A friend just snapped this picture. It is of the famous Crouch Oak. I don’t know what it is about the English and trees but there are apparently quite a few famous trees in that country. A little strange but also kind of cool. Not only is this particular tree known for its age and all-around impressiveness; it is also famous for what happened beneath it’s branches.
Turns out that John Wycliffe, John Knox, George Whitfield, and Charles Spurgeon all preached the Gospel to crowds while standing under this tree. That is a pretty impressive bunch! If you don’t much about Church history you may want to briefly read about them. What is also impressive is how their ministries span the centuries. Check their dates:
John Wycliffe (1320-1384),
John Knox (1514-1572),
George Whitfield (1714-1770),
Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)
So looking at my friend’s photograph is not just interesting in a passing way, it also gives me pause. The Good news of Jesus – his deity, his humanity, his works and teachings, his Kingdom, his life, his death, his atonement for sinners, his risen and royal glory, and his free offer of salvation to all – is old news. Old doesn’t mean bad. Old in the sense of unchanging and ever-relevant. In a culture full of passing fads and immediate gratification, it humbles us to know that the Gospel does not change. We can’t improve on it, we can’t change it, and it does not belong to us. It is a message both old and ageless that we – his Church – have merely been made stewards of.
How greatly has the world changed in the centuries since Wycliffe stood under this tree? But the message we’ve been given to first receive, then to cherish, obey, and share has not. It is of great comfort to know that Christianity is a faith which has buried empires. Reflecting on this tree can remind us that times may change but the story – the Great Story – stays the same. In some sense God’s message of grace is strong, steady, enduring, and able to outlast every trend and even every human life. Just like an oak.