In this week’s devotional, “Preaching Trees,” we learn that the trees are preaching to us – so let’s preach about trees!
This 8-week interfaith devotional has been designed to encourage and uplift you as you connect your faith with your love of nature. The devotional is part of the Healthy Trees, Healthy People, Healthy Faith study in Lexington, Kentucky, which you can read about here. But you can use this devotional wherever you are in the world that you can find some trees!
Then God said, ‘Let the earth put forth vegetation: plants yielding seed, and fruit trees of every kind on earth that bear fruit with the seed in it.’ And it was so. . . And God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, the third day. . . God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.’ (Genesis 1:11-12, 29)
With the exception of God and people, the Bible mentions trees more than any other living thing. Whether it is the Fall, the Flood, the overthrow of the Pharaoh, or the crucifixion of Jesus, there is a tree, branch, or fruit marking nearly every major event in the Bible. Matthew Sleeth has observed that “Nearly one third of all the sentences in the first three chapters of the Bible contain a tree. Within the first two pages of the Bible, life, death, human agency, respiration, calories, aesthetics, human purpose, and a connection to God are all tied to trees.”
So we could say that the trees are, in a sense, preaching to us. Yet, when was the last time you heard a clergy leader preach a sermon on trees?
Sleeth asks: “If trees are subtracted from our theology, can readers understand why Tolkien cast the evil villain Sauron as a destroyer of ancient forests? Can they appreciate the wickedness of Tash as his minions start clearcutting the trees in C.S. Lewis’s Narnia?” He insists that it’s time for us to “reforest our faith,” and that by paying attention to trees in scripture, and in our world, all will mutually benefit from this renewal of the relationship between humans and Creation.
Questions to consider:
- Have you thought about asking your clergy leader to go on one of these tree-walks with you? Or, if you are a clergyperson, have you considered inviting your parishioners to join you in these walks?
- If you attend a local congregation, what would you like to share with your clergy leader or fellow worshippers about what you’ve learned or experienced so far in this Healthy Trees, Healthy People, Healthy Faith project? Consider writing a short reflection for your congregation’s newsletter. If you are a clergyperson, consider a sermon series on trees in the Bible!
This is the day that you have made, Holy One; we rejoice and are glad in it. We rejoice in the sunlight filtering through green leaves and glistening pine needles. We are glad for the feel of rough bark beneath our hands. We rejoice in the smell of earth after rain. Bless us as we invite others to share these simple joys with us. Amen.
[If you want to receive the full 8-week devotional via email, contact me at email@example.com.]
Want to see the previous weeks’ devotionals? You can start with the first week here and follow the links for the rest of the devotionals online.
Thanks to Matthew Sleeth for contributing to this devotional. His forthcoming book is called Reforesting Faith. Visit www.blessedearth.org for more information.
Leah D. Schade is the Assistant Professor of Preaching and Worship at Lexington Theological Seminary (Kentucky) and author of the book Creation-Crisis Preaching: Ecology, Theology, and the Pulpit (Chalice Press, 2015). She is an ordained minister in the Lutheran Church (ELCA).