Of Pitch Pines and Mustard Seeds
THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
Prayer of the Day: O God, you are the tree of life, offering shelter to all the world. Graft us into yourself and nurture our growth, that we may bear your truth and love to those in need, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
“The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4:26-29
“With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.” Mark 4:30-32.
The most common tree on the Outer Cape region of Cape Cod is pitch pine. It isn’t the most beautiful or majestic evergreen, but I must confess that it has grown on me just as it has on the rest of the Cape. This scrappy, scraggly tree is perfectly adapted to our acidic, well-drained and sandy soil. The National Seashore that occupies most of the Outer Cape is dominated by forests of pitch pines, floored with a cushiony layer of needles and covered with scrub oak, beach plumb and hardy species of undergrowth that I can’t begin to name. It wasn’t always that way. The Cape was once dominated by dense cedars that blocked out the sunlight, leaving little opportunity for the smaller deciduous trees and shrubs to gain a foothold. You can still find a few patches of woods like these that have managed somehow to resist the pitch pine invasion. The forest around the Cedar Swamp Trail in the National Seashore at Marconi Beach is one such example.
The pitch pine was imported by European settlers. It’s pitch was used to make tar and turpentine as well as charcoal. The wood from these trees was used for firing steam engines and for brickyards. Once introduced on the Cape, pitch pines gradually began to dominate the landscape. Eventually, what was once a mixture of cedar forest and scrub land transitioned into pine forest. Ecologically, the Outer Cape is a place entirely different from the one on which the Pilgrims landed in 1620.
All of this brings me to Jesus’ two parables. Read more