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The Loss of a Tree

Over the last couple of weeks, I have watched out my office window as a crew works to remove a stately oak from the yard of a house across the street from the church.  At first I hopefully thought they were only trimming it, but as the work has progressed, I now realize that it is truly going to be completely removed.

And this makes me sad.

I love trees.  I probably would have made a pretty good Druid if it hadn’t been for my Christian upbringing.  As I’ve watched this beautiful oak being brutalized with chainsaws, I recall that in fifth or sixth grade I wrote a poem about an oak (among others) that was bulldozed down behind my elementary school in preparation for the construction of Interstate 44 in the St. Louis suburbs.  The poem has long since vanished, but it bothered me then, and it still bothers me today, nearly 45 years later.

Sure, I can understand why someone might want a tree taken down..we’ve done it ourselves. There’s the dropping of sticks, acorns, and leaves.  They clog gutters, can damage the roof, require raking in the fall and spring.  The acorns often sprout up in the spring and all these tiny trees have to be mowed.  And let us not forget the scourge of oak mites we experienced this past fall!

But I can’t help but consider the loss.

That tree provided a home and food for wildlife, especially squirrels.  I know some think of squirrels as rats with furry tails, but I sure do enjoy watching them, and God created them for a purpose.

And I’m certain that a wonderful tree like that located on the south side of the house provided significant shade resulting in a reduction of air conditioning costs.  I wonder if they considered this when they decided to have it cut down.

I guess I will choose to be generous with my understanding.

…Perhaps the homeowners plan to install solar panels on the roof, and it was necessary to remove the tree to provide solar access and to increase efficiency.

…Perhaps the homeowners felt overwhelmed by the home maintenance required by the presence of the tree.  Perhaps the wood will help someone heat their home during the brutal cold.

…Perhaps, had it not been for this project, the tree-trimmers would have been out of work leading up to the holidays.

So I watch and I pray.  I pray for the safety of the man up in the tree cutting the branches.  I pray for the safety of those on the ground, cutting up the felled wood.  I pray for the homeowners, new residents of this country who face rejection and discrimination daily in their own neighborhood. I pray for people in vehicles passing by.  And I pray for forgiveness and understanding, so as not to judge, especially when I don’t know the whole story.

Psalm 65 (NRSV)

To the leader. A Psalm of David. A Song.

Praise is due to you,
O God, in Zion;
and to you shall vows be performed,
O you who answer prayer!
To you all flesh shall come.
When deeds of iniquity overwhelm us,
you forgive our transgressions.

Happy are those whom you choose and bring near
to live in your courts.
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house,
your holy temple.
By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance,
O God of our salvation;
you are the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas.

By your strength you established the mountains;
you are girded with might.
You silence the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
the tumult of the peoples.

Those who live at earth’s farthest bounds are awed by your signs;
you make the gateways of the morning and the evening shout for joy.

You visit the earth and water it,
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide the people with grain,
for so you have prepared it.
You water its furrows abundantly,
settling its ridges,
softening it with showers,
and blessing its growth.

You crown the year with your bounty;
your wagon tracks overflow with richness.
The pastures of the wilderness overflow,
the hills gird themselves with joy,
the meadows clothe themselves with flocks,
the valleys deck themselves with grain,
they shout and sing together for joy.

May the year be crowned with God’s bounty, and may all shout and sing together with joy!