Purple Saxifrage

[A synopsis of Sunday’s sermon]

This summer we are going to be exploring the figurative language of James chapter 1. The series is entitled “Portraits by James”. This first word picture is from James 1:2-4, 12.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

Imagine with me that you are hiking in the Rocky Mountains. You are quite high up. You have passed the tree line. You are crossing a rockfall. Just ahead you can see snow, still present in June. You hear it trickling somewhere in the rock fall, slowly melting in the summer sun. In this hostile alpine environment, you are surprised to find plant life. A small low plant is not just hanging on, but apparently flourishing in full bloom here. You have found Purple Saxifrage.

Native to extreme alpine and artic habitations, Purple Saxifrage is perhaps the hardiest plant in Canada or even on Earth. It thrives on Ellersmere Island, some 80 miles from the North Pole, where summer can be a brief month. It has been found in Europe, near the top of Dom, third tallest peak in Switzerland, some 4,540 metres above sea level. It seems to prefer rocky situations, with little or no soil to speak of.

In such hostile conditions, a plant must adapt to thrive. Purple saxifrage, right down to its roots, can endure temperatures well below freezing even while in full bloom. It produces buds, not in spring, but in fall just before going dormant. The buds burst forth in bloom within days of being uncovered by retreating snow. It is often the first flower of spring in the Artic, allowing it to take maximum advantage of the short growing season.

But grow it does. A fully mature plant will usually only stand 5 centimetres tall. It will spread out, but at a conservative rate. A plant some 20 cms wide is likely 20 to 30 years old. The adverse conditions it grows in change how it functions, but do not make growth impossible.

You and I are like this plant. James tells us that adversity can shape our lives in positive ways. We would expect extreme adversity to make us crack under the pressure. We expect people in difficult situations to become bitter.

James paints a different picture. Where we have a relationship with God, He can take these circumstances of our lives and work perseverance in our character. We can face hardship with joy, knowing this is all gist for our Heavenly Father’s mill.

And we can look forward to a crown of Life, just as Jesus did.

“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Hebrews 12:2&3

Jesus, be the centre.

Be my source.

Be my light.

Be my hope.

Be my song.

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