Tuesday, October 14, 2003


Scripture and Trees

The Visual Arts Ministry of our church was formed during the summer of 2000, and for the first time this year we finally have a budget. It’s been a very frustrating wait. Fortunately, we have a fabulous gallery area in our Mill Run building which we call “The Upper Room” and hope to soon have our hanging system installed at our Lytham Road location. The Mill Run gallery space will soon be hosting the Central Ohio Watercolor Society (or as our publicity says, the COWS are coming).

The first choice of the Visual Arts Ministry for a purchase is a very large drawing of a tree by Linda Langhorst. There is no way to look at this piece and not see numerous Biblical passages. Although this particular piece is not on her web site, you can see others here. Linda works in graphite, charcoal and watercolor and has a background in agriculture.

There is a recently reviewed title Republic of Shade by Thomas J. Campanella, Yale University Press, 2003 which includes the following:

"In typological terms, trees in Scripture act like giant words, expressing not only the general glory of God but also more specific themes. Both trees and saints come out of the ground. Both grow on riverbanks (Ps. 1) and bring food and medicine to the world; "their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing" (Ez. 47:12; cf. Rev. 22:2). Jotham preached "the trees once went forth to anoint a king over them," and the blind man healed began to see men as trees walking. Trees are images of humans, and they reflect our own fruitfulness, hubris, and decay.

And God manifests himself at trees—"arboreal theophanies," [James] Jordan says—like those in Eden and in front of Moses but also in the careful wood of the Tabernacle and Temple, which create grand images of God's people gathered around him. The entire Davidic line is pictured as a tree, a root, a stump, a branch (Is. 42; 6:13; 11:10) that ultimately develops into Christ, the vine, the tree of life, executed on a tree, having threatened fire to "every tree which does not bear good fruit" (Mt. 3:10). Christ Himself doesn't hesitate to urge us to read trees wisely: "Now learn this parable from the fig tree" (Mt. 24:32).

Learn from the tree? Why does that directive not show up regularly in seminary hermeneutics courses? We go to great pains to teach seminary students about exegeting Scripture and secret Foucauldian power structures, but we leave them largely clueless about exegeting nature." Douglas Jones, Reviewer

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