From the Backcountry ...

 Nebraska Arbor Day, circa 1908

Nebraska Arbor Day, circa 1908

North Greenwich Congregational Church

Pastor’s Weekly Update  (Arbor Day Edition)

April 27, 2018

From the Backcountry …

Each generation takes the earth as Trustees.  It is our responsibility to bequeath to posterity as many forests and oceans as we exhaust and consume.”   J. Sterling Norton

Happy Arbor Day!  Journalist Julius Sterling Morton and his wife Caroline moved to the Nebraska Territory in the Fall of 1854.  In those days, Nebraska was a treeless expanse of prairie land, basking in the sun. The first thing the young couple did when they settled on their 160 acres near Nebraska City was plant trees and shrubs on their homestead.  Soon afterward, Sterling became editor of The Nebraska News, publishing articles on agriculture.  Even though plants thrive in harsh sunlight, Midwest crop cultivation needs trees - as barriers against the brutal winds that sweep across the plains.  Farmers also need trees for fuel, building material and shade!!  In time, Morton began writing a very popular column about environmental stewardship, emphasizing the importance of trees to the interrelatedness of life.  In 1872, he approached the state Board of Agriculture to set aside one day a year to plant trees.  His proposal was unanimously approved and April 10 was designated as that special day.  Prizes were offered to the counties that planted the largest number of trees.  To everyone’s astonishment, Nebraskans planted over a million trees that first “Arbor” Day.  It wasn’t long before other states followed suit.  By 1920, 45 states had joined in the springtime festivities.   Through the years, Morton became a renowned environmental spokesperson.  He was always quick to remind audiences that while other holidays celebrate something that has happened in the past, Arbor Day reflects our ongoing hope in the future.  The simple act of planting a tree signifies the confidence that the tree will grow and one day provide “wood products, wildlife habitat, erosion control, shelter from wind and sun, beauty for ourselves and our children.”  The observance of Arbor Day was eventually moved to the last Friday in April. 

Sunday,  April  29    Fourth Sunday of Easter  10:30 a.m.

Lectionary Readings:  Psalm 22;  John 15: 1-8

Text:  “Abide in me, as I abide in you.”   John 15: 4

Sermon:  “All vine and No Taters”

Tease:   I am choosing some old Appalachian wisdom as we reflect on Jesus’ final conversation with his followers.  “I am the vine,” he says, “You are the branches.  Those who abide in me will bear much fruit.”  The image of a grapevine graced the entrance to the Jerusalem Temple. So, he’s reminding us that no matter what the future holds, his teachings remain the true life and way for God’s faithful.   It’s easy to detect the health of a grapevine by counting the clusters of plump fruit.  Not so, with sweet potato vines.  In fact, one can be tending wonderfully verdant vines, but when the time comes to pull the tubers beneath the surface …well, let’s just say grandma won’t be baking no sweet potato pie.  Which is to say, when it comes to abiding in Christ, there’s always the danger of being “all show and no substance.”

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The Wider Church  -  More About Trees

Trees benefit our Health:  Trees act as a filter - absorbing pollutants from our atmosphere.  They provide shade and reduce noise.  In fact, research shows that within minutes of our being among trees, stress levels are reduced – which does wonders for our blood pressure and heart rate.

Trees benefit the Environment:  The carbon stored in their wood helps slow the rate of global warming.  Trees also prevent flooding and soil erosion.

Trees benefit Wildlife:   One of our stately Maple trees in the churchyard can be home to as many as 500 different species of critters.

Trees strengthen Communities:  Trees are a source of community character and pride.  They are also a phenomenal education resource in bringing groups together for activities - like hiking and birdwatching.   They are essential in helping children discover their sense of adventure!

See You Sunday,

Royal