Christ the Tree – a hymn-poem

used with: Isaiah 55:6-13 Luke 13:6ff

In the strand of thought in this hymn-poem, Jesus, – with the irony of God- becomes Christ Crucified ( cf 1 Cor 23 etc) when human violence unites him with the Tree. That’s who I mean by “Christ the Tree”. Christ tree-ified. Elsewhere I’ve already re-cycled the much admired older song ‘Jesus Christ the Apple-tree’

For so many artists over the centuries, it has been unthinkable that the Cross of Christ (and so often theologians speak of the Cross when they mean Christ) is not also a tree, with leaves and fruit, using and delighting the birds who make the sky Sky/Heaven, just as humanity can be said to make the Earth the World and the fish the sea Sea .

Through Christ the Tree, the violent imperative to eradicate and defeat rather than to be reconciled is itself self-defeating. Trees are also, at least as we encounter them from ground level, the creatures who quite literally unite Earth and Heaven/sky, with roots in the soil, and leaves that – thanks to the biodiverse habitats in which they live, – create what we and so many other life forms need to breathe and thrive, let alone be nourished by the fruit they produce. Trees, of course, participate wholeheartedly in the natural cycles of water, carbon, oxygen and more, which for Isaiah 55 and in Jesus’ images of the ‘Kingdom/reign’ express the active will of God.

I’ve always been happy to sing hymns which expand my own vocabulary:.“Burled” (v3) refers to the fascinating knotty growths which adorn wilder and older trees, badges of honour which distinguish them from those trees which grow more obediently in straight lines. An inclusive church with room for all, will be a church of Good News.

Melody 8787 e.g. CH4 255 Gott Will’s Machen
CH4 139 Laus Deo
Ch4 509 St Andrew
Possibly CH4 226 Shipston

1)Christ the Tree, tight holds Creation
Sky soil water, nourish round
river’s flow, and cloudburst freshing
God’s the Reign that mingles, bound.

2)Christ the Word, sent earthwards, warning:
Urgent seeking: urgent change.
Love with eyes wide open, hiding
nothing scary, nothing strange!

3)Christ the gardener, last-chance saviour
dirty-handed for the world:
pruning grafting, fertilising
every wood: the straight, the burled.

4)Christ whose thoughts, though we can think them
show us God’s alternate mind
unifying what we fractured:
root and branch to heal inclined.