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Putting Leaves of Encouragement on Our Branches

We’re building a tree at our church.

It’s not a big tree. It’s actually pretty small, but it’s the perfect size to serve as the centerpiece of our communion table.

In fact, you can’t even quite call it a tree yet. It’s really just a collection of bare branches carefully pieced together by one of our members to resemble a tree. But that won’t last for long.

Over the next few weeks, as the leaves fall off the trees outside, we’ll be adding leaves to our tree inside as part of our November leadership series called, “Prophet, Priest and King.”

We all received a yellow construction paper leaf a few weeks ago, and we wrote the names of prophetic leaders on our leaves as we celebrated the influence of their vision, imagination and courage.

Last Sunday, we wrote the names of priests (ministers) on our leaves – people who guard and communicate the mystery of God for us through word and sacrament.

And next Sunday we’ll focus on royal leadership by filling our leaves with the names of people who have been like Christ to us – those whom God has blessed with positions of influence and authority and who have used their positions not to flaunt their power, but to model humility, generosity, obedience and grace in our lives.

As the weeks go by, our tree will come to life with more and more of our leaves so that on the Sunday before Thanksgiving – what our congregation calls “Gratitude Sunday” – our tree will be full and bursting with color as we celebrate the leaders God has used to influence and encourage us.

I can’t wait to see our tree when it’s done because I know too many people who are entering this season of gratitude with branches that have been stripped of their leaves.

Maybe you know some people like that too. Maybe you’re one of them.

There’s a kind of existential melancholy weighing on the spirits of too many of us.

Some people say it’s the result of a contentious U.S. presidential election. But I think it’s more than that, and I know it isn’t going away now that the election is over.

With our church spending this time literally gluing construction paper leaves onto the bare branches of our communion table tree, I have begun to wonder if we could do something similar out in the world.

We’re honoring people who have been prophets, priests and kings to us. What would happen if we went one step further and found ways to be prophets, priests and kings ourselves?

We need some people who are willing to grab some glue and construction paper and paste some life back onto their neighbors’ bare branches.

I bet you know someone who needs more vision and imagination right now. Send them a text message that lets them know you believe in their future. That’s what prophets do.

Maybe you know someone who hasn’t felt the wonder of God’s presence in a while. Offer a blessing for them. Invite them to church and help them reconnect with the habits of our faith. That’s what priests do.

Perhaps you know someone who needs an extra dose of generosity and grace right now. Use whatever authority you have to be generous and compassionate toward them. That’s what Christ the king does.

So here’s a challenge: Between now and Thanksgiving, find three people to whom you can be prophet, priest or king; start putting some leaves back on some branches.

It isn’t hard to do. And it won’t cost you anything. But it does require that you be intentional about doing it.

If we get started today, I can promise that even in November you’ll discover new leaves on your branches too.

Matt Sapp is the pastor of Heritage Fellowship in Canton, Georgia. A version of this article first appeared on Heritage’s blog and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @MattPSapp.