The Season After Pentecost
Year B, Proper 6
There is something awe-inspiring about Lebanon Cedars. The massive lower trunk provides a foundation for multiple massive limbs reaching for the sky, where they blossom out in crests of foliage that tower over any other foliage beneath. The cedar pictured here is part of a guesthouse estate in New Zealand (http://www.paheke.co.nz). It might be worth a visit. These Cedars can reach 70 feet tall and 30 feet in spread at the top. That’s a lot of shade!
It’s easy to understand why the prophet Ezekiel would use this tree as a metaphor for both the Assyrian and Egyptian empires. Who would have thought at the height of the Pharaohs’ power that anything could happen to Egypt, even despite what had happened to Assyria? Who would think today about anything happening to the United States of America despite what happened to the Former Soviet Union?
If even Pharaohs and Presidents can be cut down in a day then is the best an individual or culture can hope for eventual futility? There is one individual and one culture that have yet to be cut down. This individual is the Son of God and this culture is his kingdom.
As the church, the ambassador of the kingdom of God, we need to sink our roots deep not into the constructs of any earthly kingdom, even a democratic one, but rather into the gospel, which is in actual fact good news for every tribe, tongue, and nation on the earth. The West itself may fall but the church will endure, as it always has.
The Clash of Civilizations will one day resolve for all under the shade of a tree even greater than the Cedar of Lebanon. “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the of tree are for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be any curse” (Rev. 22:1-2).
Will our lives and our churches leave a legacy, or only futility? It depends on where we presently take our shade. As citizens, we need to watch our political leaders carefully to make sure that they are pursuing justice rather than realpolitik. As believers, we need to appreciate the benefits of our respective cultures while also understanding where and how each of these cultures is still in need of the healing leaves of the Tree of Life. This requires much wisdom, discernment, discipline, and most importantly, prayer.