Our August worship gathering began with a picnic, moved into a tree identification walk, and ended with our worship gathering. We took time this month to better get to know the trees who host us each month at Bechtel Park. Among the trees we identified were three varieties of oaks, black walnut, beech, ash, black cherry, maples, ironwood, hemlock, and willow.
Our worship theme was inspired by this blog post written by an acquaintance of mine, Ragan Sutterfield, called the Hospitality of Oaks.
“The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.” - Genesis 18:1
Ragan points out that oaks are the most hospitable trees. They provide acorns, of course, to feed birds and squirrels. But their generosity extends far beyond that. Oaks are the exclusive larval host plant for over a hundred different butterfly and moth species. That means that the caterpillars of these insects can only eat the leaves of oak trees. Such an abundance of caterpillars also means an abundance of food for birds, many of which rely on them to feed their young.
The bark and branches of the oak is also a favourable place for other life to grow, from lichen and moss to ferns. The hospitality of oaks is not only on the outside, either. As they mature, oaks tend to hollow out, creating a space for animals in the enclosure of the tree’s healthy and living outer layers.
Given their abundant generosity, it was a grove of oaks that were the real hosts of Abraham’s encounter with God at Mamre. It was the oaks that provided a hospitable space for Abraham’s tent, and in turn created a hospitable space for him to encounter God through welcoming three visiting strangers. Abraham was only able to extend hospitality to the visitors because he first received hospitality from the oaks.
During our wandering time, we were invited to engage with a tree - any kind of tree. Reflect on its hospitality, and the gifts it has to offer. Or reflect more generally on the hospitality this forest offers you today, or recall a memory of a particular tree that has nurtured you in a particular way.
In all of this, how does the hospitality of trees invite us to encounter God, and God's hospitality toward us? What can we offer in return?
Reflections, poetry, prayers, photos, and resources written by Wendy Janzen unless otherwise noted.