I love trees. In my younger days, there wasn’t a tree I wouldn’t climb to explore and try to get its view of the world. I stick to the ground these days, but I love learning about them, planting them, and tending them. One of my favorite tree books is the classic A Natural History of Trees by Donald Peattie. His descriptions of each species are part botany, part poetry, but all love for these amazing creations. Here is part of his description of the white pine: “The white pine may be distinguished at a glance, almost as far as it can be seen, by its pagoda-like outline and habit of growth. The whorled branches grow in well-separated tiers, as if they formed successive platforms of a tower. When the male flowers bloomed in these illimitable pineries, thousands of miles of forest aisle were swept with the golden smoke of this reckless fertility, and great storms of pollen were swept from the primeval shores far out to sea and to the superstitious sailor seemed to be “raining brimstone” on the deck.”
In the wake of the recent nor’easter, in addition to many people out of power and heat, the area has been littered with the sight of magnificent old trees felled by the high winds. Hundreds of years of slow growth, recklessly thrown to the ground, cut up, chipped up and carted away. Beyond the temporary inconvenience, it has been a tree-lovers nightmare.
It has a Lenten feel to it. Ashes, death, wilderness, the cleansing of the temple. Those have all been a part of life inside the church in this season – a Lenten journey now reflected in the toppled trees around us. The Spirit brings not just peace, patience, kindness, and other such lovely things, but also wind and fire. It stirs us, pushes us – even toppling long and dearly held notions of who God is, who we are, and why we are here. It isn’t always much fun. And at this point, I’m ready for some resurrection!
Outside, eventually, a hint of resurrection will be seen in the spaces left by all the fallen trees. Sunlight will find places it hasn’t seen in decades. Long-dormant seeds will spring to life. Reaching for the sun, new future magnificence will begin its slow and steady climb to the sky.
In a few weeks, inside the sanctuary trumpets will sound, and we will hear it said again – He is risen! He is risen with the April-foolish promise that such a resurrection isn’t just for a single body two thousand years ago. We are foolish enough to believe that it is also the way of the entire world –inside the church, out among the trees, and in every part of creation where such new life is so very much needed.
May it be so!
Dan Love is Co-Pastor at the Rye Presbyterian Church.