Hope In the Tree of the Cross

Scripture Focus: Job 14.7-9, 14-17
7 “At least there is hope for a tree: 
If it is cut down, it will sprout again, 
and its new shoots will not fail. 
8 Its roots may grow old in the ground 
and its stump die in the soil, 
9 yet at the scent of water it will bud 
and put forth shoots like a plant.

14 If someone dies, will they live again? 
All the days of my hard service 
I will wait for my renewal to come. 
15 You will call and I will answer you; 
you will long for the creature your hands have made. 
16 Surely then you will count my steps 
but not keep track of my sin. 
17 My offenses will be sealed up in a bag; 
you will cover over my sin. 

Psalm 22.1, 31
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? 
Why are you so far from saving me, 
so far from my cries of anguish?
31 They will proclaim his righteousness, 
declaring to a people yet unborn: 
He has done it! 

Reflection: Hope In the Tree of the Cross
By John Tillman

“At least there is hope for a tree…”

This phrase sparked a memory. I remembered the phrase, “I want to be a tree,” but I didn’t remember its source. When I looked it up I was reminded of the remarkably strange world of 80s British music videos and Tim Pope’s song, “I Want to Be a Tree.” 

I’m sure I heard this song during the early days of MTV (when they used to play music) and the phrase must have stuck in my memory. Pope is most well known for his music videos for David Bowie, The Cure, and others. 

Pope’s song is mostly tongue-in-cheek escapism but buried in the humorous lyrics are the roots of real issues. At first he wants to escape attention and life’s annoyances. He obliquely references the Eden narrative. He then hopes to escape “World War Three.” Today’s crisis-centered culture is fraught with uncertainty about many things but it is hard to explain how inescapable nuclear annihilation seemed to GenXers and how powerless we felt about it. 

Job’s lament is more desperate and is grounded in suffering that is more intense than Pope, or most of us, ever will know. Job’s thoughts also take us deeper into the promises of God. 

Job planted his hopes in God. The idea that God will raise humans to eternal life is a seed in Job. It develops in the Psalms and other scriptures and blooms in the gospels. 

Today we also read Psalm 22, referenced by Jesus from the tree of the cross. It begins, like Job, questioning God’s abandonment, but ends triumphantly, celebrating God’s victory. “He has done it,” Psalm 22’s last line proclaims. “It is finished,” Christ’s last breath from the cross echoes. (John 19.30; Psalm 22.31)

Our hope is found not in becoming a tree but in laying down our lives and being transformed by the cross of Christ. The cross—the cruel instrument of death—becomes a blossoming tree of life from which we are free to partake. (Genesis 2.16; 3.22-24; Proverbs 11.30; Revelation 2.7; 22.1-2, 14

At the roots of the tree of the cross, we find healing, peace, and power. As we follow Christ, we will become like this tree. Grafted into the Root of Jesse, (Romans 11.16-21) we bloom in deserts of suffering. We protect others under our branches and shade. We bless the earth, bringing up water of life and healing for the nations.

When grown to maturity, a Christian is like a tree. (Psalm 1.3)

Further Study: Humans are… Trees? From The Bible Project Podcast

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Our sins are stronger than we are, but you will blot them out. — Psalm 65.3

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Job 14 (Listen – 2:23)
Psalm 22 (Listen – 3:49)

This Weekend’s Readings
Job 15 (Listen – 3:23), Psalm 23-24 (Listen – 2:03)
Job 16-17 (Listen – 3:40), Psalm 25 (Listen – 2:18)

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Read more about Praise from a Stump
In Isaiah chapter 11, we see this shamed, humbled tree being miraculously restored.

Humbled by the Heavens :: A Guided Prayer

Psalm 19.1
The heavens declare the glory of God;
   the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

Reflection: Humbled by the Heavens :: A Guided Prayer
By John Tillman

In our world many have a temporal superiority complex that author, Michael Crichton described as being a “temporal provincial.” These are those who think or behave as if their position in the present automatically proves them more intelligent, more capable, more resourceful, and more “human” than those who lived in prior ages. One of the side effects of evolutionary thought is falling into the trap of believing that modernity is automatically an upgrade.

Clothed in our modern superiority, we often look down at ancient peoples, thinking that they looked up at the sky and fell into religion through ignorance and scientific ineptitude. But as the scientific tools at our disposal give us greater levels of information, we remain stunned into awe at the size and scope of what we still don’t know.

As the world gazes in wonder at evidence of black holes that New York Times writer, Dennis Overbye called, “the image of the unobservable,” David’s ancient psalm tells us where to learn about our “unobservable” God—in the heavens. This weekend, reflect and pray through David’s psalm extolling the undeniable, wordless speech of God through the wonder of his creation that we, like David, can see with our naked eyes, if we will but open them.

Humbled by the Heavens

The heavens declare the glory of God;
   the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
   night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
   no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
   their words to the ends of the world.

God, we stand in awe on our tiny planet.

You have placed us here among deserts, seas, and mountains that seem incredibly vast, yet they are just imperceptible ridges on the tiny ball of our planet.

And, in the vast darkness of space, our tiny blue dot of light seems so insignificant compared to the other great lights of the sky that you have created.

Thank you for heavens that humble us, Lord.

Without words, let us hear your glory, see your law, experience your touch and your love.

Yet you gave us more than wordless wonder, Lord. You send your Word, your Son, Jesus, to clarify your commands and enlighten our understanding.

The commands of the Lord are radiant,
   giving light to the eyes.

Give our eyes your light. Give our actions your powerful love. Give our words your persuasive persistence and care. Make us instruments through which the world can see your magnificent presence.

Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Everyone will stand in awe and declare God’s deeds; they will recognize his works. — Psalm 64.9

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 16 (Listen – 5:36)
Psalm 19 (Listen – 1:52)

This Weekend’s Readings
Leviticus 17 (Listen – 2:39) Psalm 20-21 (Listen – 2:37)
Leviticus 18 (Listen – 3:46) Psalm 22 (Listen – 3:49)

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Read more about The Materialist Cosmos :: Throwback Thursday
If the cosmos of the materialist is the real cosmos, it is not much of a cosmos. The whole of life is something much more grey, narrow, and trivial than many separate aspects of it.

Read more about In The Face of Wonder :: A Guided Prayer
The freedom the world seeks is freedom to dominate, dictate, and destroy. This freedom is a lie that seeks power and blessing for ourselves.
May we seek instead the freedom to serve, to create, and to restore. We can do this only in your power and through your Holy Spirit.