Spiritual Erosion in the American Culture
Recently I traveled a back road that crossed the large Swatara Creek. Because of my passion for river bottoms with huge towering sycamore, oak, and ash trees, I stopped to take it all in. Looking up and down that creek, I saw many trees – big trees, young trees, old trees – situated in that black, sandy soil with water lazily flowing by.
But something caught my eye. I saw a good tree with a straight trunk and lots of lumber. But this large tree had a problem; it was leaning way out over the creek, nearly perpendicular to normal. Almost all roots were exposed. The bank had been eaten back under the tree. That tree was hanging on by just a few strong roots.
That tree was once planted very firmly along the creek, possibly even back a few feet from the bank. Growing there on the creek bank, it enjoyed a healthy life for decades with good soil, plenty of water, and just the right amount of sunlight.
Yet the creek just inched closer and closer until finally it was swirling by the roots of the tree. Ever so slowly, day by day, year after year, the water took just a small amount of dirt away from the roots, one grain at a time. Some of these roots probably even grew stronger to hold the weight.
Eventually this tree will lose itself to the river. It may happen during a windstorm or a flood, but sooner or later, the tree will fall into the river.
As I mused on the tree, I thought of the spiritual life in our congregations today...