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The Tree of Emmanuel: Stewardship Reflection

On the hot days this August, I found myself walking almost daily. With the sun beating down, my walk was made much more pleasant while walking under trees, feeling the breeze and the shade from the leaves. Recently, performing a

hobby of mine that you might call “time-wasting research,” I learned that walking under trees is not only enjoyable, but also beneficial for my health and well-being. Walking in forests or green spaces can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, improve mood, boost the immune system, and even have antidepressant effects. Trees emit a chemical called phytoncides, which I’ve read can help fight off infections and diseases. The more I read about this, the more the exorbitant proportion of my rent that goes to the HOA and neighborhood associations seems worth it. Yet, how do we get trees?

A full-grown tree is not something that you just have instantly when you want it. It takes soil, planting, watchfulness, and protection against disasters. It takes stewardship, and it takes years. Many trees in the Puget Sound region grow where houses could be built, or offices, or parking lots. Yet I know I’m not alone as someone who has chosen to make my home here when I say, we don’t want our paradise to get paved over. Residents of the Pacific Northwest surely share a social contract that we will preserve our green and pleasant land, because we understand that if we were not so committed, no place so idyllic would remain in the world—and having passed from here, would it ever come back? Remember that centuries old Wedgewood tree? Community and tribe came together to guard it, and even the developer had to agree. In that sense, we can be grateful that our PNW neighbors already understand stewardship.

Yet stewardship applies not only to this evergreen region, nor only to Emmanuel. It touches the financial and the personal, the social and the soul. When I complete my walks, with every step I take, I’m helping and maintaining my health. When I listen to music or read literature, I’m tending the inner garden. When I remind myself that I must be patient and I must be kind, I’m pulling at inner weeds. And when I come to Emmanuel on Sunday, I’m stopping to rest under a different kind of tree.

As I considered stewardship as a member of that committee, I thought about how Emmanuel is like a tree. It was planted here on the Island by people who came before us, in soil that came well before. Only by their initiative do we have this place devoted to rest, the tree whose shade we cherish, yet only by our own efforts do we keep it and pass it on to posterity.

We Stewards of Emmanuel should each take time to consider what goes into Stewardship. Stewardship takes the right soil, and this is the soil we sift when we read, when we sing, when we gather, and when we celebrate. Stewardship takes initiative, dashing to meet the needs of the world, to open our doors, to offer safe harbor, to begin new activities and build new buildings when merited—for the actions we take now and the gifts we give can make every bit the difference to our posterity as the foundation of Emmanuel by our forebearers made for us.

Stewardship takes watchfulness, preserving the tree, preserving the green and pleasant land, against the encroachment of new parking lots. This means coming back, week by week, year by year, to check up on the place, and to continue our traditions of generosity. Stewardship takes our gifts.

We’ve seen more than our share of disasters this decade. We’ve lost many trees to forest fires. We’ve lost friends and loved ones to disease. We remain disconnected from other old friends. It’s time to get reacquainted. The pandemic so far has taught us to take joy in and treasure the little things of life all the more. And little is more fundamental than places like Emmanuel. Let’s remain grateful for what we have, for a mighty tree on which we can lean for repose. Let’s remember the gifts that we were given, and keep giving so posterity will have those gifts and more. A physical tree gives shade, rest, oxygen, and beauty. Our tree gives something more. Our tree of life, rooted in a deep abundance: our Emmanuel.

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