Weekly Devotion

from Redeemer Pastor Mark H. Larson

“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,

and do not return there until they have watered the earth,

making it bring forth and sprout,

giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;

it shall not return to me empty,

but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,

and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

For you shall go out in joy,

and be led back in peace;

the mountains and the hills before you

shall burst into song,

and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;

instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;

and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial,

for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off .”

                                 Isaiah 55

 Whenever I read this passage from Isaiah, which is the first lesson for this coming Sunday, and I get to the part about the trees of the field clapping their hands, I cannot help but think of the Ents from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The Ents are an ancient race of huge (think Sequoia size) walking, talking trees, whose job it is to care for all the forests of Middle Earth.

J.R.R. Tolkien wrote his masterpiece during the time when the Industrial Revolution was transforming the landscape of rural Britain. Factories were springing up, the rivers were being dammed, and the forests were being clear cut. Not surprising then that in the story, the good guys (the Hobbits, Elves, and Rangers) come from the forests and rural areas, while the evil Orcs are manufactured in smoke-bellowing factories by the evil wizard Saruman.

The ancient Ents stay pretty far removed from this conflict, until one day when they come across one of these orc factories and see first-hand the clear cutting of their ancient forests. Then they get angry. Then they get even. Nothing is more fierce than a 100 foot tall tree with an attitude. It reminds me of that old margarine commercial, “It’s not nice to mess with Mother Nature.”

It has been interesting to read all the stories on how the pandemic has actually had a positive impact on the environment. Reduction in oil consumption has led to a drop in CO2 emissions resulting in better air quality. There is less industrial waste being dumped into our rivers and streams. And if the squirrel invasion in my backyard is any indication, animal life is thriving. It is pretty obvious that when we humans make a change, we can have an immediate impact on the environment — a profound impact.

Back in Isaiah’s day, God’s people knew that their life and future were intimately intertwined with the destiny of the natural world. I don’t think it is by accident that Jesus often uses images from nature to teach his lessons, such as the Parable of the Sower which is Sunday’s gospel. God’s promised kingdom is not just a human kingdom, it is a “Peaceable Kingdom” in which all life thrives.

As we all yearn to get back to a more “normal” life, let us pray that it will be a “new normal” that we return to. Let us not forget our connection to and dependence upon God’s good creation all around us. Let us hope that our leaders can take this opportunity to set in motion policies that will have long-term benefits to the world around us. Let us work and pray for that day when we will all go out in joy, and be led back in peace; when the mountains and the hills before us shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

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