|I often think of this story in Genesis 21.
Last week, it came to mind because Corpus Christi’s city council approved a new tree ordinance. Now, new single-family and two-family residential lots must include a new tree. Want to build a new house? Great! Plant a tree, too.
That may not sound like much, but I appreciate the intent.
Planting trees is no new thing, of course. We attribute this great quote to Martin Luther (whether he actually said it is debatable): “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” My other favorite tree quote is a Chinese proverb: The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.
Planting trees nurtures our world and our faith. Trees are also stories and signs. They connect us to our past and future. They can also point to our hope in God. Our Genesis text today reminds us they are expressions of faith.
Genesis 21 tells the story of how the city of Beersheba got its name. The name translates to “well of the oath” or “well of seven.” Both names refer to aspects of what we read in the chapter. Moses made an oath with Abimelech. As a result of the covenant the two made, Abraham has a stake in the land God promised him. Remember that God called Abraham to leave his home; the Lord didn’t tell him where he would be going. This covenant, then, is a big deal.
Now that Abraham has a better vision of the promise, did you notice what he did? After the two men cut their covenant, Abraham planted a tree. Maybe Corpus Christi is following his example.
The tree could’ve been a way to honor God. If so, it would be a reminder of God’s faithfulness. It could also be Abraham is claiming his hope in what God is doing. He wouldn’t plant a tree if he didn’t think this was where God led him.
Now, this next message is one I wish every older adult would receive. I had always glanced over Abraham’s tree. When someone pointed it out, it spoke deeply to my soul.
Abraham would not benefit from that tree much. Trees take a while to grow. So, who would use its shelter and shade? Those who came after Abraham.
I can be so stuck on what’s important to me right now. We want God to do so much for us. But what are we doing, what are we giving of ourselves that isn’t for us right now? As the church, what are we doing for the next generation? Can we stop complaining about them long enough to invest in their future hope? How willing are we to share our hope in God with them in meaningful and tangible ways?
In other words, what trees are you planting to help the next generation know the promises of God?
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