Springtime Greetings Dear People of Bethlehem,
Like most people, I tend to associate spring with nature – budding flowers, new stems shooting up from previously snow-covered plots (my Midwestern roots still clearly have an influence), and the glorious green of new growth. I recently learned something interesting about plant behavior, specifically about how trees communicate with one another. I wanted to be precise in my retelling of this, so I turned to Google to make sure I got my facts straight. And wouldn’t you know, I heard it on an episode of Ted Lasso, a show I have previously written about in this newsletter. Someday I’ll have to thank the writers of that show for all of the theological fodder they have provided me. But I digress …
The show references the work of Professor Suzanne Simard who studies forestry at the University of British Columbia. Her groundbreaking work (pun semi-intended) has shown that forests operate as social communities. Previously it was thought that it was an “every plant for themself” kind of situation. If you didn’t get enough sunlight, or enough water, or enough nutrients, well, that was just too bad, and you probably weren’t gonna make it. Instead, she has shown that trees actually communicate with each other, and work collaboratively as well. They are linked to neighboring trees through an underground network of fungi that resemble the neural pathways of the brain. They are able to share resources with one another, warn each other about danger (forest fires, pest infestations, etc.), and even help nurture young seedlings. In short, they can do everything that a human community should do.
Now, I say “should” because sadly, that’s not always how human communities operate. Oftentimes our society lauds values like “look out for number one,” and “only the strong survive.” Some people try to justify that model saying it’s just a law of nature. But with these trees we see a different law of nature. A law that promotes cooperation, collaboration, and mutual care as the highest priorities. These are lessons that we hear from Jesus each and every Sunday, and especially as we move into the sacred time of Holy Week. A time when we will be given a new commandment to love our neighbors as Jesus has loved us. A time when Jesus will do his best to prepare his followers to carry on his work once he’s gone – work that will take a community to achieve. A community of believers, united both by common mission and the power of the Holy Spirit, that will become Christ’s body here on earth. So as new life is springing up all around us, look to the trees, look to nature, and learn from its ways. For there is wisdom to be found in the earth, in this wonderful creation that God has blessed us with.
Root down to rise up, Pastor Sam