As I have done in previous Lents I am sharing a daily reflection as part of my Lenten discipline. This year I am using the “Wilderness Wanderings” theme compiled by the “Lent Photo a Day” group. The word appointed for February 24th was “Tree.”
I grew up Washington, also known as “The Evergreen State.” It’s a state with beautiful trees, woodlands, and forests. In my backyard growing up it would not be uncommon to spend long periods of time playing in the woods, climbing the trees, and looking for lost baseballs in amid the ferns and undergrowth.
I am particularly thinking about the large maple in the backyard. When covered in leaves it provides such amazing amounts of shade. Of course, in the fall, it also helps makes the biggest leaf pile you can play in that you could imagine.
Thinking about trees, trees that last have a strong foundation with an impressive root system. Trees that grow, grow up and out, as the roots continue to take hold. In some ways trees are a good metaphor for life and faith. They grow over time and are effected by things outside of their control- the weather, other creatures (or people), insects or diseases, etc. Trees have also long been a source of wood for heat, for paper, and wood for building and construction.
Thinking theologically, trees not only provided the wood that became the manger that held the baby Jesus, they also provided the wood that would become a cross on which he would die in the crucifixion. Sadly, trees did not stop being used as a means of death with the end of crucifixions. In the United States, racism, hate, evil, and bigotry led to trees being used as “lynching trees.”
Trees, symbols of life that grow as part of God’s good creation, throughout history have been horribly misused as means and tools of public death and shame. If you have never read James Cone’s The Cross and the Lynching Tree, I highly encourage you to read this powerful, painful, and important book which digs into this further.
As we journey through Lent to the painful reminder of the tree(s) that became the cross, I am also reminded of this weekend’s appointed gospel passage which includes the parable of the man with the fig tree (Luke 13:1-9). In the parable the gardener says,
“Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.” (Luke 13:8-9).
Healthy trees bear fruit, much like healthy lives. Some times it just takes a little time to see what shape they might be, or what kind of fruit they might bear.
How in your life are you bearing fruit? In what ways might the way you are living, serving, learning, and/or doing, be having an impact on your communities in the world? What fruit or seeds might you be planting or bearing?