This is the fourth and last in a short series of sermons about trees. By now you are probably wondering. While you can see how meditating on a tree might get a person thinking about God, what does all this “treeology” have to do with Christianity? Isn’t this all a bit New Age-y? I promised in the weekly email to talk about Jesus today, and I want to begin by reminding you of the old Shel Silverstein book, The Giving Tree.
Now it’s been four years. So far, I’m cancer-free. What the drugs have beaten down, the trees have helped to build back up. If I were a tree, you could count my growth rings. And as I said then, I say now: "I am grateful that God (and my church!) has given me the time and opportunity to be with the trees, because by God’s grace, they have enabled me to be free of fear and anxiety and to feel full of life and faith despite my diagnosis. And I do pray that my reflections have planted a few seeds in others. If my 'tree therapy' encourages even one person to seek their own healing in the forest or gives hope and strength to one person who is struggling through a challenging season, then I give God all thanks and praise."
You’ve seen them, the posters and t-shirts that say, “Advice from a…bear, a rock, a mountain, a lake. If you go to the nature store at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, you’ll see “Advice from a Tree.” The t-shirt or coffee mug will say: “Stand tall and proud; Go out on a limb; Remember your roots; Drink plenty of water; Be content with your natural beauty; Enjoy the view!” And that’s good advice as far as it goes, but if you want to go a little deeper, you might want to dig into the Bible. You can’t put it all on a throw pillow or a mouse pad, but you can learn a lot more from trees, and we have a forest of them in the Bible, beginning in the Garden of Eden in the Book of Genesis.
In light of how suspicious the prophets were about sacred trees, it’s surprising to learn how important they are in the Bible. In the Book of Genesis, God puts the Tree of Life at the center of the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The Lord appears to Abram at the Oak of Moreh in Shechem. [12:6] And Abram builds an altar to God by the oaks of Mamre, near Hebron. [13:18] Later, under those same sacred trees the angels of the Lord come to tell Abram, now Abraham, that he will be the father of a great nation. [18:1] And a few chapters later, in Beersheba, Abraham plants a tamarisk tree to mark the place where he calls upon the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God. [21:33] And on it goes. God keeps making history with trees, right up to the day that the Son of God saves the world on a tree at a place called Calvary. You have to wonder: is this just a coincidence? Why are there so many stories about God and trees?