Seeing the wood for the trees.
Christians do trees, they have no choice.
The Tree of Life is the guarantor of life immortal and eventually, eternal.
And just as there’s a tree on the first page of Genesis and the last page of Revelation, so too the first page of Psalms and of the New Testament (and that a particularly precious one).
As the flood receded, Noah received an olive branch, Abraham in time sat under the oaks of Mamre, Joseph was himself simply, “a tree”.
From Zacchaeus’s sycamore to figs, cursed and otherwise, and the grafting into Israel, whether planted by streams of living water, or mistaken for people as sight was restored, trees are everywhere in the Bible.
Be it the cedar of Noah’s Ark and the olive wood for cherubim, for doors then carved with palm trees, temples of cedar and cypress, acacia for altars and the Ark of the covenant, fir trees for boats or sandalwood, apple, willow and a least a dozen others, they are all there. Whole forests of trees - some of which sing for joy.
Alone, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil poses all the questions every human society needs to answer: First and foremost, is there a God who speaks truth?
But then other questions:
Can we, be sure about what he says and confident he means it?
Can we understand everything or nothing?
Are we able to grasp sufficiently the truth spoken?
Does the truth spoken require another teacher or guru?
Do we accept the dangers of altering truth by addition or subtraction, that good truth might restrict personal liberty or might be at odds with sensual attraction?
Can we choose our own truth from many?
And then, finally: does truth not matter very much at all or are these questions of life and death?
Christians think they are indeed matters of life and death; to violate truth is to invite death, a crisis for humanity, only resolved at another tree. A tree striped of roots and branches, on which the stripped Stump of Jesse was nailed, he who,
“…redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us - for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’’
Today, a tree was planted in Garden at Lambeth Palace, the first in a worldwide, “Anglican Communion Forest” - what an opportunity to share with the world, the most urgent, vital, life-giving, life transforming news in that world - that the curse of death has been removed for us.
This is how the Archbishop of Canterbury - saw events. It is repeated verbatim and without comment,
“Scripture is full of rich descriptions of our natural world and God's love for His creation. “It's the call of the Church to treasure this gift, to stand alongside our brothers and sisters around the Anglican Communion who are already affected by climate change, and to safeguard the environment upon which all of us depend. “I pray the tree planted today in Lambeth Palace will be the beginning of one of the world’s most widespread and diverse environmental projects. “We hope to see landscape protection and care for creation exhibited by churches and parishes in every corner of the world as a historic legacy of the 2022 Lambeth Conference. “Sharing the love of Christ in a suffering world means standing together to shine light and hope in the darkness and despair. “This is at the heart of the mission of the Church and the work of the Lambeth Conference.”
To be entirely fair, he has also made a statement on the purpose-built website,
“We are living at a time of multiple global crises, emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic and with climate change, conflict and an emerging food crisis. In our collective pain, we need symbols and actions of hope.
“The Communion Forest is a symbol and act of hope – something we can do together as God’s Church for God’s World as we journey on from the Lambeth Conference.
“The Communion Forest will take many different forms across the Anglican Communion, reflecting the rich diversity of our global body. I encourage you to join in this exciting initiative in your way, whether by protecting a precious environment, restoring a degraded one or planting something new. All these activities are spiritual acts too, for:
To plant is to hope
To protect is to love
To restore is to heal–to share in God’s reconciling work in all creation.
“Jesus himself is often found outdoors in the gospel narratives. Key moments of his ministry took place on mountain sides, on the Sea of Galilee, in the wilderness and by the Jordan River. On the night before he died, Jesus, found peace as he prayed to his Father in the Garden of Gethsemane amongst the olive trees.
“Please join together in this act of hope, love and healing."