Unitarian Universalist Church of Olinda
news of our historic UU church in Ruthven (Kingsville), Ontario

The Time to Plant a Tree

May 11th, 2020 . by Rod Solano-Quesnel

Opening Hymn #409 Sleep, My Child

~)-|W: Adapt. by Alicia S. Carpenter, 1930- , © 1990 Alicia S. Carpenter
M: Welsh melody, c. 1784

(Original Welsh and English lyrics interpreted by harpist Siobhan Owen)

Time for All Ages – Liberation of the Netherlands – Canadian Heritage Minute

On the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, a new Canadian Heritage Minute was created to commemorate the Liberation of the Netherlands by Canadian forces.

Meditation on Joys & Sorrows

In this unusual time, it is easy to find ourselves wrapped up into the larger story of the Pandemic, and with good reason. Covid-19 has infected over a million people, killed hundreds of thousands, and affected the lives, livelihoods, homes of billions.

We also remember that we may give space to all other stories that bring up Sorrow and Joy in our lives. Some of these other stories may be related to the pandemic, while others might not be directly connected to it.

As we think about our own stories of transition, of landmarks, of celebration and commemoration, I will mention some stories from around the world, recognizing that what touches one affects us all.

This week, we keep the people of Andrha Pradesh, India, in mind, as a chemical leak from an LG Plant has killed at least 13 people and injured thousands of others. The incident has eerie parallels with the chemical leak in Bhopal in 1984.

Closer to home we share in the grief of another shooting incident in our country.

This Sunday is also Mother’s Day in many countries. Mother’s Day can be a time for celebration for many, and it may also be painful time for others. As we recognize the contributions of mothers around the world, we also keep in mind all for whom this time is complicated, sometimes in ways that are not easy to express.

Meditation Hymn #177 Sakura

~)-| Words: Japanese folk song. English words by Edwin Markham, 1852-1940
Music: Japanese folks song

(Interpreted by Karen Miller)

#UUA & #CUC #Olinda #SundayService #Music for #Meditation: It is Spring time and time to reflect on the beauty of…

Posted by Karen Andersen Miller on Sunday, May 10, 2020


Our church, within and beyond the walls of our building, continues to share its ministry thanks to your ongoing generosity, according to your means, in this unusual time.

Our treasurer, Helen Moore, has offered to receive your donations by mail, sent either to the Church address, or to her home. Details are in our Newsletter.

I remind you to Please beware of telephone and internet scams – no one from the church should be asking you for money, other than through official channels like the newsletter, post mail from our finance and membership committees, or our weekly appeals during our services.

If you see an e-mail that looks like it’s from someone you know but looks “off” in its style or its request, do contact them through another means, like phone, or a new e-mail from an address that you know to be authentic. Also beware of any talk about gift cards, or vague requests for “a favour”, especially if it’s made to sound “urgent”. When in doubt, ask someone who you trust. Let us take care of each other!

Reading – “The Old Man and the Fig Tree” – Talmud

In this a Talmudic story of an old man planting a new fig tree, we get interesting answers to the question of when it’s best to plant


Sermon – The Time to Plant a Tree – Rev. Rod


[Print-ready PDF available for Download]

There’s an expression used on the internet to describe when someone appears to speak modestly about themselves – maybe even in a self-deprecating way – even though they’re actually drawing attention to something that they’re proud of. This is called a “humblebrag”.

I’m going to share a bit about myself in a way that may sound like a humblebrag, but I hope is more of the opposite – something that sounds like I’m showing off, but is actually meant as an illustration of humility… a “brag-humble”?

I have shared before about my workout routine – a simple regime of four body weight exercises, and some running in place, where the only equipment required is a floor – and since I have a floor at home this works out fine (and if you’re curious, the source of this is a 1960’s booklet called The Royal Canadian Air Force Exercise Plans for Physical Fitness – it was a hand-me-down from my mom).

Now the reason that I’ve shared about this isn’t so that you can marvel at how fit your minister is, but to illustrate the fact that I started this by doing only a few repetitions – or reps – per day, maybe just a couple times a week at the beginning, and I gradually built myself up to dozens of reps, several times a week, over several weeks and months.

This is the lesson of “eating the chair”, whereby small, incremental steps lead to considerable progress over time – a story that I shared some months ago, in which a couple of college students ate a chair over several months, by filing it into sawdust with a rasp, and adding the dust to their salads and cereal, until they ate the whole chair… for kicks, and extra credit on their summer philosophy paper.

But there’s a hidden truth to this reality. Not only did this kind of workout routine that I… “brag” about build up from a few reps to a longer, more vigorous workout over time… but that small start also had to begin at some point. There was a time when I hadn’t exercised for a long time, and it sometimes felt like I had missed the boat. It took a conscious decision to start, knowing that, with a few reps at a time, I might not see any visible benefits to the routine for some time. The RCAF’s Fitness Guide even has an exhortation: Do not Delay! Start Today!

And there’s an even hidden-er truth to this, because I have actually fallen off of the workout wagon… several times. Maybe I’ve gotten sick and have had to take a break, or been travelling, or felt I was too busy with something else. And I’ve had to start again, incrementally.

And with that, I’ve found that one of the hardest things of starting, or starting again, is battling with the regret of having missed out on that time when I could have been doing that which I thought was good for me or for those around me. That deceptive regret that seems to whisper that there’s no use to doing anything now since we haven’t done it anyway – and what use will it be now?

