After hiking up into an Aspen forest earlier this month, I’ve been reflecting upon this tree. Aspen is the common name for a tree species that is part of the Salicaciae family of the Populus genus. The specific Aspen we walked among was the quaking Aspen, known as Populus tremuloides, for the quaking movement of the leaves in the wind. Aspen is a deciduous tree native to cooler climates of North America. We were in Colorado, in the Rocky Mountains, above 8000 feet elevation. Our friend and host told us a unique insight into the Aspen forest. They grow in “clonal colonies”, all “cloned” from a single original seedling. The original mother tree sends out root suckers to grow more trees. Over time, a whole forest springs up from that original seedling, making the entire forest of Aspens one organism.
An Aspen forest tells us of the glorious design of God in creation. We too, in the living Organism known as the Church, are “many parts, but one body”. Paul clearly understood the Church to be a living Body: “The body is a unit, though it is made of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. . . . Now you are the body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it” (1 Cor. 12:12,27). The original Seedling*, Christ, has send forth new growth around the world, springing up new life, new growth, which are many parts, many trunks, yet one living organism, and part of the one Body which is the living Body of Christ.