July 27, 2010

Like a Tree Planted …

When my husband and I bought our first home, the advice we repeatedly heard was “location, location, location.” We learned that the neighborhood where a given house is situated is more important than its size, its number of bedrooms, or even its condition. This same keen interest in physical location prompts many to use a satellite or Global Positioning System (GPS) to give exact coordinates for our standing on this planet. Clearly, location matters.

Similarly, within the Kingdom of God the concept of location is significant. Our location with God, or more accurately God’s dwelling with us, is more important than any attributes we may possess of intelligence, wealth, or status. We long to know the contours of His Kingdom landscape and the coordinates of our belonging to the one who created us. But how is this possible?

The ancient prayer book of the Hebrew people, the Psalms, begins with this beautiful description of God's Kingdom participants:

“Their delight is in the law of the Lord,
 and on his law they meditate day and night. 
They are like trees
 planted by streams of water,
 which yield their fruit in its season,
 and their leaves do not wither.”
Psalm 1:2–3

This text depicts the locating, the planting of God’s people. Eugene Peterson’s The Message translates, “You're a tree replanted in Eden ...” By referencing a re-planting in Eden, Peterson points back to the initial planting. Genesis 2:8–14 describes God putting Adam in the Garden of Eden, a location with precise coordinates, listing its four rivers and the lands they run through. Humanity was created for and placed in a specific location: a garden in the midst of a creation declared “very good” by God (1:31), a place full of trees (2:9), and watered by these rivers (2:10). But the significant feature of this garden was its location in proximity to its Maker: Eden meant accessibility to God.

Now that we live East of Eden rather than in the garden, in the already/not yet of the Kingdom, it is not surprising that we seek to be located, to know where we stand in relation to the world around us, as well as in relation to God. We, like trees, need to be planted in a place where we can flourish, a place near streams of water.

The good word from the Psalmist is that we can be re-planted in Eden as we delight in God’s law, meditating on it day and night. Scripture is the means to become “like trees planted,” with roots of stability, drinking in the nourishment God provides, and bearing fruit without withering.

Trees are featured at the beginning of God’s Word in Genesis and again at the close of Scripture in Revelation (22:2); both scenes depict the close proximity of God. But here in the Psalms, in the heart of the biblical text, this proximity comes via His Word. Is it feasible that we today can delight in Scripture, meditate on it, and as a result know where we belong, re-planted in the presence of our loving Creator?

I believe it is possible. I long for it. My prayer is that the weekly Lectio: Guided Bible Reading (beginning with Genesis in late September) can be a useful tool in this locating, this re-planting, and as a result we can become “like trees planted.” May it be so.

The Rev. Celeste Cranston
Director of the Center for Biblical and Theological Education
Seattle Pacific University

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  1. After talking with you during the last academic year, it is exciting to see this website, and more importantly, this vision unfold! Blessings to you, your staff team and the faculty which are about to lead our University through the Bible. The words from the Psalms quoted above are brought to life as I sit at the Blakely Field Station and look out at such beautiful, strong trees. May we dig deep together as a community as we welcome in the new academic year.


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