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From the West Regional Pastor: Trees Endure for Generations

March 1, 2019 No Comment

By: Rev. Robert Mohns

Rev. Robert Mohns

Trees endure for generations. They present a powerful contrast with human mortality. “There is hope for a tree,” says the book of Job.

“If it is cut down it will sprout again;
Its tender shoots will not cease.
If its roots are old in the earth,
And its stump dies in the ground,
At the scent of water it will bud
And produce branches like a sapling.
But man dies and is laid low;
He breathes his last; where is he?”

“He breathes his last; where is he?” It’s the finality of death that is hardest when someone we love is gone. When the things which we have cherished come to an end. We keep bumping up against the permanence of their absence again and again, hurting ourselves each time. Are they lost to us forever?

Friends the days of our Alberta, British Columbia District have come to an end. There is but a shell that remains. Some familiar faces and places are gone. A few of our congregations may close the doors of their sanctuaries, some may disband. There is a sense of loss, of grief over such things taking place among us and there is a period of mourning which we acknowledge is taking place.

In midst of endings and changes and the unknown future, I am reminded of an article written by celebrated author Walter Wangerin Jr., which directs our attention to the trees that are mentioned in the scriptures. The following is a recollection of that article.

When you think about it, humanity’s existence has always been intertwined with trees; so it should not be surprising that trees are used in many of our celebrations.

In the beginning, the Bible reminds us that there stood two trees in Eden’s garden. The tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Of the latter tree holy scripture tells us that Satan tempted our first parents and they did eat of that tree and so the curse entered the world. Now for the first time God and humanity were separated, their perfect relationship of love destroyed.

Now move to the days of good ol’ Noah. By hewn, hauled and hammered Gopher trees Noah built the ark. And God sealed Noah and his family, eight in all, and delivered them from evil; It was the sign of the olive tree that alerted Noah and his family that the day of their deliverance was at hand. When God dried up the land we can only imagine what great joy and merry making arose when Noah and his family left the ark.

Now let’s dig a little deeper into the scriptures. Consider Abraham and his son Isaac who carried the wood for the sacrifice that God had demanded of Abraham, the sacrifice of his only son laid upon that wood. And it was God who provided a ram caught in woody thickets as the substitute sacrifice.

On our horizon appears Moses. By means of a tree, a bright glowing bush, God alerted Moses to what he was about to do. By means of a tree fashioned into a shepherd’s staff God convinced Moses to lead his people to freedom. By means of that staff, the people pass through the depths of the sea on dry ground, drank water when thirsty in the wilderness. By means of that wooden staff lifted high for all to see the venom of snakes was treated and people destined to die in the desert were healed.

These same sacred scriptures tell us that the great cedars of Lebanon hewn, hauled and hammered provided wood for the temple of Solomon. It was coals from burnt wood that provided for the sacrifice and incense for prayer at the hours of the day, a pleasing aroma to God. And it was fruit from the olive tree that provided oil for the people to light their homes to their great joy and enjoyment.

Finally, a tree that divides all history was raised. On that tree fashioned into the shape of a cross, the tree of the One man’s scorn and shame, hewn, hauled and hammered was hung the deliverance of all the world. And that man, the God-Man whom the scriptures call, “the second Adam,” cried out to God His Father in a loud voice of triumph, “It is finished, Father into your hands I commit my spirit.”

But hang on! There is one more tree that we need to think about. You will find this tree at the very end of sacred Scripture on the last page of St. John’s Revelation. In Revelation 22:1-3 John records, “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb  through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed.”

This tree has always been there. It is the long-forgotten tree of Eden, the tree of life. Now this tree points to the creator and sustainer of all things who abundantly provides for all peoples and nations. Gone is the curse and with it all cursing.  What joy is to be had as the Lord gathers up His Church to life in the presence of this tree, the tree of our healing.

St. John declares to the Lord’s Church undergoing persecution that God has provided for the healing of wounded souls. For God’s elect of every time and place this promised deliverance has stilled anxious and fear-filled souls.

In fulfillment of His promise He has provided deliverance for us in the coming of the Root of Jesse. And He continues to fulfill His promise. In our day the Lord is about the work of healing His people, His Church in the gracious provisions of His Word and His Holy Sacraments. We would do well to regularly receive these gracious provisions.

Our lives are intricately bound up in the Root of Jesse, whose name is Jesus. Grafted into Jesus our hope is day by day renewed and our courage restored. Job asked where is he that is laid low? We can give bold testimony proclaiming, his life is now hidden in Christ Jesus.

In Christ, where we would see endings and loss, the Lord points us to fulfillment, as the saints on earth are transferred from the Church of Grace to the Church of Glory and His Church Triumphant continues to grow. Where we see closures and endings the Lord is providing a new beginning, a new sprout, new possibilities. Where we see setback, the Lord is moving us ever forward fulfilling the work of His Church on earth.

Rooted firmly in Christ my earnest prayer for you and for me as we journey together today and, in the days, ahead is the prayer for the Lord’s church on pilgrimage, “Lord God, You have called Your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go but only that Your hand is leading us and Your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

In Christ,