From the Editor

A death in midsummer

That old tree became a parable for me.

Along the street that leads west from the parking lot adjoining our office building in Minneapolis there are houses which may date back 80 years. They’re large, lavish and designed for the very wealthy. None of the upper crust live there any longer.

Some of the trees that line that street are probably as old as the homes they shade. In recent days, one of them, perhaps the largest and tallest of them all, was girdled with an ominous orange paint stripe. A careful look told why: some of the leaves were turning prematurely yellow and brown in mid-summer. On the ends of the branches farthest out, there were no leaves at all.

And so, even though the tree still gives pretty good shade, because it is clearly dying, the city of Minneapolis decided it was time to take it down. It makes sense. If a strong wind should topple it, the trunk and branches could take out a roof — or a person.

One warm July day I stood at curbside (on the other side of the street) and watched the tree surgeon expertly slice away, cutting enormous branches free, dropping them to the lawn. A work crew fed each one into a nasty-looking chopper that reduced everything to a spray of sawdust, sent hurtling into the back of a waiting truck.

In less than eight hours, God’s handiwork of eighty years will be gone.

Will they plant another tree there? Surely they will. The new one will take a while to grow, but not as long as we might suppose. Healthy young plantings have a way of growing rapidly.

Christians on pilgrimage can learn from that old tree. Sometimes the way we structure our daily walk with God gets old, turns stale, grows ineffective, begins to die.
If every prayer we offer is one we memorized, or focuses only on ourselves, or amounts to begging without praising, it may be time to admit our prayer life is dead or dying.

And, if we find we no longer pray at all, we already have the coroner’s report.
If once God seemed close to us, but now there’s a growing distance between ourselves and God, perhaps the way we practice the presence of God needs a rebirth.
If our view of God and reality denigrates that of any who think or believe differently, a death and resurrection may be in order.

I’m sorry the tree died. Another will grow. May our lives in Christ be similarly renewed.