Abraham, sitting at the door of his tent, midday,
notices with a start, that three visitors stood before him,
at the Oaks of Mamre
where he had made his tent village.
Abraham’s whole family, extended family, livestock, and servants. And all of their tents.
This story of Genesis 18 was our text for Monday night Bible Art Journaling in our Illuminated Pages class. We are in the middle of a random series of texts that mention something, anything, about ‘trees’.
And Genesis 18 mentions a tree three times, at The Oaks of Mamre.
These visitors that showed up under the oak tree:
First it calls them, ‘three men’.
Then ‘the Lord’,
And Angels of the lord.
And again, men. And later it calls them the Lord and two angels.
Suffice it to say, “Holy Visitors”.
Abraham experienced a visitation from God and God’s favor.
There, at the door of his tent and under these oaks.
As the story goes, Abraham extended to them the ancient, exceedingly important custom of hospitality to strangers.
Water for washing their feet.
And rest under the tree.
He suggested they lean on it, while he fetched a morsel of bread for them to eat.
So there, the three Holy Visitors sprawled out in the shade and took their naps.
Meanwhile, behind the scenes, everything took place at lightning speed.
“Quick!”, he said to Sarah, “Go get 12 quarts of flour, and mix and knead and bake bread.”
Then Abraham himself ran and selected a calf and told his servants to hurry up and roast it.
A feast for the visitors after their rest, which they enjoyed, with Abraham, under the tree.
This oak tree, we learned, could possibly have been a pistachio tree, or some other kind of nut tree, but the main thing being, its sprawling branches that made the beautiful place
where they enjoyed hospitality, rest and relief, shade, holy presence and visitation, favor with God, community and feasting.
I was enchanted by this silent character in the story. The Tree.
Broad and strong.
Solid and stationary. Silent.
A Powerful Presence.
Being. And Place.
Deep down, roots.
For my art journaling. . .
I stayed with the tree ~ this silent structure, under which all of the other exquisite things happened. You can probably guess, that the process took me right away into a metaphorical plunge and spoke to me of an interpretation which was all about us, here, at Highpoint Episcopal Community Church!
To capture the ‘making’ energy of Abraham and Sarah’s hospitality,
their bustling about
their excitement of serving these important holy visitors,
to capture this cyclone of activity, I used torn up strips from a sewing pattern, which to me always means: we’re making something.
We can cut, and turn, and pin and press, and measure, and stitch, and this fabric will become a garment that fits, and is one-of-a-kind, and authentic, imaginative; something I can see in its pieces, but do not yet hold in my hands.
They’re making a feast. A table of hospitality.
They’re making a life under this tree, this oak of mamre, where they have already loved and worshiped God, as, some time ago, they had already made an altar to the Lord. (it says so, 5 chapters back)
And then there’s Our making a feast. Our table of hospitality.
This place where some time ago we (you) built an altar to the Lord and lived and loved and opened the tent doors in hospitality, all the while believing some divine promise; and how, now, we’ve set down a second altar, as Abraham did in this latest piece of the story.
This magnificent life of love and worship and hospitality, up under these oaks, (and of course, beech and pine and tulip and sweetgum. . .) on this holy hill.
And, they’re imagining with their holy visitors that
God will make good on his promises for ~ life ~ in this place.
In fact, the Holy Visitors promised Abraham and Sarah, that in a year’s time when they visit them again, they will be holding their son Isaac in their arms.
Even in their old age.
And it tickles them, each, individually, and they laugh, even while they embrace the promise.
Poetic language lets me over state, but also, to say things we might not dare to say in straight prose.
I think we all know, that I take it to be divine promise, that in a year’s time, we will know that we have made a spiritual life and house here, that will endure.
Yup! Lots of work to be done to ‘make’ this thing. This tree, this pattern, this holy garment that clothes us for life in the world.
Yup! We’re all working hard.
Yup! It’s a lot of fun, but nonetheless shocking when Abraham says: “Quick! Make 36 loaves of bread!”
Its feels like that doesn’t it?
A little overwhelming in some ways,
but in most ways, exhilarating, thrilling, and exciting . . .
Because we are Hosting the Holy One. For a spectacular party!
And who doesn’t love to throw a party!
The joy we find here under the sprawling branches,
The bustling work behind the scenes to make a Feast.
The hospitality and open tent door,
The divine favor.
The holy community and sacred partnerships like theirs, this Abraham and Sarah.
The promises. And giggling about them.
The exquisite things that happen,
All up under the sprawling branches. This Church.
This is our Tree. This Tree House. This Highpoint.
Out on a limb, I am always, yours,
Reverend Ruth Pattison
Rev. Pattison serves the people of Highpoint Episcopal Community Church as the Parson, exercising her gifts for collaborative leadership through preaching, liturgy, and the pastoral arts.