As I recently walked about the gardens here, I was struck by the fact that many of the flowers of spring and summer are gone, but lit by the sun, light and shadow playing across their ancient surfaces, magnificent trees, like this one, remain. They have been around a long, long time. Centuries maybe. Like the tree that sat in center of the garden of Eden, this trees looks like it has seen and knows a lot. The imprint of lifetimes on its face. If it could talk….
This tree feels old, wise, like Paul’s letters. And yet here they both remain for us to tap into their ancient wisdom, to read the lines and markings that form traceries upon their faces, as they reach to the heavens and extend to the four corners of the earth, and reach out to us. I came upon this tree on a winding path that led into a quiet place I had never ventured before. It was truly like entering the garden of Eden, it was so lush, quiet, its inhabitants off making loin cloths. There were many trees, each unique, and each quietly majestic. There was a sense, a presence there without doubt.
Paul doesn’t want just to keep everyone on the straight and narrow. He wants to set us out upon a path that leads to a sacred presence. In his Epilogue to Romans he quotes these words from Isaiah, letting us know that he wants to give us more than scolding and information.
Those who have never been told will see him, and those who have never heard about him will understand. (Romans 15:21)
Paul want to impart the experience of the risen Christ. To form his words in such a way that we will see him. If you haven’t heard about the wonderful things he did and said, he sees his life-work to bring his audience to understand the radical change, the growth and transformation that comes about from the knowledge and experience of Jesus Christ.
Paul’s letters too, are like the ancient trees, written on parchment, markings reaching out to offer their radical imprint on our souls and psyches. Rooted. Solid. Growing in shade or sunshine, good weather and bad. Standing the tests of time. Beyond reborn. Eternal. Secret, sacred knowledge writ large for each person who stops to see, to read the ancient inscriptions still steadily holding forth for us today.
The Christ-self stands sturdy in each of us, at the center of the garden of our lives. It is there for us to see for ourselves and understand. It is one so ancient yet so new. We first saw him in a wood-hewn manger, from a tree that held his beginnings. It was a tree that held his ending. And it was a misused and misshapened tree that held his beginning for us. Paul brings us along the path where we too suddenly come upon his life, remaining, waiting, solid, rooted, the ever-present reality of our lives that stands at the center of the garden of our souls. It is only for us to follow Paul’s lead. To become a follower of the Way. It is only for us to venture out upon the path.