First, the personal learning: the resilience of the Lodgepole pine tree, especially in regards to its survival after a devastating forest fire. My “Outdoor Family Guide” to the Grand Teton/Yellowstone area had this to say: “Lodgepole are specially adapted to fire; they produce two types of cones. Their serotinous cones (with a waxlike coating) open only at temperatures above 113 degrees F. The bursting of these cones in a fire produces up to 1 million seeds per acre…as the timbers cool, birds and small mammals flock to eat the newly released seeds. Many take up residence in standing snags…”*
I had never heard of “snags” before, at least not the kind so referenced.
Dictionary.reference.com defines them as “a short, projecting stump, as of a branch broken or cut off.” The author’s observation regarding the benefit of that explosive scattering of Lodgepole seed? “Thus life returns almost instantaneously after a fire.”
Put a mental bookmark right there and hold that thought for several paragraphs.
I discovered this bit of Lodgepole trivia the same day the headline “Supreme Court Rules 5-4 Gay Marriage is a Constitutional Right, Bans Struck Down” ticker-taped across the face of my cell phone. And I saw an immediate parallel of sorts between the Lodgepole being destroyed by fire, only to release provision to all creatures that were around; and our role as Christ’s ambassadors, being singed by the cultural flames that lap at our feet and how God has provided Himself to release provision, through us, so that Life around us may be established and re-established.
Yes, upon reading the judicial ruling, the portion of Scripture that immediately came to my mind was Romans 1. However, it was quickly followed by 2 Corinthians 4:9. Then miscellaneous Scriptures from Revelation drifted in, floating by as wispy, what-if clouds of random curiosity. And finally, where my heart rested: I Peter 2:9-12. It reads, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (2 Pet. 2:9-12, NASB)
My opinion: that’s a pretty good rock on which to stand…from which to catapult…beside which to take shelter…
While multitudes remain confused and unresponsive to God’s call for them to step out of the darkness, there is no question about the direction given to each of us, we who are already walking with Him and experience His marvelous light. We are to proclaim His “excellencies.” We are to be of “excellent” behavior even when called “evildoers,” with the expectation that a continuation of our “good deeds” will result in the skeptics’ positive responses to Him “in the day of visitation.”
The Message translation of 2 Corinthians 4 starts off, “Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we’re not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times. We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don’t maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don’t twist God’s Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God. If our Message is obscure to anyone, it’s not because we’re holding back in any way. No, it’s because these other people are looking or going the wrong way and refuse to give it serious attention. All they have eyes for is the fashionable god of darkness. They think he can give them what they want, and that they won’t have to bother believing a Truth they can’t see. They’re stone-blind to the dayspring brightness of the Message that shines with Christ, who gives us the best picture of God we’ll ever get…” (2 Cor. 4:1-4)
There are a few phrases in that section of Scripture I want to highlight, the first one being, “Since God has so generously let us in on what He is doing.”
That’s huge. We are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession. We are those of whom Hebrews states, “For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings…” (Heb. 2:10, italics added, NASB)
Yet those who have not yet recognized that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Cor. 5:19, NASB), those who have not yet responded to His call to leave the darkness and walk in His marvelous Light are stuck in a cloud of thick, dark haze: “all they have eyes for is the fashionable god of darkness”…”they think he can give them what they want”…and, “that they won’t have to bother believing a Truth they can’t see”…
It strikes me that these are temptations that seek to ensnare us all, for the “fashionable god of darkness” is consistently throwing out a net of captivity disguised as “giving people what they want”…and our own pathways are often littered with physical mis-representations of “truth,” “joy,” “fulfillment,” and “purpose.”
How does the statement in 2 Corinthians 5:19 conclude? “He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” (NASB)
Now, the connections between Supreme Court decisions, Romans 1, and Lodgepole pines. The Message translation of Romans 1:19-27 reads, “…the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being…people knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, refusing to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life…so God said, in effect, ‘If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.’ It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them – the God we bless, the God who blesses us….Worse followed. Refusing to know God, they soon didn’t know how to be human either – women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men. Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men – all lust, no love. And then they paid for it, oh how they paid for it emptied of
He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. The Supreme Court may legally sanction such expressions of confusion and lost humanity….but He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
Back to our Lodgepole pine. Do you see it? The world around it burns…and yet it has been fully equipped by its Creator to provide not only for its own perpetuation and increase, but for those things around it that have been devastated. The seeds provide not only food which is eagerly devoured and gives the strength to carry on, but also shelter and rest from the devastation.
So it is with each of us. He has committed Himself – and us – to this task. Seeds must be planted. And they are often best tossed out in multitude when the fire is the hottest. Paul wrote, “Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us. While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best!…so we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it looks like things are falling apart on us…there’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.” (2 Cor.4:12,16,18, The Message)