Towering as much as 300 feet above the ground, the Redwoods of California, some of the tallest trees in the world, have unusually shallow root systems. Rather than deep tap roots, these giant trees' roots spider out in all directions just under the surface of the ground in order to catch as much of the surface moisture as they can. This is their vulnerability.
When they stand alone, storms with heavy winds almost always bring these great trees crashing to the ground. However, this rarely happens because the redwoods grow in great forests, with their roots intertwining.
Scientists have discovered that not only do these roots provide the trees with mutual support against the winds and storms, but they also are a conduit of information, warning trees at great distance when insects attack those at the margins, allowing the tress not yet infected to literally change their chemistry to repel the invaders.
I have oft e n h e a r d people say that they can worship God just as well at home, or on the jetties, as they can in church (or maybe even better.) That is true. God hears our prayers, offers us guidance and support, provides the Holy Spirit in all times and places. But that is not the point.
Faith is not a "me and God" sort of thing. One person of faith can (and often must) stand strong and tall alone against the world. But it is a rare specimen that can stand so for long.
The winds and storms of life will often bring us down. We worship together so that we can stand together, supporting each other in the crises of life that affect us all.
And those who are strongest, tallest, perhaps most capable of standing strong, those are the ones God sends to stretch their roots out the fartherest, intertwining with the smallest and weakest, to help them stand as well.
When we are together -as a family, as a community, as a church -we provide and receive this same support. Like those giant redwood trees, we can be supported in difficult times by the touch of one another's lives. If you are without such a community, perhaps it is time to reach out and touch someone.
God is already reaching out to you.
Richard Safford is pastor at Community Presbyterian Church.