Reforesting Faith

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Member Reviews

Matthew Sleeth has written an engaging and passionate book about an unsung actor in the drama of salvation: the tree. Pointing out that every major character in the stories contained in the Bible includes a tree, Dr. Sleeth encourages us to take seriously God’s love for trees. A delightful romp beginning with Genesis and ending with Revelation, he does this through sharing his personal experiences, intriguing facts, and insights that build faith and encourage us to grow. If you are looking for something that challenges you to widen your vision of Jesus’ extraordinary mission and to act accordingly, Reforesting Faith is a good place to start.

Reforesting Faith emphasizes that we need to wake up to the enormous gift God has given us in all of creation, including trees. If Amazon were to drop an enormous gift box on a neighbor’s doorstep only to have them never bother to take a peek inside, we might wonder about our neighbor’s sanity. Yet, many of us go through the day without ever experiencing the giftedness of creation. To that effect he encourages us to notice the world around us and to allow it to lead us into wonder. Dr. Sleeth asks us what might have happened to salvation history if Moses had been absorbed in a cellphone screen as he passed by the burning bush, or looked at the bush but didn’t even notice (or care) that it was burning. Moses did notice this unusual occurrence, wondered, and entered into a life-changing dialogue with God. 

Moses’ experience resonates with that of St. Paul and centuries of devout disciples who have found God speaking to them through nature. As George Washington Carver, the great disciple and scientist, who said

Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what is in books, for they speak with the voice of God. 

Dr. Sleeth also argues that it behooves us to remember that God sent Jesus to redeem the whole world, not just humans, because he loves it dearly. Walter Brueggemann points out in his book, The Land, that all the covenants God has made with God’s people are three-way covenants between God, humans, and the rest of creation. What God does is for the sake of all his creation, not just us. The word that we translate as “world” is the Greek word cosmos, which includes the meanings of beauty and order. God sees God’s beautiful creation as a community of interrelated and interdependent creatures – rocks, air, water, algae, platypuses and people – that Jesus came to redeem and transform. What God loves so deeply we need to cherish also.  

Loving all creation, including trees, involves acknowledging our dependence on it and honoring that relationship. Without trees we have no air, water, building material, paper, and a myriad of things we take for granted that sustain our very lives. Indeed, Dr. Sleeth points out we are deeply immersed in a life support system that God gives us and expects us to sustain for our, and its, benefit. To this effect the author encourages us to get in touch with it by planting trees. Doing so not only benefits all of creation but changes us in the process. Doing so helps get us back in touch with our roots. With our growing urbanization we have become more and more alienated from the rest of the community of life. For our physical and spiritual well being Dr. Sleeth encourages us to re-discover God’s gift of trees, particularly in a society increasing alienated from God, one another, and the rest of creation. As someone who lives surrounded by trees, I couldn’t agree more.
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I have not read a Karen Kingsbury book in a long time. I was glad to revisit the Baxter family. I need to go back and read some of the Baxter books I have missed. I have always enjoyed Karen Kingsbury books and my patrons at the library will look forward to this book.
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