Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Living Dead Tree

This post is a week late due to a family crisis.

Everyday this past week I took a long walk from the hospital to the downtown.  And on each occasion I passed over a small stream.  A large birch tree had been ripped from the ground and cast down over the slow moving water.  The lower quarter of its long trunk lay partially submerged; the remainder of its height curved upward above the water.  Remarkably, despite the fact the tree was as good as dead, its crown was luxuriant with green leaves.  The incongruity of the situation haunted me with each passing until I finally realized why.

Life is like that tree.  Life is fragile.  Even in its strongest incarnations, life will succumb to death--either sooner or later--eventually.  Yet life is also resilient.  Life tenaciously clings to life.  Like that odd tree, life often defies death, causing death to submit to life as the highest order.  And, of course, this is perfectly so;  God is the God of the living;  God created a universe for living, not dying.

That defiant tree also revealed to me what we--the human race--the sole creatures created in the image of God--had become.  We are a living dead, which perhaps explains our fascination with zombies and vampires.  At the beginning we rebelled against our creator and cut ourselves off from the source of life and entered death, which became for us both a physical mortality and a permanent spiritual death.  We think we are alive; but as with that felled tree, our current life is nothing but a caricature of the fulfilled life we were created for.  We believe our life--as short and tenuous as it is--proves us capable of living independent of our creator.  But all we are really experiencing is the afterglow of the incomprehensible power of creation--green leaves sprouting from branches long before blackened by death.

Then again, I found great hope in that paradoxical tree.  As with Aaron's rod that budded, that tree promised resurrection.  Despite the fact we all deserve death,  God loves us and wants us to live--not for only a short time, but forever--not tenuously, but truly.  God is telling us, "Look! I who breathed life into inanimate matter, will also breathe life into what is permanently dead."  It is just as John taught us:

"In Him was life, and life was the light of Humankind.  And the light is shining in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome the light." [John 1:4-5][my translation]

When John speaks of darkness, he doesn't mean the absence of physical light but the all encompassing effects of death: the fatal lie of our conceit and the sin it engenders--the ever-burgeoning disorder we cause through our stubborn free-fall away from the light.

But God is overcoming this darkness.  Those green leaves of that dead tree promise that God will lift that tree up someday and plant it permanently in a ground that will nourish it forever.  God will lift us up and plant us in Christ, so that in Him we will live--both physically and spiritually--and live to the fullest.  Christ is the light that is shining in the darkness.  God has intervened on our behalf through His one and only and unique Son, Jesus the Christ.  All we need do is believe Him by accepting the life He is extending to us by grasping hold of Christ by trusting Him through obedient love:

"But all those who received Him [Jesus], He gave them authority to be children of God--to all those who are believing in His name." [John 1:12][my translation]

By taking on flesh and dwelling among us, God--consistent with His Love and Justice--both overcame death for us, and foreshadowed the intimate life we will have with Him forever in His kingdom.  Think about it; we can become the children of God--not mere creatures, but members of His eternal family.  And God has done this; God has accomplished what we could not accomplish for ourselves:

"[Children] not born on the basis of blood-lines, nor the will of the flesh, nor the will of man, but [children] who were born of God." [John 1:13][my translation]

Even though I felt the weight of death about me this past week, even though the transience of life saddened my soul, that living dead tree taught me that it is really death whose number is up; the God of the universe is the God of the living.  And death will not overcome life; indeed, life has already overcome death.  Today, kneel before the King Jesus and live.