Over the course of our annual stewardship season, we are grateful to learn more from parishioners about the important role of the church in their lives. Thank you, Lynley, for sharing your thoughts with us this week!
My stewardship in church is interconnected with everything I am and do.
I use the metaphor of a tree to explain my connection to the church, my family, my friends, community and the world.
I start with my roots growing deep into the soil of my faith. Roots dig deep into the earth for nourishment as do I for the Word of God, hymns, fellowship and prayers.
Thinking of roots and trees led me to remembering something I read about trees a very long time ago but that many of you might already know. Did you know Peter Wohlleben, a German forest ranger, who wrote a bestseller called “The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate?” My own gardening skills are very limited and I literally have a brown thumb; I’ve been known to wither bamboo with a glance from 20 feet! But the nerd in me was curious and so I read more about Wohlleben’s philosophy. Peter bases his musings on his own experiences, pondering and on scientific research conducted globally. He talks about mycorrhizal networks where fine, hairlike root tips of trees join with microscopic fungal filaments forming a symbiotic network. The fungi absorb 30% of sugar produced by trees but in turn, the fungal network helps trees share water, nutrients and signals with other trees.
This communal cooperation is not limited to trees of the same species; trees of one species often also help trees of different species. Parent or mature trees nourish young saplings who get only 3% of the sunlight that filters down to the densely canopied forest floor. Younger trees don’t have deep roots to get water, so the older trees transfer food and nutrients to them to help them. This eventually makes the entire forest stronger and more resistant to infestations or the vagaries of the weather.
How is it that giraffes that eat acacia trees trigger a response in the tree which starts emitting ethylene gas? This release of ethylene triggers neighbouring trees to transfer tannins to their leaves causing large herbivores to sicken or even die. And how have giraffes evolved such that they know to eat downwind so that any gas emitted is not transferred to the neighbouring trees? This is a remarkable feat of communication as the groves of acacia trees try to protect each other.
How can I apply this to my understanding of community, appreciation and inclusion of other cultures? How can I create symbioses within all spheres of my life? How can I try to establish and foster helping networks with those less fortunate or those less privileged in my world? How can I use this new information to guide my understanding of a contradiction that makes me richer when I give away more?
Furthering the tree metaphor, we know that leaves are the lungs of our planet as they trade oxygen for CO2. What do I take in and what do I emit that will help this community and planet? Can I take what is negative in my environment and transform negativity into positive thoughts?
Flowers bring beauty and scent to our world. Perhaps the flowers I could gift the world might be good deeds, a hug, a smile, a kind word or just an open ear to listen. Flowers eventually bear fruit that provide nourishment to others and are distributed in ways you never suspect. Think of apples being picked by a picker in the Okanagan but transported many kilometres away to other markets and homes. Perhaps bananas from Peru or oranges from Florida reach us via several networks. Perhaps my fruits are distributed in a similar manner and in domino effects I could not possibly predict. There are obvious gifts such as music or art. But maybe less visible and less appreciated fruits are love, compassion, empathy and the ability to care for another. The literal and metaphorical fruit of my labour can also be my earnings with which I am blessed by the grace of my God given intelligence and skills; this allows me to contribute monetarily to the work of the church.
In my own sphere, the symbiotic relationship I have with the church allows me to feast on rich nutrients; my reciprocal effort to support the church results in trying to inculcate healthy and balanced values. While this formula does not necessarily make me a better or more righteous person, an intentional commitment to live my life in this manner makes it easier for me to create the opportunity to absorb the right nutrients that will nourish my soul. I use this metaphor to reflect on what I get out of church and what I give back. I hope it encourages you to reflect some more on your own unique gifts.