By Father Casey Shobe
This past week I learned about a remarkable recent event in Ethiopia. In a nationally coordinated effort, the people of that country worked together to plant 350 million trees in a single day. Think about that for a minute. To reach 350 million, it would take every single woman, man, and child in the United States and Canada planting a tree today. That’s a lot of trees.
Ethiopia, like many developing nations, has been ravaged by deforestation in the past 100 years. Trees are ready fuel for fires, timber for homes, and temporary obstacles for agriculture. Yet, their rapid disappearance has had dramatic, negative effects on the region’s soil, water, and biodiversity, not to mention that, without replenishment, their use today impoverishes future generations with a desperate lack of a fundamental natural resource. Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai, who founded the Green Belt Movement in neighboring Kenya, has said, “I want to make sure that the indigenous forests are protected because I know, whatever happens, these are the forests that contain biodiversity, these are the forests that help us retain water when it rains and keep our rivers flowing, these are the forests that many future generations will need.”
There is a Greek proverb that says, “Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” This is wisdom the Ethiopian people are embracing, as the shade (and soil retention, and water filtration, and fruit) of those millions of trees will be enjoyed by children yet to be born. But that’s what also makes it astoundingly hopeful: they want for the future something better than what they know today.
The gospel this weekend features Jesus’ parable about a rich man, who experiences the harvest of a lifetime. The man’s response to his windfall is to scheme how he can preserve this extraordinary bounty for himself and live in ease and comfort the rest of his life. His first thought is to his own pleasure and contentment, his own satisfaction and enjoyment. But this mindset is a kind of spiritual myopia, and it neglects his responsibility to God and his fellow human beings. He is like a man who harvests an abundance of trees today, but makes no provision for those who will come after him. “You fool,” God says to the man, “This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?”
I believe in the truth of Jesus’ parable and the wisdom of the Greek proverb: our greatness as individuals and as a society is exemplified not only by our care for all who live today but also by our commitment to those who come after us. It is that spirit that inspires our Endowment’s Legacy Society at Transfiguration. The Legacy Society consists of everyone who loves our church enough to help us secure its future by naming the church in their estate planning. The Legacy Society consists of those who want to plant some trees with their wealth from which future generations at Transfiguration will benefit.
We urgently need to grow participation in the Legacy Society, as the blessing of estate gifts will significantly strengthen our Endowment and solidify our financial footing for future generations. I am inspired by all our current society members, and we need their ranks to grow! If you have not yet named the church in your estate planning and would like to learn more, please contact Legacy Society steering committee member Susan Fisk.
As Jesus says in the parable, on the night your life reaches its end, “the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” Let’s remember to plant some trees by our giving, whose shade our inheritors at Transfiguration will one day enjoy.
About Father Casey
Casey became the fourth rector of Transfiguration in October 2014 after having served churches in Rhode Island and Houston. He is married to Melody Shobe, also an Episcopal priest, and they have two daughters, Isabelle and Adelaide. Casey grew up in Temple, Texas, and holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Texas at Austin. His Master of Divinity was earned at Virginia Theological Seminary and his Doctor of Ministry at the School of Theology at the University of the South (Sewanee). He loves playing golf, road cycling, hiking, brewing beer, and working in his yard. You can contact Father Casey by email.