Redwoods and Resurrection

“As pastor, I am obliged by divine order to give my life for those I love, that is all Salvadorans, even those who will assassinate me. If they kill me, I will rise again in the Salvadoran People”.

~ Oscar Romero

The scientific name of the Coast Redwood is Sequoia sempervirens: the tree that lives forever. You can cut it down. You can burn it. It will rise again. 

Right now, I co-teach a called entitled Spiritual Ecology. My partner teacher is an environmental scientist. I’m the theologian. Often, I will listen to her explain something about the root systems of native shrubs or the habitat of gopher snakes, and something theological will come to mind. I guess this is why Jesus returned again and again to nature in order to communicate his points. 

When I listened to her talk about the ways of the Coast Redwood tree, the Romero quote rang in my head. “If they kill me, I will rise again in the Salvadoran people.”

99% of Northern California Coast Redwood trees were clear cut in the mid-1800s to build San Francisco. But when you cut down a redwood tree, its root system lives on. From those horizontal roots, a ring of tiny baby trees will sprout, nourished by the original mother tree. These new trees grow, and they form a circle around the dead stump of the mother. They communicate via their nuanced root system and form a new family. 

“Cut me down. I will rise again.” 

The Coast Redwood also produces seeds. Lots of seeds. They are the smallest seeds in the forest and produce the largest trees. I can’t help but think that Jesus, instead of a mustard seed, would have used the redwood seed to explain the kin-dom of God, if he had been a Northern Californian. These thousands of seeds usually never sprout. They burrow deep into the soil, but if the community is healthy, they never get enough sun to sprout. However, if a disaster has struck: the forest has endured a calamitous fire or, more likely, humans have come and cut it all down, then the seeds feel the sun. They go to work. It’s time for resurrection. There is no rising without dying.

Lewis Thomas

When I attended the protest at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia, the mass of people approached the gates of the military school, the place where soldiers are taught to torture. As we processed, people called out the names of the murdered. The crowd responds: “Presenté.” “We are here.” And indeed, the murdered were there, more numerous and more powerful than ever. Murder us. We will rise again. Justice is the end. 

The mother Redwood endures. Romero endures. The murdered endure. Christ endures. All of us have a seed of the divine within. Cut us down. Burn us. Try to obliterate us. We will rise again. 

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