Season of Creation Year A: Forest Sunday

Celebrating Forest Sunday in the Season of Creation
“Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy.”

This week is the first Sunday of the Season of Creation, an optional season of the church year that celebrates God the creator and various domains of creation. There are four Sundays for each of the three years of the common lectionary, celebrated most often during the month of September. This year, the Sundays for Series A are Forest Sunday, Land Sunday, Wilderness Sunday, and River Sunday. This week we celebrate Forest Sunday. (For more information, visit and

Trees praise God. Scripture makes it clear that all of creation worships God. “All creation, Praise the Lord!” the psalmist commands. So, trees and forests praise God. “Let the heavens be glad and the Earth rejoice. And let them say among the nations, ‘The Lord is king.’ Let the sea roar and all that fills it; Let the field exalt and everything in it. Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy before the lord” (I Chronicles 16:29-34). Psalm 148 commands fruit trees and all cedars to praise the Lord.

This does not mean that trees have special sounds to do that, although the wind in the trees may make it seem so. Rather, it means that these living things praise God by doing what they were created to be and to do.

How We Diminish Their Praise. One of the ways to understand the impact of our degradation of Earth and its systems, our threat to species of animals and plants, is to realize that we are thereby diminishing their capacity to praise God. As we seek to restore Earth, protect endangered species, and preserve forests, we are enhancing their collective worship of their creator—as they are able to thrive and teem and relish being alive. God loved trees for billions of years before humans arrived. Could we ever love them as much?

Our Dependence on Trees. Humans are dependent on trees for every breath. Humans evolved in relation to trees. There is no animal life without the oxygen produced by trees. Scripture says, “Let everything that breaths praise the lord.” And every creature that breathes does so because of the forests. Indeed, the rain forests are called the “lungs of the Earth.” As you walk around outside, notice the trees and realize that you are interacting with them every moment.

Our Loss of Forests. In his commentary on Forest Sunday in The Season of Creation: A Preaching Commentary (Fortress, 2011), Old Testament scholar Ted Hiebert points out that “more forests have been cleared from 1850 to the present than in all of previous history” and “that the amount of forest cover available to each person has declined globally by 50 percent since 1960.” He also notes that forest clearing is a major cause of global climate change and loss of species diversity. In parts of Africa, deforestation is depriving many villages of needed wood for the heating and cooking upon which their daily lives depend. The incredible number of practical, biological, ecological, medicinal, spiritual, and aesthetic benefits to humans from trees is outlined in the book by Diane Beresford-Kroeger in The Global Forest: 40 Ways Trees Benefit Us.

Our Restoration of Forests. First of all, we need to preserve our forests. If we remove forests, we cannot restore that ecosystem by replanting. As they say, “You can plant a tree, but you cannot plant a forest.” Second, there is nevertheless a movement to reforest America. In Africa, Nobel Prize winner Mangari Maathai established the Green Belt Movement, a tree planting movement that resulted in the planting of 45 million trees. “Plant a tree, save a life” is not just a nice slogan. It represents a resurrection practice to restore Earth and the health of all beings. Hiebert enjoins us to think of the trees in our backyard, in our neighborhoods, and in our communities, and we might add our church lands. Become a Tree City USA (see

My own congregation, St. Andew in Racine, WI, is celebrating Forest Sunday by planting a memorial tree as the beginning of a Peace Garden. We are also identifying for members the trees on our church property as a way of inviting us and them to common worship—and to pray for them. Try including pictures of trees in your church directory as a way to show that they are part of the Earth community with whom you share the small piece of God’s good creation on which you worship together. And we sing this hymn:


O for a thousand trees to sing
And join with us this day,
With ferns and frogs and butterflies:
A forest hymn of praise.

Come celebrate with all the land,
Let species rare begin,
With geese and owls and cockatoo,
A choir of country kin.

How can we hear creation groan,
The forests cry in pain?
With desert dragons we rejoice
When Earth is born again.

Let ev’ry stream and river flow
In song toward the sea;
With whale, and seal and albatross
We thank God we are free

O for a thousand trees to sing
And join with us this day,
With ferns and frogs and butterflies:
A forest hymn of praise.

Words: © Norman Habel 2004
Melody: O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing


This sermon was shared by David Rhoads in 2011.