirt’ to our God given potential.  However wretched or unworthy we may feel Jesus sees us through His eyes of unconditional love.  But it does not end there – as we hear in the story, once Zacchaeus has entertained Jesus in his home (a home that has been despised by society for so long) he spontaneously tells Jesus that he is going to put right the wrongs he has done.  As we read in Luke’s gospel ‘Look Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’  Jesus does not ask him or tell him to do this – it is simply Zacchaeus’ response to the love and acceptance he received from Jesus.  And that is the same for each of us – however unworthy we feel, however far from God we feel, however hidden in that blob tree with no friends, we feel Jesus loves and accepts each of us and wants us to ‘come down from our hiding place in the tree’ and meet with Him and receive His love unconditionally.  So let’s climb out of the tree and welcome our Lord into our hearts for ‘tea’ and all that He has in store for each of us his beloved children.



Every blessing for 2021