A Tree Firmly Planted Perseveres


God Plants Images To Remind Us Of Truth 

by Eric Elkin

The righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God.
— Psalm 92: 12ff

In the center of the little village of Llangerwyn in the region of North Wales in the United Kingdom, sits St. Dygain’s Church. Worship services begin at 9:30 am every Sunday morning. According to the Church in Wales website, "the congregation is warm and worship lively with a fairly modern flavor mixing both traditional and modern worship music."

St. Dygain himself founded the church in the 5th Century. Meaning, worship has been held in this small parish for over 1,500 years. A congregation that old is a context hard for anyone living in the United States to conceive. 

The age of the congregation, nor the age of the village itself are the oldest features of the area. The crown jewel of Llangerwyn is an ancient male yew tree resting at the entrance to the church’s graveyard. Research by the famed British botanist, David Bellamy determined the tree to be between 4,000 and 5,000 years old. In 2002, the British Tree Council designated the "Llangerwyn yew," one of the Fifty Great British Trees. 

Perhaps when the church was built, Dygain thought the tree provided beautiful shade for the people. More likely, he was thinking of Psalm 92 and the imagery of trees in scripture. Cedars communicate strength, the fruit of the trees life and vitality. The Llangerwyn yew would have provided an excellent “real life” image of these themes.

Natural environments promote calmness and well-being in part because they expose people to low levels of stress...Humans thrive with some stimulation, but we’re incapable of coping with extreme stressors, which push us from the comfortable realm of eustress (good stress) to the danger zone of distress (bad stress).
— from "How Nature Resets Our Minds and Bodies"

Trees provide an incredible witness to creation, a witness we often overlook or take for granted.  Modern builders bulldoze trees to clear lots for new construction. Homeowners often remove them, so the leaves do not clog their gutters. However, trees produce oxygen and cleanse pollutants from the air. They are critical to our existence. 

Equally important, trees have qualities which help improve the physical and psychological health of human beings. Multiple research efforts have concluded trees provide a calming effect on humans. Some suggest they even speed up the healing process among patients in recovery. 

There is something about trees which communicate a calm sense of endurance about life. We need signs of perseverance in an age where we feel increasingly unsteady, unsure and destabilized. Perhaps the psalmist understood that a tree firmly planted reminds us the culture we live in is more stable than personalities, trends, and market forces. The image is not a deceptive ploy, but a witness to the truth.

Click to read Psalm 92

Reflection Questions:

  • What helps you find strength, life, and vitality?
  • When has an image help remind you of a truth? 
  • How does the natural world communicate the presence of God to you?
  • What does "a tree firmly planted" communicate to you?

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