Last week a dead tree–a prop for one of the stations of the cross–started blooming in our sanctuary. Here’s the story:
A team of artists from our congregation has been meeting for the past several months to pray about how to design Lenten prayer stations in our sanctuary. Using eight different Gospel texts about Jesus’ journey from His arrest to the cross, the team began to create artistic representations to go along with each Scripture passage. Station number four is called “Jesus Speaks to the Weeping Women” and uses this text from Luke:
And there followed him a great multitude of the people and of women who were mourning and lamenting for him. But turning to them, Jesus said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren and the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us,’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do these things when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?” Luke 23:27-31
The team decided to use a dead tree, with tears hanging from the branches. The dead tree was meant to symbolize the wilderness, a barren and desolate place. Jennifer, whose journey this past year has been a journey of lament, volunteered to create the weeping women. She began by painting a woman’s weeping face on black cloth. As she painted, she prayed with the text of Ezekiel 37, the story of the dry bones. “Can these bones live?” God asked Ezekiel and Jennifer.
Jennifer explains, “As I painted and prayed, I thought of the people without hope and people that suffer daily without relief. I thought of people in constant pain, physical and heart. Pain that is unbearable. That is the kind of pain when you want mountains to fall on you. The pain so great that you want it to end. I began to think about the heart wrenching pain of the weeping women. They were weeping for Jesus. Ripped in their hearts for the pain of the suffering Christ; like a mother in anguish over the physical or spiritual death of her child.”
The team cut down three trees from a wooded backyard and put them into five gallon buckets. They filled the middle tree’s bucket with sand to help the figure of the woman stand in the tree. The two outer trees were plopped into buckets with a few rocks to keep them from falling over. They used duct tape to secure the trees inside the buckets.
Then they draped a long black cloth through the tree as the veil and cloak of the weeping woman. They made tears from plastic bags, blue plastic, and crystal beads. At the base of the middle tree was a puddle of blue cloth, to symbolize a pool of tears. When it was finished, the station truly looked like a barren and desolate place.
Last Sunday someone noticed that one of the trees in a bucket of stones had started to bloom.
As I stood marveling at the blooming dead tree, a verse from Isaiah 53 came to mind: “He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground.”
Next week we will remember Jesus’ death and we will celebrate His resurrection. In the meantime, we have a visual reminder in our sanctuary that we worship a God who brings dead things to life again. It makes me wonder, “What dead places are our tears watering today, that will one day spring into unexpected bloom?”
If you’d like to see the dead blooming tree, you are invited to come and walk and pray and meditate on the love of God, poured out through Jesus.
Redeemer’s Stations of the Cross will be open during Holy Week:
Redeemer Covenant Church
6951 Hanna Lake Avenue Southeast Dutton, MI 49316
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 6:30-8:30pm
Monday and Wednesday from 10am-12noon.
Maundy Thursday Tenebrae service at 7pm.