There’s Something About a Tree . . .

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June 12, 2018

Genesis 21:32-34

32 After the treaty had been made at Beersheba, Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces returned to the land of the Philistines. 33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the Lord, the Eternal God. 34 And Abraham stayed in the land of the Philistines for a long time.

CONSIDER THIS

I’ve shared here before about my Father’s nearly forty year tenure as the teacher of the five year old Sunday School Class at the First United Methodist Church of Dumas, Arkansas. One of his class traditions in those early years was to plant a tree together on the church grounds. Those trees became longstanding, living reminders, flourishing markers of the fragile immovability of faith, growth, and relationship.

I will forever remember one of the great acts of clerical malfeasance when the pastor (at the time) decided that the first and then tallest tree needed to be removed to make room for new landscaping on the church property. I remember it like an untimely death as it has become something of a parable in my memory concerning the incredulity of the church of our time.

Something about a commemorative tree says something beyond the comprehension of so-called permanent memorials made of concrete and steel. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a tree must be worth millions.

Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, 

So often in Scripture we see our forebears making altars or stacking stones as markers of the Lord’s mighty acts of salvation and grace. It strikes me that these are meant to point backwards, causing reflective remembrance on God’s mighty acts. A tree, on the other hand, means to point us forward into the generative possibilities of the future. A tree, planted in the way Abraham planted this tamarisk tree, is more than symbolic. It is a sign. A sign is a symbol that does more than stand for a deeper meaning. It participates in the meaning.

and there he called on the name of the Lord, the Eternal God.

In other words, the tree not only symbolizes the prayer, in a far deeper and mysterious way, the tree is the prayer. The roots grow deep. The trunk grows upward and imperceptibly outward. The branches and leaves grow outward with abundant flourishing bearing both flower and fruit and finally seed.

Abraham lived in a land promised him by God and yet as a stranger. The ancient sign of a tree bridges the distance between the already and not yet dimensions of faith and future, between earth and sky, history and eternity, loss and reward, even death and resurrection.

THE PRAYER

Lord Jesus, you are right here, right now. You teach us through trees, from Eden to the fig tree to the Cross itself. May I learn from your life the ways of your Spirit, who would make me like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season and whose leaves do not wither. Lead me into the only true prosperity, which is your Kingdom—on Earth as it is  in Heaven. Right here, Jesus. Right now, Jesus. Amen.

THE QUESTIONS

  1. We all have “tree” stories. Consider sharing yours with your band or in our Facebook Group or with your family around the table today.
  2. What biblical tree stories were brought to mind as you read today’s text and entry? What can be learned about the mystery of prayer in and through them?
  3. I want you to pray about planting a tree in the coming season of your own life. The Lord is awakening new things in your life and faith and bringing them together around you. It needs to be signed and sealed and marked in a tangible fashion. Perhaps we will do it in some measure together at the close of this series on prayer. Let’s start praying about it now.

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed’s Sower-in-Chief.

2 COMMENTS

  1. My Mom taught me the poem that starts with the words, “I hope that I shall never see a poem as beautiful as a tree….”. I hope to be more like a tree, reaching heaven ward with deep roots.

  2. Before I sat down to read the Daily Tex this morning, I clarified a thought that had been chasing around in my head for a while: When I returned to the United Methodist Church in 1981 as a young adult, I believed I was returning to my spiritual roots. Turns out I was returning to a specific way of “doing church”. Thanks to an unlikely assortment of teachers–at least by my standards because they crisscrossed denominational lines and/or had what I thought were questionable roots themselves–I finally have spiritual roots. I have an understanding of God and myself that I never thought possible.

    At the very beginning was this pastor who was the “wrong everything”–his faith had come to fruition long before he became a pastor and an official part of the church. Later, the theological journey began in earnest with John Wesley. Then there was the foray into the Calvinist leaning Heidelberg which produced three very unlikely teachers—I now even have a favorite young Calvinist. Then last but not least was stumbling into seedbed.com very early in its life. Seedbed and the Daily Text is where I have continually received confirmation of what I learned elsewhere, as well as encouragement to apply what I had learned to my daily life. I finally understand my true spiritual roots which–in a sense–had been there all along but had never had a chance to grow. Thanks to J. D. I also finally understand that my spiritual roots have a beginning in a strong sense of orthodoxy that is “not very common in today’s church”—an important thing to understand when I do interact with the people at my local church.

    It has been a very costly journey—as M. Craig Barnes states in “Sacred Thirst”:

    “We never want to get too sentimental about grace. While most days it is God’s gentle refreshment to our souls, sometimes the river comes as a terrifying reminder that our lives are out of control. On stormy days, we may wonder if it was such a good idea to live so close to the stream. We may even wish that God would just leave us alone. But if the storm sweeps away everything that is not spiritually rooted, then even that is grace. The point of God’s grace is not to be nice to us but to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. It carries us home to God, sometimes on a gentle stream, sometimes on a raging torrent, but always back to God.”

    Thank you, I think.
    betsy :0)

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