In the spring, I was fortunate to travel to a place I have longed to go, Portugal. It is a small country, about the size of Indiana, located geographically at the farthest of far western part of the European Union. Portugal is known for its port wine and cork products, its gorgeous coastlines with rocky, pristine beaches, many varied moist and arid forest regions, and miles upon miles of terraced vineyards. Not only is it geographically beautiful, it is a place overflowing with warm-hearted people who sincerely want to share their heritage and life stories.
During my two weeks moving through various regions and cities, rural and urban, I noticed a symbol. I spotted this symbol in Christian settings, near ancient Roman ruins, even in the Moorish art and architecture. It was painted or carved in facades of civic halls of justice and commerce and celebrated in painted Portuguese tile known as azuejos. It was a tree. Not just any tree, but that which is known as the tree of life. With deep roots, strong trunk and branches that twist, spiral, reach, and expand toward the boundaries of earth into the sky, the tree of life is an important symbol used by many spiritual traditions, theologies, philosophies, and even mythologies to depict the connection which exists between earth and heaven.
Think this day about your life. Reflect for a moment on all that influenced your days on this earth. If you drew a tree of your life, what might be in the roots, trunk, branches, and leaves? What words might you add in the bark? Whose faces might be formed in undulating branches, the tender new shoots, the fading, scaling, branches? What might be written on the leaves and offered to God as prayer?
As June and the start of summer is traditionally a time of picnics, family reunions, vacations, and celebrations, I encourage you to think about your personal tree of life and offer words of thanks and praise to God for those who have accompanied you and those you have accompanied in life. When you gather with family and friends this summer, create or share your trees of life. Let your stories and memories be told!
In addition, one Sunday during each month of June, July and August you will once again have an opportunity to engage in a Reformation community-based project that I have called “Art in the Heart of Worship”. Together in June we will make our own congregational tree of life, in July we will add flowers, birds, and other items illustrating God’s abundant creation, and in August, we add the promise of a colorful rainbow.
This summer let us celebrate and share our trees of life as we nurture and support one another, rooted firmly in God’s Word!
Peace, Deacon Beth