Ecclesiastes 2:11a - Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind ...
This devotion pairs with this weekend's Lutheran Hour sermon, which can be found at lutheranhour.org.
An artist dragged a dead western hemlock tree from the forest floor, brought it into the city, and built a greenhouse around it. He wanted to show how even a dead tree can give new life. This hemlock trunk was to become a "nurse log"—nursing the newborn ferns, slugs, and fungus that would make it their home.
On a deeper level, however, there was another message. Because a dead tree, without the forest to support it, cannot be a nurse log. So, to replace the forest, in the greenhouse they installed an army of humming humidifiers, industrial ductwork, and a power-guzzling climate-control system. This curated display is in the City of Seattle. It's called the Neukom Vivarium. Mark Dion, the artist, says, it's "not exactly a feel-good work of art ... You should look at this and get the impression of someone in the hospital under an oxygen tent." The truth is, it's not a nurse log. It's curated hospice care—hospice for a hemlock.
See, the artist is making a statement. He's alarmed by our over-confident presumption that humans can do what only the Creator can. So, he created a scene to cut us down a little. The same could be said of the inspired artist who crafted the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. In this book, Solomon, traditionally ascribed as the author, cuts us down. One tool he uses to do the chopping is the Hebrew phrase translated as "striving after wind" or "shepherding the wind." Maybe Solomon wants us to picture a shepherd looking up into the sky on a windy day, shaking his staff, saying, "Come back here you clouds! I told you to stay put!" Or if he were with us today, maybe he'd show us the absurdity of hospice care for a hemlock.
God uses Ecclesiastes to cut down our self-confidence so that we won't fall away from Him forever. Even more, God sent His Son Jesus, hung to die on a dead tree. There, Jesus carried the deadly consequence of our self-confidence. Then, rising from the dead, He broke through our absurd greenhouse glass so that you could let go of your isolated, enclosed, power-sucking, curated life. Let go and rest. Rest on the forest floor in the more-than-capable hands of your Creator.
Some people assume a dead log can be a life source. But that's not the case. Its power to nurse new life doesn't come from within, but from without. On the forest floor, water, bacteria, fungi—an army of microbes—move in and transform it into a life source. And there, resting in the forest, the dead tree will participate in new life for as long as 500 years. And with Jesus at work within you, you can be like a nurse log. You can give His eternal life to others. So have no fear, little hemlock, it's your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.
WE PRAY: Dear Father, make me into a living picture of Your new creation through Jesus Christ. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Speaker of The Lutheran Hour.
1. Read Ecclesiastes 1-2; here Solomon describes how he checked off every item on his "bucket list." What did this teach him?
2. Try to express in one sentence how God uses Ecclesiastes to cut down our self-confidence.
3. What is one way today you could practice "letting go" and resting in the hands of Jesus?
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