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The rings on the tree go round and round

by davesandel on September 3rd, 2021

Friday, September 3, 2021                                         (today’s lectionary)

Memorial of Saint Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church

The rings on the tree go round and round

I am not a religion scholar, and I haven’t read many of the sacred writings proposed and praised by the religions of the world. Today’s reading from Colossians is certainly one of those, and this one, yes, I am familiar with. Its language is lovely, solemn, and grand. Paul lifts Jesus up into the swirling eye of the God-hurricane, from whence has come the heavens and the earth.

Christ Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth,

the visible and the invisible,

whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers –

all things were created through him and for him.

This morning I finished reading the notes in Wise Trees, photographs of many famous and often sacred trees from around the world. These trees have lived hundreds or even thousands of years, and they are surrounded by many stories. As its authors wrote, “Trees can live without us, but we can’t live without them.”

I have my own sacred trees, in Lincoln, Valparaiso, Waynesville Urbana, and now Austin. They have helped me regain perspective, hope and strength on many days. Just now I look out our apartment picture window toward the east and trees obscure the sky, soften the sunrise, bring joy in the morning. Several huge live oaks adorn the landscape of Grace Covenant Church, just a few hundred feet away, across Jollyville Road. Ho, ho, ho! I am grateful to be here, within the green skin of God’s good land.

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the Body, the Church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things, he himself might be pre-eminent.

Of course trees live on through our lynchings and killings and duels, through the ravages of nature and un-nature, sometimes even the careless clear cutting of lumber companies. Trees survive atomic blasts in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and genocide in Cambodia. Our son Chris’ favorite book for a few years was Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. This tree provided shelter and solace for a young boy, who grew up and eventually needed more than the tree could give. The tree found a way anyway, and at last an old man, bearing little resemblance to the young boy he once was, sat down on the tree’s trunk … and rested.

For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross through. Him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.

“And the tree was happy.”

Come with joy into the presence of the Lord. Know that the Lord is God; he made us, his we are.

And as I consider the lilies and the trees … I realize the mystery of a particular cross, hewn from a large tree, perhaps even one of the cedars of Lebanon, giving itself to Jesus.

Do not tear a piece from a new cloak to patch an old one. And do not pour new wine into old wineskins. The new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled. The skins will be ruined.

It’s obvious what Jesus means. He brings a new burst of revelation and recognition of God’s love. As we know that love, we can really DO what we otherwise mostly only talk about, love God with all our hearts so that we can love others as we love ourselves. Jesus shows us the order of this, and he leads us in the way.

I think of the timbers of the cross. I wonder if the rings of whatever tree were there then, visible on Golgotha, as Jesus died. How do you love me, Jesus? Let me count the ways.

(Colossians 1, Psalm 100, John 8, Luke 5)

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