A couple of weeks ago, on a warm sunny March afternoon I went for a tromp in the woods with my friend Louisa. This wasn’t your run of the mill tromp. We were looking for a large visual focal point for our Good Friday service. We were looking for a big dead tree.
A few metres down the trail we find a fallen tree covered in green moss. We love the length, curve and beautiful mossy-ness of this tree but the air is fresh and the sun feels good so we carry on to see what other treasures the forest holds. Our next two finds are side by side. The first has gnarly, twisted bark. The second looks like a fork with three wonky tines.
So it’s between the mossy and fork tree but we need a side by side comparison of the two. Up to this point we have been giddy and possibly somewhat silly. But the moment we lift this heavy, dead tree and begin carrying it through the woods our mood changes. We are surprised by the tree’s weight. And how awkward it is to carry. We get tangled in other branches and brush.
After looking at the mossy and fork trees side by side we can’t resist the crazy tines so we huff and puff our way to Louisa’s van with our burden. As we tie the tree to the roof of the van a passerby says, “I just have to ask.”
A week later we are on the beach collecting rocks to place around the base of the tree. We fill two large buckets with stones and larger rocks. Again, we are surprised by their weight. We heave these across the beach and up a hill to the van. Louisa is not entirely satisfied with our beach pilfering so on the way to church we grab some cast off chunks of cement complete with nails and rebar.
As we transfer our loot from the van to the church a young man offers to help. We both decline. We are content in our work. Our dead tree is about three feet too tall. Ten minutes into sawing, we are convinced there is rebar in the centre of this tree. The work is long, painful and frustrating but we succeed.
Our focal point takes shape – dead tree, cement, rocks, spotlight and black curtains. The physical experience of preparing this was powerful for both of us. The elements were heavy – heavier than we anticipated. The assembly was cumbersome and difficult. But the result is powerful.
This weighty shared experience of preparing for our Good Friday service has prepared Louisa and me for Good Friday. We are not alone. The burden is shared. We will lay our burden down. And the sun will warm our faces.