Divine Wood: An Easter Reading

1st Reader:

Lord,

Help us focus on ordinary things to understand the extraordinary life of Jesus and how He teaches us to be human. Help us understand Easter with our hearts as well as our minds.  Amen.

2nd Reader

Maples trees in winter

Windows look out at oak and maple trees and oak and maple trees sit outside looking in, backdropping our lives. Wood. Furniture, houses, trees. Part of everyday modern life.

3rd Reader

Cypress Trees

Wood. furniture, houses, trees, part of the life of Jesus.

Jesus knew trees. Willow, tamarisk, cypress, mulberry, olive trees grow in the Holy land.

4th Reader

Olive Trees

Olive trees and whispering winds were there at his birth. A hymn by Katherine Parker expresses it:  “Winds through the olive trees, Softly did blow, Round little Bethlehem, Long, long, ago”…

5th Reader

Jesus grew up with trees. Besides enjoying their beauty, he appreciated how useful they were. Jesus and Joseph, his father, worked with wood in their carpenter shop. Jesus felt the smooth patina of wood under his fingers and brought it to life as he shaped chairs and bowls. His fingers curled around a broom as he swept up sawdust. J.Edgar Park wrote in his hymn We Would See Jesus, “Light of the village life from day to day, shining revealed through every task most lowly..”

6th Reader

Mount Tabor

Christian tradition says that the Transfiguration of Jesus took place on Mount Tabor, located in Lower Galilee, eleven miles west of the Sea of Galilee. Oak trees grew on Mount Tabor and acorns must have littered the ground during some parts of the year. When Jesus and Peter, James, and John were on Mount Tabor, they heard a voice saying: “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” Irish Christian Dallan Forgaill expressed the importance of the Transfiguration in his hymn, Be Thou My Vision, “Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.” A much less serious vision is Peter slipping on an acorn on the way back down the mountain!

7th Reader

Jesus used the common touch of wood, a touch he knew well, to reach and relate to people. Wood cemented the relationship between Zacchaeus and Jesus. As Jesus passed through Jericho, Zacchaeus, a wealthy tax collector, wanted to see him. A short man, Zacchaeus, couldn’t see over the crowd so he came up with a plan.  He ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him. Jesus looked up in the tree and saw Zacchaeus. Jesus told Zacchaeus to climb down. The children’s Bible chorus reveals what happens next when it says, “For I’m going to your house today.”

8th Reader

Date palms

Palms on Palm Sunday

Date palms, majestic tall trees, grow abundantly in the Holy land. Their long and large leaves spread out from the top of a single trunk that can grow to more than 50 feet tall. In Bible times, the tallest trees grew at Jericho, which was known as the city of palm trees. and along the banks of the Jordan River. King Solomon directed his artisans to carve palm branches into the walls and doors of his temple.

Palm branches symbolized goodness, steadfastness, victory.  People viewed them as symbols of joy and triumph and used them to commemorate festive occasions, like the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Biblical scholars say that people scattering palms in front of Jesus riding the donkey welcomed him as a Jewish Messiah rather than the Son of God coming to save the world. John Baptiste Faure in his hymn The Palms celebrated Jesus as the savior of the world when he wrote, “join all and sing His name declare, Let ev’ry voice resound with acclamation, Hosanna! Praised be the Lord, Bless Him, who cometh to bring us salvation.”

9th Reader

Olive Trees in Gethsemane

The garden at Gethsemane, a place whose name literally means “oil press,” is located on a slope of the Mount of Olives just across the Kidron Valley from Jerusalem. A garden of ancient olive trees stands there to this day. Jesus frequently went to Gethsemane with His disciples to pray. 

Go to Dark Gethsemane by James Montgomery. “Go to dark Gethsemane, you who feel the tempter’s pow’r, Your Reeemer’s conflict see, Watch with Him one bitter hour, Turn not from His griefs away. Learn of Jesus Christ to pray.

10th Reader

Dogwood Trees

A chant called Behold The Wood of the Cross published in the New English Hymnal contains these words: “Because I brought thee out of the land of Egypt thou hast prepared a Cross for the Saviour.” There are many legends and possibilities surrounding the kind of wood used to make the cross to crucify Christ.  

The four most common wood types in Jerusalem are Jerusalem Pine, Mediterranean Cyprus; Olive; and Red River Gum, which is a eucalyptus tree. Some people speculate that pine wood, which is plentiful, cheap, strong, and flexible, could have been used to make the cross. King Solomon’s temple featured some pine wood in less ornate spots because although pine wood is strong, it isn’t always pretty.

One of the legends say that in ancient times the dogwood tree used to grow tall and strong until its wood was used to crucify Christ. Stricken and ashamed, the dogwood tree apologized to God and since the time of the crucifixion God did not allow the dogwood tree to grow large enough to be used to make a cross. The dogwood blooms in April when Easter Sunday marks the resurrection of Christ. 

11th Reader

Judas Tree

Jesus was laid to rest in Joseph of Arimathea’s rock tomb, but it was located in a garden with trees. The most common trees growing in Jerusalem included Jerusalem Pine, Mediterranean Cypress, Olive trees, and Red River Gum. Judas Trees or Redbuds also grew in Jerusalem. A Christian legend gave the Judas Tree its name. The legend says that all

Redbuds or Judas Trees were tall, strong, and stately trees that produced beautiful white flowers until Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus. Judas chose to hang himself from a Redbud tree and from that time on, the Redbud tree became known as the Judas Tree. The Judas Tree was so ashamed that Judas had chosen it for his death that it would not grow big or strong enough for anyone to use it for hanging. From the hanging of Judas Iscariot the Redbud wood would be brittle and the flowers no longer white, but a blush red.

Robert Lowry in his hymn “Up From the Grave He Arose,” described the miracle of the resurrection of Christ. “Death cannot keep its prey, Jesus my Savior, He tore the bars away, Jesus my Lord! Up from the grave He arose, With a mighty triumph o’re his foes, He arose a victor from the dark domain, And He lives forever with his Saints to reign.  He arose! He arose! Halleluiah! Christ arose!”

12th Reader

Lord,

Help us see that things we think are ordinary, things like trees, are part of the extraordinary world you created for us and your extraordinary son that you sent to redeem us and give us eternal life.

Help us remember that faith even as tiny as an acorn can grow bigger than our earthly lives. Help us remember that the roots of trees growing by graves gradually cause them to crumble like Christ’s resurrection and his love cause our sins and our guilt to crumble. Amen