Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Clinging to the rock

The majestic elm tree was a landmark along the Autoroute des Cantons de l’Est south of Montréal. It stood straight and tall on the east side of the highway, near St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, but it looked the same in summer as in winter. Like most North American elms it had fallen victim to Dutch Elm disease and had been dead for many years.

It must have been eighteen years ago that a Montréal artist decided to do something about it. He collected as many discarded green plastic buckets as he could and cut out hundreds of elm leaves, then rented a crane with a man basket and fastened the leaves to the branches of the elm tree. It did improve the appearance of the tree; the leaves may not have been exactly the right colour, but they caught your eye as you sped by on the freeway.

Two months later, a strong wind came up in the night and the tree fell. Perhaps the leaves hastened the fall by catching the wind, yet we all knew the tree was rotten on the inside by now.

The oldest trees in Canada are the eastern white cedars along the cliffs of the Niagara Escarpment in Ontario. These cedars are neither big nor beautiful, yet they cling to the rocky cliff and have survived extreme weather variations for an astoundingly long time. Many of them have very little bark left due to blasts from wind borne sand and the effects of freezing and thawing, rain, hail and snow, yet show no sign of aging or rot and produce seeds every year. Some of them are more than one thousand years old, still healthy and drawing nutrients and moisture from little crevices in the rock. The oldest is estimated to be almost 1900 years old.

Which tree does our Christian life resemble? Are we trying to hold up an artificial resemblance of Christian life for others to see, with no spiritual life inside? Or are we battered and worn yet still surviving the battles, clinging to the rock and sustained by roots growing deep into the living water Christ provides?

I'd love to hear what you think about this. Please leave a comment.

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