Tree of Life at New Life (Rev. Carmen Retzlaff)
We have a new cross at New Life Lutheran. In its center, it has a beautiful image of the Tree of Life. It is a powerful symbol of the mission and spirit of this new and unique outdoor church.
Genesis 2:8 And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Genesis 3:22 Then the Lord God said, “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— 23 therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.
I wonder what would happen if we ate of the Tree of Life. What would happen to our bodies if we lived forever? I wonder if we could come back to a place where we lived in harmony with nature, and at ease with God? And if we did that, we could maybe just sit under the Tree of Life. And not eat it. Just sit and enjoy its shade and feel the life in the ground around it.
The Tree if Life is what we yearn for, in the way that we yearn to go home. A memory from before we were born, of a time and a place and a tree in the middle of a garden where God walked in the evening, with us in an easy and familiar way. Where we were unashamed of who we were, and easy with each other. When we were easy with nature, not over it, but in it.
Our new cross at this outdoor church of New Life symbolizes a new part of our life as a community. We became an organized church, no longer a new mission church, and we christened this next phase with the Tree of Life set into our new processional cross.
We are a newly organized church, but we are still a mission. We are a “real” church, but not a regular one. This community that worships outside follows the symbol of a tree of death on which is imposed the Tree of Life. Because we know they are both there, together, and they cannot be separated.
We follow the trees to try to get back to that first home. We tend the land and try to get back to ease with it, to the harmony we remember in glimpses in our own lives, and which is a powerful primordial memory of humanity. We long for that harmony. We grow food on our land, in small garden echo of that other garden; and invite our neighbors to walk on this land we tend, and we try to get back into that ease with other humans, the way we loved each other, easily, in that garden just beyond our earliest memories. We work toward ease with the earth and ease with each other, because we long for that time in the garden with God, walking together, sitting under the beautiful Tree of Life.