There Is Hope of a Tree [Poem by Mom]

The Lord is risen! Do you still remember? Yes, I know that Easter was last weekend. But that doesn’t mean that the resurrection is “so last weekend.” Several days ago on Facebook I suggested that those who celebrate 40 days of Lent might consider also celebrating 40 days of Resurrection. A lot of people seemed to like the idea. Even better, as one person replied, we should celebrate Jesus’ resurrection 365 days a year!

In the spirit of such eternal resurrection celebration, I am sharing a resurrection poem from Mom—a poem that, Mom says, “focuses on the growth of the church post-Resurrection.”

First I’ll share Mom’s poem. Then I’ll share Mom’s account of how this poem was born. Finally, I’ll share a bit of my own analysis of this poem’s art. Oh, and a bonus question: Can you identify where Mom got the idea for the poem’s title? Happy reading!

(See here for an introduction to this monthly series from Mom.)


THERE IS HOPE OF A TREE

They were the branches, He the Vine.
“Abide in Me,” the Christ had said,
For any branch apart from Me
Will soon be dead.”

And now the Vine lay trampled, dead;
The branches scattered in the field.
Were they to have no leaves to bear,
No fruit to yield?

How could they pierce the tomb, stone-sealed?
“Stay close to Me,” they had been told.
Must they now wither, torn from Him,
Who lay there cold?

None dreamed, their grief but three days old,
Of how the world would scarce have room
For all their fruit when the green Vine
Burst from its tomb!

—Elaine Gingrich, May 1999


Mom’s Memories of the Birth of This Poem

This poem was written in church Sunday morning May 16,1999 when I was supposed to be listening to the sermon. As sometimes happens, the poem arose from a compelling image. The Sunday School lesson was from John 15, about the intimate connection between Christ, the Vine, and the disciples, His branches. When pastor Dave Frey began his Ascension message with reference to the 40-day period between the Resurrection and the Ascension, during which Jesus various times appeared and then disappeared from his disciples’ sight, I suddenly pictured the Vine cast into Golgotha’s tomb, to wither away out of sight, while His followers were scattered and cut off from their source of life. Had they wondered what would happen to Vine and branches now?

As Dave mentioned in his message—yes I do have sermon notes beside my poem stanzas in the notebook :-)—Jesus was teaching them in those 40 days after the Resurrection that He was present with them even when He was not visible. Also, when He was most unseen, He was accomplishing the most important work for them. Still today His hidden work behind the veil makes possible what we do for Him as we abide in Him.

Just as the disciples could not imagine any hopeful future after Jesus’ burial, let alone the birth of the church, so we need the eyes of faith to catch a vision for Christ’s work today.

As compensation for my distracted attention to his sermon, I later gave Dave a copy of my completed poem, which he graciously accepted. I hope that was adequate restitution and that the poem’s readers will not judge it a total waste of time.


Art Serving Life

The structure of this poem is simple, but artful. On the level of plot, it works like this: One stanza establishing the ground rules for life, two stanzas describing the confusion when this life is withdrawn, and a fourth providing unexpected and infinite resolution. On a literary level, it works like this: One stanza of command, two of questions, and one of exclamation.

Also artful is the arrangement of sentence lengths: The first two stanzas each contain two sentences, but of pleasantly contrasting length. The third stanza contains three sentences, which slows the pace of the poem further, suggesting the growing mood of uncertainty. Then the fourth stanza brings a sudden burst of speed by containing only one long sentence. This final sentence begins teasingly, tantalizing us with the possibility of hope in the first two words, hesitating briefly between two commas to remind us of grief, then unexpectedly accelerating with growing fullness and no time to breathe until the last line literally bursts upon us with resurrection life!


If you enjoyed this poem, leave a comment here for Mom, or send her an email at MomsEmailAddressImage.php.  Thanks!


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14 thoughts on “There Is Hope of a Tree [Poem by Mom]”

  1. How lovely. And I smile hearing how the breath of God moved through you during a time of preaching. Sort of multi media there.
    This poem reaches into a place of longing and pain for me. I will read it again.
    With love, Brenda

    1. Bless the Lord! That is my deepest longing, that the truths that touched me can strengthen other hearts too. As I reread this old poem for posting, I unexpectedly felt it speaking to a place in myself that needs fresh hope! Thanks for commenting!

  2. The title is perfect! A little search uncovered the reason for its familiarity. It’s context maximizes the effect of the poem. WOW! Another instance of Jesus in Job (14:7)?

