November 28, 2011

Nov. 28: The branches are bare


By Luke Gascho, executive director of Merry Lea Environmental Learning Center
THIS WEEK’S THEME: Salvation is at hand

The lovely apple trees that I planted more than a decade ago in my back yard are now bare. There was a good crop this year, but no fruit remains on the spurs or branches. There is not even a single leaf remaining on the trees. Can there be any hope when the trees appear so barren?

I know that the trees are planted in good soil, because I dug the holes myself. The shape of each tree is pleasing, because I have pruned the trees. The trees are healthy, because I have added fertilizer and practiced careful pest management. Yet when I look at the trees now, I see barrenness.

But the trees are alive! If I scrape the tender bark of a thin branch, I can see the soft green of the cambium – the layer where growth occurs. It is winter now, so I know the barrenness is temporary. But there is nothing I can do to make the trees bud and burst into the vivid colors of spring and summer. This transformation happens only by waiting patiently for the cycles of the seasons, the patterns of day and night, the rain and the warmth of the sun to occur.

Salvation is at hand for the trees that appear barren in the midst of winter. The bonds of cold will be broken and a resurrection will transpire. So it is in our lives. We enter times of discouragement and wandering – and question whether the vibrancy of life will happen again. In these periods of feeling adrift and unfruitful, we need to continue with the practices of planting, pruning and fertilizing. In the right season salvation comes, as the Spirit of God brings life and hope through the Son.

So with hope, glean the words of salvation from this week’s Scriptures.

  • Favor is shown to the land
  • Peace is spoken to the people
  • Love and faithfulness meet
  • Comfort is declared
  • The hungry are fed
  • The Lord shows patience
  • A voice cries in the wilderness
  • The way of the Lord is prepared

Truly “salvation is at hand” for all of us, as we rest in the energizing love of the Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.



Comments (15)


    MITCHELL JONES November 28, 2011 |
  2. A lively hope! Thank you.

    Joan November 28, 2011 |
  3. A beautiful word spoken in season! Thanks, Luke, for helping us wait patiently to see the fruit of our many labors.

    Jim Brenneman, GC President November 28, 2011 |
  4. Life and hope through the Son. Your message is inspiring to read on the morning of a 60th birthday! Now, in my new old age, memories of a long ago gospel team journey to MN, where the trees were barren in the midst of winter, except for the evergreen boughs that held inches of snow.

    Myrna Hershberger Smucker November 28, 2011 |
  5. Luke, your hope-filled meditation was just what I needed on a dark, rainy, and windy Monday morning. Thank you for your beautiful words, and for the reminder that my often-impatient time is not God’s time. I know that I will return to this meditation often.

    Karen Ketchaver November 28, 2011 |
  6. Thanks for the wonderful symbolism and the message during this advent season!

    Vicky Kirkton November 28, 2011 |
  7. Yes, dear friend, we shall rise again, we and our children. And we shall bud forth flowers that will turn to fruit for the good of or fellow creatures, especially those who are distressed and hungry. Thank you for the encouraging thought.
    Mervyn Carapiet

    Mervyn Carapiet November 28, 2011 |
  8. This is beautiful, I’m looking for the Scripture text.

    Lois Kennel November 28, 2011 |
  9. What was the scripture? I missed that.

    Dawn Ruth Nelson November 28, 2011 |
  10. Lois and Dawn, see the Nov. 21 entry for an explanation. There are typically four texts per week, so the Monday devotional is an introduction to the rest of the week. To see the four texts for this week, go to

    Shana Peachey Boshart November 28, 2011 |
  11. What an inspiring devotional.

    isaiahmg November 28, 2011 |
  12. Thanks Luke. Word pictures work great for me. There is Hope!

    doug s November 29, 2011 |
  13. I loved this Luke. Your Dad would be so proud of you that you are cultivating apple trees. Even more than that he and your mother would be so pleased with your work and thinking. Keep up your good work!

    Mary K. Mishler November 30, 2011 |
  14. Apple training course heres. Here is useful thing to prunning apple trees.
    This information is very helpful to cultivate apple.

    enammom December 2, 2011 |
  15. I appreciated your meditation on the apple tree. The Lord speaks to me through the seasons and the different jobs that come with the change of season. ” In the bulb, there is a the seed, an apple tree………unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.” What a message of HOPE. Thanks.

    Dorothy December 17, 2011 |