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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Image of the good life

Trees have some advantages

In this season of fall colors, let's think about trees. It would be easy to pity plants. They can't move around like we can.

They have no brains and muscles to let them build cars and drive to the mountains in the fall.

And yet trees must have some advantages. After all, the largest living thing is a tree, and the oldest living thing is a tree.

When the psalmist searched for an image of the good life he picked trees:

The righteous will flourish like palm trees,
They will grow like cedars of Lebanon.
They are like trees planted in the house of the Lord,
That flourish in the temple of our God (Psalm 92:12-13).

The secret of the tree's good life is the way it relates to its surroundings. Humans have muscles, hands and feet because we have to scurry out of the hot sun or into a warm shelter. We have to avoid drafts, find a safe place to sleep, and hunt and prepare food.

Trees don't have these problems. They have a permanent seat at nature's bountiful table. Their food is brought to them by winds and soil. They are built to soak up as much of their environment as possible, with branches reaching out thousands of leaves to be fed by the sun, rinsed by the rain and bathed on all sides by the life-giving air.

Below ground, roots and rootlets mine the soil for nutrients and grip the earth for support. A single winter rye plant has a root system, if you include its tiny root hairs, that totals 700 miles of tunneling in the earth.

Could trees be the last symbol of an unfallen creation? They don't hide from God as Adam and Eve did. The Easter liturgy reminds us that, although Satan once overcame humankind through a tree in Eden, Satan at last was overcome through the tree of the cross.

The Psalm tells us:

The trees of the wood are ready to shout for joy.
When the Lord comes to rule the earth in justice and fairness (Psalm 96:12-13).

May we be ready to join their green and golden hallelujahs!


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