Summary: Was that first tree in the Garden a mistake, or always a part of the plan
There have been some big changes in our sanctuary since last Sunday. What catches your attention the most? For some it is the glow of the advent wreath candles, or the arrangements in the windows but for me, hands down, it’s the tree. For my money there is nothing like a tree. When I was young, I probably spent as much time climbing trees as I did walking around on the ground beneath them. There are few things on this earth as wonderful as their cooling shade when the sun beats down and threatens to melt us with its heat. I have always been intrigued that just when we need most the cool, the trees generously share their canopy with us and when we need most the sun against the winter cold, the leaves are gone so the sun can warm the ground and those who walk on it
My shelves are filled with books, all of them once alive with bark and leaves now, they have become the tablet of our ideas, filling our Bibles and hymnals, filling coloring books and making marriage license – paper is what we read and it is what guides us when we are willing to consult a map but all of this was once alive and growing.
And so I understand why – but almost makes me ill when I see pulpwood trucks clear cutting land- almost as if I have lost some ancient members of my family – and I don’t need you to explain to me about land management or renewable resources, I am just saying, I prefer to see the trees.
The only time I really want to see a tree meet its end, is if it can be in a fire that I can sit beside- We have a fireplace at the parsonage – and it is one of those wonderful things, where you just turn a dial and a flame appears and heats up the house in a hurry and stays on as long as we pay the gas bill – but really – with all its convenience – it cannot touch a real fire – I know they are messy and can be dangerous and require a lot more work – but the smell and the crackle and pop – you lose something in the translation to a gas fireplace – looks like wood – looks like fire – but it does not touch my soul
Yes, in all the ways in which they touch our lives, there is some mystical, almost magical about trees. We are drawn to them. Perhaps there is something in our spiritual DNA that remembers the tree as significant. How appropriate it is to start Advent with a tree because the tree is exactly where ADVENT begins. (Read all Genesis chapter 3)
When you look at the story of where we came from and how we came to be the people that we are today you are left with at least a couple of observations about the events in the Garden: That either God was taken by surprise by all this, Or He wasn’t. Either he was awakened suddenly by an angel and told of the emergency in the garden, or he completely saw this coming.
Now on the side of being surprised, you can make a good argument. There is a rule and it is serious and God was certainly not winking when he said stay away from the tree. When He shows up and there is an investigation into what happened and there is punishment handed out. So it would be easy to say that He was shocked when this man this woman and this serpent pull one over on him. And I might be willing to take it just that way, except for the tree. Like I said, I love trees, but this one, this one in the garden, I might have thought we could do without. But I think this tree is the primary piece of evidence that God was not the least bit taken by surprise at Adam and Eve’s action.
There are I think, four things about this tree that argue against not only God not being surprised, but in fact, that this tree and the choices made there being a part of the plan the whole time. I think that this tree was always supposed to be a part of the story, here are my four reasons why.
First it is PRESENT. We have no problem saying that God put every other tree in the garden, and if He did, then He also put this tree here too, but why? Why is it here? If the tree was not going to be a part of the story from the start then why even include it at all. If you have young children – or grandkids or teach them you know that you don’t put a cookie in front of them and say – Now Don’t Touch THIS! You are asking for problems Did he not do this on purpose? This tree is placed here by God and it is done on purpose and with purpose. It is part of all that God said was good. I think that God always meant that the tree would be a part of the story, because, He himself, includes it.