Art: “Yggdrasil,” by Caleb Prewitt, used with artist’s permission
Written by Lauren Lobenhofer, Lead Pastor of Cave Spring UMC
From one ancestor he made all peoples to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps fumble about for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’”Acts 17:26-28a
I pass probably a hundred trees every day on the short drive between my home and my church, but most days I don’t even see them. My eyes pass over them as I’m steering the car, but my thoughts are usually focused on the to do list for the day or the next event on my calendar or the podcast on the stereo. Most of the time I take those trees entirely for granted. Still, despite my inattentiveness, the trees carry on making my existence possible.
These trees I so often overlook are constantly doing the work of photosynthesis; they remove the carbon dioxide that would suffocate us and turn it into oxygen that gives life to our bodies. Their branches give us shade from the sun and shelter from the rain. Their deep root systems hold the soil in place so that the land on which we build our homes, streets, and businesses doesn’t erode and collapse beneath us. The trees surround me constantly with their life-giving presence, but they are so quiet, so steadfastly just there that I become inattentive to them.
Perhaps that is why in the Scriptures trees are so often a sign of God’s presence and providence. From the trees in Eden where God walked with the first humans to the oaks of Mamre where God appeared to Abraham to the tree of life in the New Jerusalem in Revelation, trees point to God’s life-giving power and commitment to the good of God’s children. These towering plants remind us that it is in God that we have life, that we have air to breathe and ground to walk upon. They remind us that God is always near, upholding our very existence. They are a sign of God’s sustaining presence, and an invitation to cultivate our awareness of that presence.
Theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher once wrote that the essence of the Christian faith is the “feeling of absolute dependence”, that is, an awareness, a trust, that our entire existence depends on God. We are called to trust completely in God’s power, to recognize that it is in Christ, and not any other power, that we live and move and have our being. We are invited to become attentive to that dependence, to choose consciously to place our trust in God’s power.
That is why I moved those trees I overlook on my daily drive into a place where I am more likely to see them: My mantel. This piece, “Yggdrasil”, hangs over the fireplace in my house. I put it in a place where I will see it daily because it reminds me of the sustaining power of God. When I see that enormous root system I think of the life-giving work of the Almighty that so often passes beneath my notice. I look at this piece and I remember that God’s provision upholds me every single moment.
What signs of God’s sustaining power are around you today? How could you become more attentive to those signs? For God’s life-giving presence surrounds us, God is upholding us even now. Thanks be to God! Amen.
Find previous “Picturing God” entries here:
Monday, March 27: In Which Basil the Great Annoys an American
Art: “In Which Basil the Great Annoys an American” by Charlie Baber, used with artist’s permission Available online at:…
Friday, March 24: The Ladder and the Cross
Art: “Nailing of Christ to the Cross (Cell 36)” by Fra Angelico (born Guido di Pietro), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons Available online at:…
Wednesday, March 22: The True Meaning of the Scapegoat
Art: “Sending Out the Scapegoat” by William James Webb, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons Available online at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Webb_Sending_Out_the_Scapegoat.jpg Written…
Monday, March 20: Abraham’s Sacrifice
Art: “Abraham’s Sacrifice” by Rembrandt Van Rijn, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons Available online at:…
Friday, March 17: The Trinity
Art: “The Trinity,” by Andrei Rublev, Public domain, via Wikimedia CommonsCollection, Whitworth University Library, Spokane Available online at:…