I wrote this for Bishop Elizabeth Harrod for her Good Friday sermon a long time ago.
On the night when Judas betrayed God’s son,
God gathered the forest before it was done,
To ask a boon of anyone,
Of the trees who dwelt therein.
“This next day hence, my son shall die,
Lifted up on a tree so high.
Alone shall he suffer, ‘tween earth and sky,
For all the sins of men.”
Up then spoke the oak so bold,
“If now then cometh the time fortold,
One sad tree it, it was said of old,
Must bear his sacrifice.”
“’Tis truly said that one of thee
Must accept and become his Calvary tree.
But it must be done full willingly,
By force this will not suffice.”
The oak said, “I would play my part,
But to bear him would break my hoary heart,
Merciful God, I know thou art,
Do not ask this thing of me."
The thorn upspoke himself and said,
“Would that I and my kin were dead.
Will not already I crown his head?
I cannot be his Calvary tree.”
The ash spoke slowly, as one in pain,
“Good God, we all this fate disdain.
To bear is death, will nothing gain.
Must this thing truly be?”
A deep sigh, then, t’was heard all round
Soft, sad, slow steps, were heard to sound.
The dogwood tree stepped to the ground,
For all the wood to see.
“Good God, I will this task embrace, if you will grant this boon:
That none of my kindred e’re shall bear a like fate when ‘tis done.
Let no more white blooms crown our heads, as they were wont before.
But spot them all with crimson, like the blood that I shall wear.
And may our limbs so twisted be that none shall find them use.
For spindle, spoon, nor spool, nor spoke, nor cup, nor crib, nor cross?”
Well, God agreed it would be done,
And the dogwood tree, she bore is son.
At such a price, salvation won,
On Calvary’s hill grim.
The blossoms of the dogwood tree,
Crimson spotted now we see.
And, for on Calvary’s hill stood she,
Knotted and gnarled are her limbs.