Last week, I mentioned Pastor Charleen’s reflection that “comparison is the thief of joy”. She was mainly talking about when we compare ourselves to others, but it also applies to when we compare ourselves to ourselves. Be this comparing ourselves to our past selves, or to a self we wish we had been – and sometimes these are the toughest comparisons we make.

In the Talmud, there is a story of an old man planting a fig tree, and when the emperor sees him do this, the emperor asks the old man why he would plant a tree, since it’d be unlikely he’d have a chance to eat its fruit – the emperor tells him: “The time to plant it was in your youth”.

The old man gives a few answers – for one thing, he’s used to working and sees no need to stop, also… who knows? maybe he’ll just live a bit longer and taste the tree’s fruit after all. And in any case, even if he’s not around to taste the fruit of the tree, he’ll gladly leave it to his son, just as his father left him the fruits of his labour.

The story of the old man and the fig tree is sometimes summarized in the saying: the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago – the second best time is now.

The best time to have healthy habits is last year, or twenty years ago, or as a teen, or as a kid, or whenever it was that we weren’t doing it. The second best time is now. And with that approach, a lot is possible. A solid second best is much better than other alternatives, and that is good enough.

Now, this isn’t a Public Service Announcement to make you converts to The Royal Canadian Air Force Exercise Plans for Physical Fitness. Your situation, abilities, and personal goals will be different, but I imagine there are some things you wish you had started before, and would still like to carry out, but wonder if it’s really worth it. The lessons of the second best time to plant apply throughout.

When the pandemic was declared, and shelter-in-place orders kept us from meeting in person, I remember feeling regret that I hadn’t already secured a Zoom account for the church. But that regret wasn’t going to be very helpful in allowing us to continue our community with other options.

I was also blessed by having already had some experience using this platform as a Trustee on the Canadian Unitarian Council’s Board, which has been meeting on Zoom for several years. The seeds that had been planted by them, gave me some confidence in learning to host Zoom for our community of faith. This includes an ongoing learning curve, which you are now sharing with me, as we explore how this tool can help us reach all who wish to be part of it.

And that is another lesson from the story of the Old Man and the Fig Tree. A humility in recognizing that, what we have now comes from trees and seeds planted long ago, by people who we no longer have around, or by people we have never even met or heard about. And some of what we’re doing today will become seeds for others to harvest.

This week was a landmark commemoration of Victory in Europe Day… and depending on how you count the signing of the treaty, the anniversary was this past Friday (May 8) or on Saturday (May 9). And the heritage of war is always a complicated one, comprising seeds and scars.

One thing that we can say with confidence, is that our world would not be what it is today, were it not for the many acts that were carried out by millions of people during the time of the Second World War, from resistance fighters in Europe, to soldiers and other service personnel, to engineers, and people at home, seeking to support each other, offering the abundance of themselves in times of scarcity. Many seeds were sown then, and very often, we benefit from the fruit of those trees that some of us had no hand in planting.

Today is also a recognition of a major demographic in society – mothers. This too can be a complicated day, including many seeds, and sometimes, scars.

One thing we can say is that our lives would not be what they are today, were it not for the work of mothers, and parents of many genders, who have offered of themselves in raising children throughout the world. Often nurturing generations, not just for their benefit, but for the benefit of the generations afterward. Many seeds have been sown by our ancestors, and very often we eat from the fruit of trees that we have had no hand in planting. And seeds we are sowing today, will impact generations to come – regardless of whether we see their fruits or not.

These days, we’ve been exploring ways to make our church more accessible, and for folks to be part of it in different ways, through different media. And we plant these seeds with the backing of the seeds that were planted in 1880 and 1881 by our church founders, Big Mike Fox, and the blessed company that teamed up with him.

And in our wider community, there are also some discussions, or actions, that have taken the backseat for some time, and are now coming into sharper focus, especially because their absence is being felt more strongly at a time of crisis, like this one.

Matters such as poverty, homelessness, food security, work safety standards, migrant worker’s rights, a robust healthcare system, science literacy, environmental awareness.

Many of these are conversations where we might sometimes feel like we missed the boat… where it might feel like we really should have gotten our ducks in a row, like, yesterday, or last year, or back in the twentieth century.

And yet, my friends, we are better off seeking swifter and stronger action on these issues now, than if we stayed wallowing on the fact that we might not have been as active before.

In fact, my friends, this may well be an opportune time to make a stronger case, as the effects of inaction are more clearly visible. Many people who might not have felt affected by these issues, now see them closer to their home, or even affecting them, illustrating how what touches one affects us all.

My friends, as we look for ways in which we may find healthier ways of being at home, healthier ways of being in community, and healthier ways of connecting with our wider world, let us be mindful of that deceptive regret that comes with not having engaged before, remembering that now is a fine time to recognize what is possible. Though we may be long overdue, we can always start anew.

So may it be.
In Solidarity,

Copyright © 2020 Rodrigo Emilio Solano Quesnel

Closing Hymn #151 I Wish I Knew How

W & M: Billy Taylor and Dick Dallas,
~)-| arr. by Mary Allen Walden, 1946-1997, © 1992 UUA

(Interpreted by Nina Simone)

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