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Ash and Oil: March 25

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. (Rev 22:1)

I’ve been thinking about trees. Some years ago, I told the children at church a story about a tree under which Jesus paused – and looked up, and called to that short fellow, Zacchaeus, to hurry and come down. Luke even bothers to tell us what kind of tree it was – a sycamore. That tree was in the middle of the city of Jericho, and I know Zacchaeus was glad to find it there. I’m always glad to find trees too. I used to be glad to find one to climb; now I’m glad to find one to sit under.

On this Lenten journey, I’ve been thinking about trees. How grateful I am for them, and how much I enjoy their beauty, their shapes and their colors as the seasons change in Michigan. I remember how much I missed fall trees in the Philippines. I remember how many mulberries I ate from my Grandpa’s mulberry tree.

Palm trees and mango trees, neem trees and banyan trees – these are the trees of the Philippines. They remind me of communities, of stories, of programs, and families. I have a picture of a tree that saved families during a tsunami. I remember the trees under which meetings happen. And the trees that provide a living for the family and medicines for health. And there are even moringa trees for fish food! And so much more.

The Bible is full of trees; the prophets talked about them, the poets sang about them, Jesus cursed a tree that didn’t have fruit, and he amazed Nathanael by telling him he had seen him when he was under the fig tree. Trees in the Bible are amazing -- sometimes they even sing and dance!

There’s a tree in middle of the New Jerusalem too – and its leaves are for the healing of the nations. And that is possible because of another tree – the tree of Calvary. I’m taking a slow walk along a tree-lined path this Lenten season. And I’m thinking about how very much I love trees.

Pray: Lord, in the dryness of Lent, cause our roots to strike deep into you. And when the time comes to bear fruit, may concern for your creation be one of the fruits that our roots in you produce in us, for the good of the world.  

Take the next step: Deforestation is a serious problem for many impoverished communities around the world. Consider making a donation to World Renew’s environmental stewardship efforts, many of which address the root causes of deforestation in the communities in which they work.

This devotion was written by Karl Westerhof in a Lent series for the Office of Social Justice's website. 

[Image: Flickr user Tatters]

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