Suzanne Simard, a young Canadian forest ecologist, discovered a curious connection in the 1990s. When paper birch trees were “weeded” out amongst the cash crop of the Douglas Fir trees, rather than benefitting the firs, it hastened their decline. What she went on to discover was that under the ground, fungi sent out super fine threads creating a network weaving the roots of all the trees together. Along these networks the trees exchanged nutrients. Removing the paper birch trees disrupted the connections and removed the nutrients from the Douglas Firs which was detrimental to all. The discovery of this interconnected network became known as the “wood wide web”!
Last week in John’s telling of the gospel story we heard Jesus saying there are many dwelling places in my Father’s house. There was an invitation to follow, to join, to dwell in the presence of God. Following on from that, this week we are now being invited to welcome the Father into our dwelling place: ‘I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.’
There is a mutuality here – an invitation and welcome that is reciprocated – perhaps a bit like a marriage? ‘I am in my Father, and you in me and I in you.’ We are not only invited into the Father’s house, but we learn we are to be the dwelling place for the Father – in Christ through the Holy Spirit.
One wonders what the disciples made of such a statement. The idea that God was not to be found in a particular place like the Temple, but can be discovered in every time and place. This certainly is good news for us at the moment shut out of the buildings where we long to gather. ‘Best of all God is with us’ said John Wesley on his deathbed. This is a constant refrain for the people called Methodists. God does not abandon us but rather God is with us. Our lifeblood flowing through us – we are part of the same Vine. And through the Holy Spirit we are each connected to one another. Perhaps like the wood wide web we may find it difficult to see the connections at the present time, but they are there. When one suffers, we all suffer, when one rejoices so too we join in that rejoicing. Through prayer, cards and conversation we bear with one another and build each other up. A connected community or to put it another way a World Wide Web spun into being by the Creator, every strand infused with the presence of Christ. This amazing gift is present now. A gift for all who desire to belong. Like the Paper Birch and Douglas Fir we may be very different but that brings a great richness to the whole.
I recognise that sometimes it is easier than others to sense this connectedness, but it is always there and I am discovering afresh the importance, not only of this unseen network, but of taking the time to recognise it is there and to give thanks for our connectedness.
Thanks be to God.
By way of reflection I have included an article by Laurence Wareing reflecting on a hymn written by modern hymn writer Andrew Pratt. It is 610 in Singing the Faith and uses that line:
Best of all is God is with us.
Peace be with you.