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.
Willow or Poplar
‘How could we sing?’ [Ps 137. 4]
How poignant is this text at a time when we cannot sing our hymns of praise to God because of the fear of infection. The context of this psalm is rather different but we can empathise.
Willows, weeping willows, are associated with streams and rivers: ‘like willows by flowing streams’ [Isa 44. 4]. Ezekiel hears the word of the Lord and describes how a willow twig may be planted by water and it will sprout [Ez 17. 5]
In Psalm 137, a lament is used by the community to express their sadness while away from their home. The people are in exile; ‘by the rivers of Babylon – there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion. On the willows we hung up our harps’ [Psalm 137. 1 – 2].
Although the people are being goaded by their captors they are determined not to forget their homeland. They ask God to remember them and to avenge them for the destruction of their beloved places. The feelings articulated at the end are very bitter and express deep pain; ‘happy shall they be’ [Ps 137. 8 – 9] who take revenge and perpetrate violence on their enemies. This psalm communicates the understanding of the people of that time concerning the righteousness of God which always stands in opposition to ruthless evil.
God our deliverer,
stir our weak wills,
revive our weary spirits,
and give us the courage
to strive for the freedom of all your children,
to the praise of your glorious name. Amen.