ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Yesterday afternoon part of my family gathered at a church and dedicated a tree here to my daughters' maternal grandparents. (As you can see, young trees, like young people, need support on all sides.)
Their grandfather had died several years ago, and their grandmother this summer. But because each of my daughters has an infant in arms, they couldn't spring away from Kansas City for their grandmother's funeral on short notice. So we all decided to come up here now and dedicate something in memory of Richard C. and Jean A. Bloom.
When I prepared some thoughts I was asked to share for the occasion, I did some reading in the Bible and about the many ways trees figure into Scripture. I was quite taken with the prominent role trees play in both the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament.
I thought you might be interested in the remarks I offered yesterday because they speak about what I found in the Bible. Here's what I said:
It’s astonishing how many times the Bible talks of trees.
Just in the Hebrew Scriptures, or Old Testament, more than 35 different kinds of trees are named, not even counting the Tree of Life, which shows up in Genesis, or the magnificent cedars of Lebanon, which Solomon used in constructing the temple in Jerusalem.
Noah used gopher wood to build the ark, for instance. That was real wood. But there are also many kinds of metaphorical references to trees in the Bible.
We learn in Isaiah chapter 11, for instance, that a shoot shall come up from the stump of Jesse. Stump here means, of course, the family of Jesse. And Christians have understood that shoot to be Jesus because Jesse was the father of David and Jesus was of David’s line.
In between Genesis and Revelation, where we find, in chapter 22, the tree of life that bears a different kind of fruit every month, we find many other references to trees, including the story of little Zacchaeus climbing a tree to get a better look at Jesus.
But, of course, for Christians, our most indelible image of trees is the one on which our savior hung, the cross.
But for our purposes today, as we dedicate this tree, I’d like us to remember a tree image from Psalm 96. That psalm begins this way: “Sing to the Lord a new song,” which is what Jeannie is doing now, in harmony with Dick. Later in the psalm, the singing grows more widespread and joyful. Listen:
“Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them, Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy.”
May this tree join that happy chorus and may its song always remind us of how much Jean and Dick loved trees – and the birds that called those trees home – and of how much all of us loved Dick and Jean.
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Today's religious holiday: Lailat al Bara'ah (Islam).