Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
At the back of our garden and in the gardens beyond there are a number of different trees. Once this whole area was covered with wild forest but it has long been covered in concrete. There are still areas of ancient woodland left within the neighbourhood. In autumn the trees will shed their leaves heralding the winter when they will lie dormant until the coming of spring, their stark skeleton shapes forming an eerie picture on the landscape. Now spring is on its way and so the new leaves are forming, the branches are still quite bare but it will not be too long before they don their summer clothes. Trees can live for a long time. There is at least one tree in the Wye Valley in Gloucestershire that has probably stood on that spot for the last 10,000 years. I don’t suppose that is the only one either. Scientists tell us that by providing a home for the various birds and animals that share this space with us they demonstrate the idea of sustainable development—which acknowledges that human economies, human cultures and biodiversity are inextricably linked.
Trees play an essential role in our Christian faith, too. The Book of Genesis tells us that God planted many trees in the Garden of Eden giving a particularly stern warning to Adam: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:16-17. However, it was not too long before the serpent had tempted Eve to eat an apple from that tree with the inevitable result that they were expelled from Paradise, the Hebrew word for garden. Since Adam and Eve are symbols of Mankind their expulsion reminds us constantly that disobedience to God’s commands – sin for short - will inescapably lead to our separation from Him.
In the last few days we have been called to remember another tree, the tree of Calvary, the tree on which Our Blessed Lord and Saviour was crucified with two criminals whom I believe represent us. To the man who understood who Jesus was and who repented his sins Jesus said: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43.
During the last week as I prayed the Seven Last Words of Christ the following two statements leapt out at me. The first: “The noble tree of the Cross stands in the midst of Paradise” - exactly as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil did. The second: “By a tree we were enslaved; by a tree we are set free.” Like the two criminals we have a choice; repent our sins and be united with Our Blessed Lord and Saviour or reject Him with the inevitable consequences.
Next time you look at the trees moving in the wind remember those two trees.
I am an Authorised Local Preacher in an Anglo Catholic parish church, in the Diocese of Essex UK