Levens' Oaks, Britain's Churches

I was recently walking along a pleasant avenue of oaks in the deer park at Levens in Westmorland. Most trees were fine examples of our national emblem, lush and sturdy. Some, however, were less-than-exemplary; these naturally reminded me of the church in the United Kingdom.


One had plenty of leaves and looked well at a distance, yet its heartwood had all but gone, perhaps on account of oak fungal disease. Its trunk was a hollow shell, allowing passers-by to step inside and enjoy the ambience. A good wind or rutting stag will soon bring this tree to an end, despite its flourishing boughs and branches. I see some churches which seem to be thriving and prospering, but when one looks within, there’s really nothing there. It is hollow and dying, its glossy leaves a mere veneer of spiritual life. The winds will come, and blow it away.

How about this one, below? In January, it looked the perfect oak. If one were to design an oak tree clipart or symbol for the National Society of Oak Lovers, this specimen might be the model. Yet it’s the opposite of the one above: despite the season, it produces neither leaf not acorn. In a wintry scene, it would quite blend in, its shape and symmetry the envy of the other trees. Yet when they are in leaf, it produces nothing. It’s just a stiff skeleton, a silhouette, a mass of unchopped firewood. It offers neither shade from the sun nor the prospect of a new generation. Some churches look the part, but they are just play-acting, formally going through the motions, devoid of life and health. Like a stone statue in Jadis’ palace, their season is forever winter.

Are you depressed yet? Let me show one more example, this time offering hope. On the site of a dead oak is planted another, and it flourishes. Its predecessor is long gone, yet its decayed roots now feed the sapling which grows in its place. Where once was disease and death is now life and foliage. The new tree will grow for centuries till the evidence of its predecessor is long gone. In those places where the church of Christ was wiped out, such as Turkey and France, shoots are one more seen. And in the dead woodlands of Great Britain, the Good Gardener will ensure that an evangelical witness remains, even unto the end of the age.


That they may be called trees of righteousness,
The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified. Isaiah 61:3b