The Apple Tree

I want to be a poem tree. Reaching out and up to the heavens, blown by the wind of God’s Spirit, sheltering birds, bearing fruit, sinking roots deep into the ground, soaking up water, thriving in sometimes hostile circumstances. The kind of tree Psalm 1 describes.

A tree planted by living water
That brings forth its fruit in its season.
Its leaves don’t wither;
Whatever it does, it prospers.

Poem trees (surely you’ve seen one) don’t have only one way of communicating. Yet their impact is simple. They point to the inexplicable. The way a life sometimes can.

Which reminds me of Jesus of Nazareth. Not just as a human being and God’s beloved son-child, but as a tree. What kind of tree was he?

I think he was a poem tree. Pointing with ordinary words to the inexpressible, to what we discern through and beyond spoken or written words. The truth about God and about us. Grand, yet simple.

As simple and grand as a common, ordinary apple tree. Known and loved worldwide. Dependable, not full of exotic promises about heavenly hybrids that may offer curb appeal, but end up being a disappointment or just another pretty ad.

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree. I first heard this song in the 1980s when I was studying theology. The lyrics captivated me. I can’t be Jesus Christ the apple tree. Nonetheless, I want to be a poem tree with a small resemblance to the simple, poetic significance of this one life. I also want to rest a while, a very long while, beneath its shade.

To hear a performance of Elizabeth Poston’s haunting tune, click here. It takes only 2 minutes, 42 seconds. Well worth a listen!

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

The tree of life my soul hath seen
Laden with fruit and always green
The tree of life my soul hath seen
Laden with fruit and always green
The trees of nature fruitless be
Compared with Christ the apple tree

His beauty doth all things excel
By faith I know but ne’er can tell
His beauty doth all things excel
By faith I know but ne’er can tell
The glory which I now can see
In Jesus Christ the apple tree.

For happiness I long have sought
And pleasure dearly I have bought
For happiness I long have sought
And pleasure dearly I have bought
I missed of all but now I see
‘Tis found in Christ the apple tree.

I’m weary with my former toil
Here I will sit and rest a while
I’m weary with my former toil
Here I will sit and rest a while
Under the shadow I will be
Of Jesus Christ the apple tree.

This fruit does make my soul to thrive
It keeps my dying faith alive
This fruit does make my soul to thrive
It keeps my dying faith alive
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the apple tree.

* * *

Lyrics published in Divine Hymns and Spiritual Songs 1797,
written by Joshua Smith/William Northup

Tune by Elizabeth Poston, 1905-1987, sung here by
The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, about 1993.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 25 June 2015, edited and reposted 20 July 2021
Photo from chiefrivernursery.com