Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Church, God, Grace, Inspiration, Mercy, Religion, Sermon, Spirituality, thoughts
My father is a tree fanatic. When I was young we moved from a hundred year old home in a neighborhood named Cotner to a “modern” home close to the edge of Lincoln, Nebraska called Meadowlane. This area of town was affectionately called the “Meadow Ghetto” for no other reason that the two words rhymed. It was a lovely house with a spacious front and back yard on a corner lot. When we moved into that particular house there were only two trees in the yard. In the front there was a small pine tree and in the back there was an apple tree. Otherwise, the lot was practically empty.
It was empty until after we took a trip to Nebraska City and visited the home of Julius Sterling Mortenson. Mortenson was the founder of Arbor Day. After being inspired my father planted over fifty trees in that yard: Elm, Mountain Ash, Oak and shrubbery. I became intimately aware of them all because it became my chore to trim and prune each and every one of them.
So the planting and cultivation of trees became a very important part of my childhood. I learned that most of the trees in Nebraska were planted over its recent history. When the settlers first came to the land it was so barren that they named it the Great American Desert. With topsoil only a few inches deep it became imperative that these sod busters should plant rows of trees at the end of their fields to keep the constant prairie wind from carrying it away. The old timers, like my grandfather, remembered too well what happened in the great depression when the winds blew and blew the soil like a driving snow. Those days were called the great dustbowl and no one wanted to return. This was why we were encouraged to plant, cultivate and keep the trees that surrounded us. A few years back a terrible ice storm knocked out a huge percentage of the trees in my hometown and I felt a deep sadness. They would not be recovered or restored easily. Because I had a connection to these trees I had a heightened awareness of their importance to me our community.
It can be difficult to see clearly when you are surrounded by concrete, steel and mortar the intricate balance that we have as humans in creation’s various ecosystems. We might be excused from knowing our utter dependence on the earth when the meat wrapped in cellophane at Safeway is so radically removed from the bovine that munches on antibiotic laced corn at a field somewhere in Iowa. Or we are a generation removed from the Spring, Summer, Fall and winter produce cycle when our grocery stores provide us with the most abundant crops that Chile, China and Vietnam can provide us at any date in the calendar. We often become those whom merely purchase and consume with no idea of origins or consequences. Nor is there anyway for us to keep track of the human rights violations or environmental catastrophes caused by our corporations in the middle of the light bulb isle in our local Mega Mart. Often we are not connected to those things that give us life and affect our fellow humans.
Plus, the things that we are connected may sometimes isolate us even more. We get sucked into hours of television programming, we are overwhelmed every week by the volumes of innocuous emails waiting for immediately reply and our cell phones now allows us to text others instead of talking directly. Sometimes these modern conveniences can conspire to consume our time and keep us from the things that we want to do.
Yet, there is a unease that we have when we hear that global warming is causing the polar ice caps to recede and that the coasts of Florida and the island of Manhattan is threatened in a mere 25 years. Our unease heightens when we find that our children’s toys have traces of led paint that come from regions with different governments, economies and cultures. Our unease continues when over the 24 hour news scream we hear cries to close the borders, but our neighborhoods team with anonymous people cutting lawns, cleaning rooms and we see their blurry figures in fields where our crops are being harvested. It is unease with a disconnection that we feel with our soil, our neighbor, our family or ourselves. People will try to convince you that this disconnection is social, psychological, political or maybe even economic. It may be one or all of those things but the reality of our condition is that our feeling of disconnect is spiritual.
This is the image that we have from the Prophet Jeremiah, the people are disconnected from the divine. Desolation and despair are what are left for the people in a parched land. Mountains quake, the final bird has flown out of the horizon and the great cities are crumbling shells while the prophets of the land are spreading the most heinous lies about prosperity and the lack of suffering. There stands Jeremiah, the Cassandra. He can see the doom so clearly. It makes him ill and he begs for God to turn away. It is no use. The people of Israel are distracted. They cannot see that they are wandering far from the source of their salvation. Their religious and political leaders are beating the chant of prosperity and stability, when Jeremiah sees ruin and destruction if they do not return to their covenant with Yahweh.
Now I am not suggesting this morning that you can stop the shrinking of the polar ice caps, nor do I think that you can solve our countries deepest problems alone. Yet, I do know that in turning to the source of our lives we will become connected again to what truly makes us human. Through seeking the divine in God’s creation, by unleashing our pent up creativity, by allowing the Holy Spirit begin to work a change in you by helping others you may begin the painful process of re-connecting with the world. When we re-connect to God and creation our eyes are open to the world which surrounds us. We are taught the importance of our stewardship to all creation and the interconnectedness of all things. It is true that no one is an island, but to really understand that poetic phrase we must live fully in the world that our God has created. We must turn away from our obsessions, busyness, addictions and workaholic lifestyles to an existence that reconnects us to creation, our fellow humans and to the divine. It is the only on this path we find salvation.
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