    1. Good investigative work! Well done.

      As to whether this is an example of Jesus in Job, not all will agree. (I’m about to give you a long answer, so please be patient if it gets complex for a bit. I enjoy pondering such questions.)

      I would put it more like this: This title is an example of Mom using a powerful and familiar biblical literary reference in a new context. We do the same thing when we say that someone escaped “by the skin of their teeth”–another Job quote. When we quote Job in this way, we don’t mean that Job was prophesying about the current event we are describing. Similarly, I don’t think it’s right to see that Job’s words “there is hope of a tree” actually directly refer to Christ.

      When our minds are full of Scripture, we will speak in its language. As long as we don’t fall into either of two common and dangerous traps—(a) suggest that our quotations actually mean what we are using them to describe or (b) use these quotations to promote ideas that actually contradict Scripture—I think such quoting is fine and often powerful. In this case I think Mom is simply drawing an image from nature, referring to it with familiar and powerful biblical language, and noting a true parallel between that image and Christ.

      By the way, I think this kind of quoting (slipping into familiar biblical language for rhetorical effect, in support of truth, but without claiming the original sense meant exactly what we mean as we quote it) is what Paul might have been doing in Romans 10:18, when, while claiming that the Jews had indeed heard the gospel, he quotes a verse about the heavenly bodies carrying knowledge of God’s identity as creator to the ends of the earth:
      “Their voice has gone out to all the earth,
      and their words to the ends of the world.”
      Earlier in Romans he had said that creation does leave humans accountable for their rejection of God, but nowhere else does he suggest that creation actually reveals the gospel to us. But in this case the Jews had indeed heard the gospel about Jesus just as clearly as all have seen the sun, so Paul can use this familiar image from Psalm 19 to powerfully portray how accountable the Jews are.

      In conclusion, I think that God intentionally weaves all of creation full of images that find their most perfect expression in Christ. God created eagles and then spoke of carrying his people on eagle’s wings. He created marriage and then spoke of his intimate covenant love with his people. And he created trees and vines and then spoke about abiding and fruit and hope beyond death. I am thankful for such images that help us understand and feel the power of God’s work in Christ!

      1. I think I understand what you are saying. I didn’t take the time to work out in my mind what I sensed. It is then, the context your mom places the title/Job 14:7 into in her poem that gives the powerful effect. And I agree that this verse is not a direct prophecy of Christ, but more like your mom pointed out in Sunday school of Jesus being the answer to job’s particular longing in that lesson. Considering the surrounding passage of the poem’s title, could it be said He is the reality or fulfillment of job’s hope or confidence, and generally included with humanity spoken of because He died and lives again in the flesh?

  3. What is so striking and moving about the poem for me is the spiritually keen and artistic apposition of the Vine with the Resurrection. Remarkably, she envisioned the Vine in the tomb, its life withdrawn. That is an image easily grasped. We’ve all seen plenty of dead vines – brown, dry and disintegrating. But we’ve never seen a vine in such a state turn green with life, vitality restored.

    And yet, just so, He is risen!

    One also feels the hopeless yearning, the abject confusion, the pity arousing bewilderment of the separated and scattered branches in this poem.

    A quickening and inspiring gift, Elaine. Well done!

  4. Thank you for the poem, Elaine. I was relieved to find you wrote it in church, as I have been guilty of that, too. Guilty, but not ashamed…should I be? 🙂 I like how your title hints to the reader of the restoration to come (if they are familiar with that verse).
    I also like how you use the word “scattered” to describe the branches with no life source. Many who followed Jesus were indeed scattered after Jesus’ death, and I know as humans, we feel alone until we are part of the family of God. I don’t know if I have the intellect/ wisdom to get all this poem is saying, but I appreciate what I do get. Thanks again!

  5. Hi Yolanda. Thanks for your comments. Dave says he sometimes notes ideas for future sermons as he listens to someone else preach, so he has no problem with writers doing the same with our poetic inspiration. 🙂
    Mark 6:34 shows Jesus moved with compassion when He sees people shepherdless, at loose ends, “scattered.” He longs to speak truth into their hearts, to give them a safe place to belong. “So He began to teach them many things.” What life-giving words Jesus speaks into the dry and withered parts of my being! Lord, give me a teachable heart.

  6. I returned to this poem today for inspiration and was not disappointed. Still get shivers down my spine when I read it 🙂

  7. I really like the poem. Well done; this is a good work you’ve ‘made touching the king…’ (as in Psalm 45:1)
    I thrill in its truth!

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