For my focus moment I refer to Genesis 1:29 as a part of the first few chapters of Genesis that explain creation.
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.”
Before I begin this Focus Moment, my apologies to Dorothy May, as I am no biologist.
Today I would like to turn this focus moment to something that happens every spring, and I don’t mean baseball. It’s much more important – its nature coming out of its winter rest in the northern hemisphere – it’s the leafing out of all natural trees and plants. Its God saying “I give every green plant for food.”
I want to focus on that event and what it means.
First, what makes plants grow?
Man has always wondered just where plant growth came from. In 1648 Johann van Helmont, a Belgian, set up an experiment. He planted a willow sprig in a large pot with a known weight of dry soil. He tended the tree for 5 years and then he ripped it up and shook off all the soil and weighted it dry, and also weighed the tree. The tree weighed over 160 pounds but the soil lost only a few ounces of weight. Cleary the tree growth did not come out of the soil. At that time, matter was thought to consist of four elements: earth, water, fire, and air. Van Helmont thought the tree growth came from the water. He was only partly right. It wasn’t until the industrial revolution when the atomic theory began to emerge in the late 1800’s and be accepted, that more insight about the nature of matter came to be known.
The leaf: God’s Miracle
Now we know plant growth is a process involving photosynthesis, that is chemical reactions using light. The light from the sun being the energy source. The photosynthesis process is still a subject of research and with modern tools a much clearer picture is now available.
The marvel is in how the leaf performs its function.
The leaf has pores on its underside called stoma. Through these pores the leaf sees and captures a single molecule of carbon dioxide from the air out of 2,500 other molecules. The leaf brings the CO2 into its circulator system where it begins two complex chemical cycles involving other chemicals produced by the plant.
I’m showing this slide to illustrate the complexity of the chemistry within the simple leaf. Don’t worry, there won’t be a quiz later. These complex chemicals which the leaf create react with sunlight and then change CO2 into starches and sugars used for plant growth. In light reactions from water it produces oxygen that is released back into the air. To me this is a miracle: it is living things that have what man used to call the vital force. It’s something man cannot do in a laboratory. Its science, not science fiction. Its Gods miracle in nature.
Why is this slide here? This is the Saturn, the most powerful vehicle ever made by man, it’s fueled by hydrogen and oxygen. They combine making water vapor and release a tremendous amount of energy propelling the rocket. In this like all chemical reactions, the heat given off, like the burning of the hydrogen, must be absorbed back when that reaction is reversed. In the live plant, the reverse is to convert water back to hydrogen ions and oxygen. While the rocket exhaust is over 5,000 degrees, the simple little leaf in the reverse reaction captures light energy at ambient temperatures making oxygen from water.
This is not an insignificant amount of energy. To restore all the world’s human breath back to oxygen requires an amount of energy equivalent to 6% of that of all of the oil and gas being used today.
Within the plant, the sugars and starches become the building blocks that grow the plant and produce its yield of grains, vegetables, nuts, grasses and fruits. All the food for all living things comes from plants that have undergone photosynthesis reacting sunlight with the absorbed CO2 taken from the air. This is the only source for our food. Simply speaking without photosynthesis, the sun, water and CO2 from the air there is no food – without food there is no life.
CO2 from air is and has been the only source of chemical carbon, the essential atom from which all organic chemicals were and are built. In our sanctuary everything you see with few exceptions came from growing plants from some time in the past. Not any metals, glass or bricks, but the wood in the walls and ceiling, the pews, its covers, the hymnals, our clothing and shoes, medications we took today, the fuel that heats and cools this room, our very own bodies also came mostly from the food we and our mothers consumed and that food originally came from the CO2 taken from the air.
Our bodies are like a slow burning furnace. The food we eat is the fuel and the oxygen in our aerated blood is the source of combustion. This is our circle of life. We eat food that gives up its energy to keep us alive and in doing that we expel CO2 back into the air to join other amounts of CO2 and then plant life with sunlight energy converts it into food and oxygen.
This is just a part of God’s plan that has provided the tools and mechanisms for all life. Producing food today for over 7 billion people on earth, however, does not come about easily. Man has become very efficient in the production of food rising to the needs of a growing world population. With highly developed farm machinery, invention and production of fertilizers, genetic developments to improve plant yields, refrigeration and transport system to minimize spoilage, irrigation and land management all have allowed this to come about. There is a whole lot more that can be done to produce more food to sustain the growing earth’s population. Life on earth is nowhere near any danger from over population, yet.
So, celebrate spring and welcome the new leaves and grasses that are essential to life. And this fall when you pick up the fallen leaves bless them for their effort.
As the poet Robert Browning wrote – “God’s in His heaven – All’s right with the world”.