The Beauty of Trees, and The Righteous
Yesterday I preached on Psalm 1 which creates a clear contrast between the righteous and the wicked. The Psalmist uses two very clear images to make this contrast - the Tree and chaff. Psalm 1 paints a picture of a righteous person - one who does not ‘follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers.’ Instead, the Psalmist remarks, ‘their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water…’ As we talked about this beautiful Psalm, the challenge became clear - we as Christ-followers should desire to be like trees. But there are so many wonderful, inspiring characteristics of trees that I didn’t have time to enumerate them all yesterday, so I thought I’d spend some time doing so this week. And one of the first and most important characteristics of the Tree is beauty.
When is the last time you stopped and admired a tree? Trees are truly beautiful. As I’ve spent some time this week thinking about trees, researching trees and looking more intently at trees, this point has come through again and again. For instance, have you ever heard of the ‘Angel Oak’ in John’s Island, South Carolina? It’s sprawling, fern-covered branches are a tangle of beauty. This tree is truly a gift to us.
Or how about the Rainbow Eucalyptus In Kauai, Hawaii? The trunk of this magnificent tree is a veritable explosion of colors!
Amazing, isn't it, that God has provided such diversity, color and beauty in trees? What other works of art might there be in the immensity of God's created order? Oh, I'm so glad you asked - I'm just getting started!
Have you ever seen a 144 year old Japanese Wisteria tree? These gorgeous trees prefer to move outward rather than upward. With dazzling blooms and far-reaching branches, this might truly be the most beautiful shade tree God ever created!
Is there anything more enchanting than walking
through a tree tunnel? What about this beautiful
Maple tree tunnel in Oregon?
And of course, not to be out-done, Kansas City has some beautiful tree tunnels of its own! How about this one, which can be found in front of the Nelson-Atkins Museum?
Thank you to Michelle Gould (michellegouldphotography.com) for this phenomenal picture, and thanks to 'model' Abbagael Johnson, for adding a beauty of her own! Right here in our own back yard, we have trees that literally shine like gold and reflect the beauty of a Sun so hot and bright that only Our Father could have created it.
All of these trees, and their magnificent beauty, can literally take our breath away. They captivate us and inspire us and cause us to pause and give thanks to God for God's artistic genius. They compel us to slow down, turn our faces upward and recognize that nature's beauty is one of God's greatest, and most neglected gifts. And we, as God's people, are called and challenged to be like these trees. We are not just called to be like trees in their strength and fruitfulness (which we will talk about later this week). We are called to be like trees planted by steams of water...who's leaves do not wither.' We are called to be beautiful.
This call to be beautiful comes from the very beginning of our story - in Genesis 1:27 we hear that God created us in God's image. We are reminded in numerous places in the Psalms that God is the most beautiful being in the universe - “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4) We believe God is beautiful. We believe Our Father has created beautiful things and placed them all around us to remind us of His beauty. We believe, as the Psalmist reminds us, that those who look to our Father are radiant (Ps. 34.5). But sometimes I think we forget the most amazing truth of all - 'For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. (Ephesians 2:10, NLT). So go, go and be beautiful today - more beautiful than the most beautiful tree - and be radiant reminders of Our Beautiful Father - remembering each moment of this day that 'the Righteous...are like trees planted by streams of water...whose leaf does not wither.' (Ps. 1)