When God creates all things good for human beings, a specific tree is mentioned: the Tree of Life (Gen 2. 9). It is put in the middle of the Garden of Eden: this garden planted by God (Gen 2. 8).
At the pivot point in the history of humanity is the Tree of the Cross, the life-giving tree.
History comes to an end as the Tree of Life is again mentioned. At the very end of time, it flourishes, perhaps as a group of trees, on both sides of the River of the Water of Life which flows from the Throne of God (Rev 22. 1 – 3). This is in the Holy City of the New Creation.
All through the Bible there is mention of trees and they are often used in familiar stories and events, in poetry and prophesy. They play a part in the story of redemption. In this set of reflections various aspects of trees (some admittedly fairly tenuous) will be examined. Hopefully this will lead to further thought or investigation on the part of the reader.
In general a chronological or historical approach will be used but some freedom and flexibility may also be applied if deemed appropriate or expedient.
This theme has been chosen to take us through the Trinity season because the liturgical colour for this season is green, evoking thoughts of new life, flourishing and hope.
Elijah is well known for his skirmishes with King Ahab and his wife Jezebel. After Ahab told Jezebel about the confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal, which for the Lord and Elijah was a resounding victory [1 Kings 18. 17 – 40], Jezebel threatened Elijah with death so Elijah fled.
He went to the wilderness and found a solitary broom tree under which he sat [1 Kings 19. 4]. Dejected and despairing he asked God to take away his life and then he fell asleep. As he slept he saw an angel who told him to ‘get up and eat’ [1 Kings 19. 5]. He found and ate a cake and drank a jar of water left for him. He went back to sleep but again the angel of the Lord came to him and there was more food, enough to sustain him for the forty day journey to Mount Horeb which he was to make. It was at Mount Horeb that Elijah encountered the Lord in ‘a sound of sheer silence’ [1 Kings 19. 12] and soon after that Elijah commissioned Elisha to succeed him.
Throughout his life as a prophet of God, Elijah stood calm and firm, but often alone. With the Lord to support him, in the face of so many opponents, and against the massed prophets of Baal, he remained firm and overcame all opposition.
Elijah knew that despite all the problems he encountered, the Lord is in control. Nevertheless having succeeded in his task he became despondent. Fortunately there is a safe place under which he can shelter: just the one broom tree, provided by God.
God of compassion,
you regard the forsaken
and give hope to the crushed in spirit;
hear those who cry to you in distress
and bring your ransomed people
to sing your glorious praise,
now and for ever. Amen.