The Tallest Tree

2021-06-13  – Year B – Proper 6 – The Rev. Canon Christopher Klukas
Ezekiel 31:1-6, 10-14; Psalm 92; 2 Corinthians 5:1-10; Mark 4:26-34

  • Virgin forests once covered 78% of Florida’s land. By 1937 only 21% was forested.
  • Today, through reforestation efforts, the number has risen to 47%. These new, younger trees are not nearly as big as the old growth trees were.
  • The Senator – estimated to be 3,500 years old in 1993. Before a hurricane removed its top in 1925 the tree stood 165 feet tall. It was the 5th oldest tree in the world and the largest tree east of the Mississippi. Its trunk was 17.5 ft in diameter.
  • The tree was destroyed by a fire lit by a 26 y/o drug addict on January 16, 2012.
  • Today the charred remains of the tree are only 20-25 ft tall.

Kingdoms

  • Every great nation in history has eventually either lost its prominence or faded away completely. Babylonian empire, Roman Empire, the Azteks, British empire, etc.
  • The tree is common image used by the prophets to describe these civilizations.
  • Egypt – Ezekiel 31
    • Dated June 587 BC. Approximately 1,000 after the Senator tree sprouted.
    • Addressed as a warning to Pharoh, but describes the rise and fall of Assyria.
    • v. 6 – Birds and nests – other smaller nations taking refuge in it.
      • Maybe this is why God allowed this empire to flourish (v. 9).
      • “The prosperity of the wicked is, in the last analysis, all due to the mercy and goodness of God.”
    • v. 10-11 – Assyria fell because of its pride and wickedness. God caused its fall just as God cause its rise.
    • Nubuchadnezzar invaded Egypt in 586 BC, about a year after this oracle. Jerusalem fell to him in the same year.
  • Israel – Ezek 17
    • Spoken to Israel during her partial captivity in Babylon. Earlier verses in this chapter warn of the destruction of Israel by Nebuchadnezzar.
    • Ezek 17:22–24 – speaks of the restoration of Israel.
      • v. 23 – birds and nests – again, maybe this is a part of God’s reason for restoring Israel and causing her to flourish.

Individuals

  • What about individuals. Do you ever wonder why wicked people sometimes seem to flourish?
  • The ungodly – Psalm 92:7-8
    • This psalm speaks of their ultimate destruction. Justice will come.
    • 2 Corinthians 5:10 – The righteous have nothing to fear in God’s judgement.
  • The righteous – Psalm 92:11
    • The righteous are compared to a Cedar in lebanon, just like Israel and Egypt were in Ezekiel.

The Kingdom of God

  • This flourishing is not really about us at all, it is about something greater.
    • “The more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become…The more I resist Him and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires…I am not, in my natural state, nearly so much of a person as I like to believe: most of what I call ‘me’ can be very easily explained. It is when I turn to Christ, when I give myself up to His Personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own” (CS Lewis, Mere Christianity).
  • Psalm 92:12-14 – Individual trees planted in the court of God.
    • The court of God might be thought of as the boundaries of his kingdom
    • Many individual trees are planted there. Collectively flourishing.
    • Like the regrowth of the decimated forests of Florida.
  • Mustard seed – Mark 30-32 – A parable about the Kingdom of God
    • It begins as the “smallest of all the seeds”
    • But it grows into the “largest of all the garden plants.”
    • v. 32 birds and nests – Individuals and nations will take shelter under earthly empires that rise and fall. This is not stable. The growing momentum of God’s Kingdom will provide a lasting shelter for those who seek it. A shelter that will never fail or fall.

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