Creation Time, Forest Sunday

Theme: Forest Sunday, by Keith Innes

Trees are essential to life on earth.

They absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen.

They also contain much of the world’s biodiversity.


Genesis 2:4b-22

The man, formed from the dust of the ground and animated by the breath of life, was placed in the Garden of God to till and keep it.

(According to Von Rad, Yahweh is here pictured as ‘owner of the park’.) (Ref 1)

Trees grew in the Garden, valuable for beauty and sustenance.

Two trees were special: (Ref 2)

•  the tree of life in the midst of the garden;

•  the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The latter was forbidden to the man ( 2:17 ).

These verses should be read in conjunction with chapter 3.

The fruit of the tree appeared to offer comprehensive knowledge and power (3:5).

‘[The tree] presented the alternative to discipleship: to be self-made, wresting one’s knowledge, satisfactions and values from the created world in defiance of the Creator’. (Ref 3)

The gift of creation contains an ethical dimension; living in God’s garden requires discipline.

Not everything that can be done, should be done.


In the end, freedom to eat from the tree of life is given, not by human demand but by God’s grace in Christ (Revelation 2:7).

In Revelation 22:1-2 the tree of life is planted on both sides of the river of the water of life, that flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb.

The tree produces fruit every month, and its leaves are for the healing of the nations.

Thus virtually the whole Bible, from Genesis 2 to Revelation 22, might be seen as a kind of ‘inclusio’, bounded by the Tree of Life in the Garden of Creation .


The Tree of Life has often been connected to the Cross, which is sometimes called a tree ( xulon ) in the New Testament (Acts 5:30 ; 10:39 ; 13:29 ; Galatians 3:13 ; 1 Peter 2:24 ).

The 8 th Century English poem The Dream of the Rood celebrates the tree which became the Cross of Christ.

Possible links to the other readings

God, who gave us our first birth (Psalm 139:13-16), and designed us for himself (Acts 17:22 -28), in Christ offers us new birth (John 3:1-16). This rebirth should be expected to issue in a turning towards God’s original plan for humanity in relation to the earth and its vegetation.

Quotable Quotes

‘At the time that the Holy One, Blessed Be He, created the first man, He took him and had him pass before all the trees of the Garden of Eden, and said to him: See my works, how fine and excellent they are! Now all that I created was created for you. Think about this and do not harm or desolate the world: for if you harm it, there will be none to fix it after you.’ (Midrash Koheleth Rabbah). (Ref 4)

‘Humanity has failed in what was its noble vocation: to participate in God’s creative action in the world. It has succumbed to a theory of development that values production over human dignity and wealth over human integrity. We see, for example, delicate ecological balances being upset by the uncontrolled destruction of animal and plant life or by a reckless exploitation of natural resources.’ (The Patriarch Bartholomew I). (Ref 5)


During 2004, an area of Amazon rainforest equivalent to six football pitches was flattened every day; this amounted to 10,000 square miles during the year. The land was used for cattle farming, soy production and logging. (Ref 6)

Fires in Siberian forests (the largest in the world) increased tenfold in the last twenty years. Often these fires are started deliberately – the timber is then sold. (Ref 7)

Possible Applications

•  Visit and help to protect your local woodlands.

•  Plant a tree and nurture it to maturity.

•  Support an organization that campaigns for the defence of forests globally.

•  Buy timber only from fairly-traded and sustainably-managed woodlands.


  1.  G. Von Rad, Genesis: A Commentary , tr. John H. Marks (London: SCM, 1972), p.77.
  2.  Some scholars think that at some stage in the history of the text only one tree was present; but we work with the finished text as given to us.
  3.  D. Kidner, Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary (London: Tyndale Press, 1967), p. 63.
  4.  Koheleth Rabbah 7:28, quoted from Lewis G. Regenstein, Replenish the Earth (London: SCM, 1991), p.187.
  5.  Encyclical Letter, September 1, 1994, quoted from John Chryssavgis (Ed.), Cosmic Grace; Humble Prayer: The Ecological Vision of the Green Patriarch Bartholomew I (Grand Rapids/Cambridge, UK: Eerdmans, 2003), p.46.
  6. Daily Telegraph , London , 20 May 2005 .
  7. The Guardian, London , 31 May 2005 .



Author: poppy | Date: 23 March, 2012 | Category: Liturgies | Comments: 0

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