My Colombian friend, Juliana, used to live in Cusco in Peru, and was very involved with helping local churches get involved with looking after the land. The highlands of Cusco have been seriously deforested and are suffering terribly from the impact of climate change, with farmers saying that their crops don’t grow like they used to. Juliana helped one Quechua community, many of whom were Christians, plant 32,000 native trees, part of a project to form a forest of a million trees that will cover the bare mountains and replenish the watersheds below.
Trees are a vital part of life on earth. They protect the soil, absorb CO2 and provide habitats for a myriad of wildlife. They are a vital part of our own personal lives too. Think for a moment – are there particular trees that you can remember from your childhood or that you particularly love now? And, have you ever given much thought to trees in the Bible? Once we stop and pay attention, we notice that trees feature through the whole story of the Bible and are present at nearly every major occurrence.
As I consider the appalling consequences of deforestation, I am struck, by way of contrast, with the Jewish festival of Tu b’Shevat, ‘the New Year for Trees’. How beautiful to have a new year especially for trees; a day to pause and recognise the beauty and wonder of trees and all they do for us and the land, and to commit ourselves to looking after them and to planting more.
For me, loving trees isn’t separate to my faith: it’s an integral part of what it means to worship the Creator. And as I seek to live in ways that take care of trees, so too I want to be like the tree of Psalm 1, planted by streams of water, rooted deeply in God through the rhythms and practices of my life.
This blog post was originally published here by St Paul’s Cathedral.