The Tree Of The Year

For the third year, a Polish tree has taken the No. 1 spot in the European Tree of the Year contest. The 200-year-old common beech pictured below stands at the center of the botanical garden at the University of Wroclaw in Wrocław, Poland. It’s aptly named “The Heart of the Garden.”

There are so many things that I want to say about this.  I'll begin with the first question I asked when I read about this: 

"You're telling me that there is a "European Tree of the Year Contest?"  

Yes, that is exactly right.  Each year, all European countries submit entries of individual native trees to be considered for the contest.  And for the third year in a row, Poland's entries have won. 

This year's finalists included a massive Weeping Beech from France and an olive tree from Italy estimated to be between 3,000 and 4,000 years old.  

You should also know that this isn't just a beauty contest because the organizers of this annual event are also very interested in the stories of the trees that are entered.  This is what their website had to say about the winner this year: 

This monumental tree grows in the centre of an old park. Its majestic appearance impresses us with its unusually shaped and thick trunk, widely spreaded branches, and purple-coloured leaves that shine beautifully in the sun. The "Heart of the Garden" is living proof of an old park’s historic turmoil and dominates over the Arboretum situated around it. Upon a shadow of its great, widely spreaded crown, enthusiasts still meet - just like 100 or 200 years ago - united by their admiration of nature.

So, why am I spending so much time on this for a Daily Devo?  

It's the kind of news we need right now instead of the endless, divisive political drivel dominating the news cycles. 

But we also need to know that good people care about these things. The world needs people who want to know the stories of trees and who draw attention to Creation Care and the importance of being good stewards of our planet. 

Each year, all of the trees entered into this contest are landmarks within the communities where they have survived for hundreds (and even thousands) of years. 

As I reflected on this story, I was reminded of Psalm 1:3, which reads: 

[A wise person] is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
    whatever they do prospers.

The Heart of the City tree has stood at its post for nearly 200 years.  It has seen a city grow up around it.  It has borne witness to war, Nazi occupation, communist rule, and revolution.  

And still, people gather under it, seeking shade, connecting to Nature, and providing a sense of center for a community that has come to love and care for it.  

As people of faith, we have a high calling to care for what God cares for. Scripture teaches us that God looks upon Creation and calls it "good."  

I have read that some Christian thought leaders believe that Creation Care is a "distraction" from what they believe the Church's mission to be, which is "sharing the Gospel." 

I can think of a few better ways to demonstrate our commitment to the Good News of how God saves them by showing how much we care for the beautiful and good world we've been entrusted with.  

St. Francis called Creation the "Fifth Gospel" for a reason.  He believed that if we were open to receiving the gifts and lessons that Creation offers, we would know God more intimately.  

What are the landmark trees in your own corner of the world?  What are the places of beauty that make your heart sing?  Don't you feel gratitude that they exist and that you can enjoy them?

May we all find those places and landmarks around us, be still in their presence, and know that God is within them, just as God is within you.  

And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.  


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