In the spring of 1775, Paul Revere made his famous ride through portions of New England, warning the rebellious colonists that the British were coming (though he did not ride through the streets shouting the famous phrase). In J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Return of the King, relief for the embattled forces for good was proclaimed by the phrase, “The eagles are coming!” And as the weather warmed up this spring, we heard the drumbeat of a different sort of announcement: “The cicadas are coming!” And while the arrival of the cicadas does not represent the threat of 18th Century British troops coming to keep colonial America in line or the help that the eagles gave to Aragorn’s forces as they were surrounded by evil orcs and goblins, it has become nonetheless a topic of conversation among us. Some are curious and interested in the unusual sight; some are annoyed by the noise; others are staying in their homes because they hate crunching on cicadas that are littered all over their walkways; and still others are totally ignoring the phenomenon.
I will not argue that cicadas are vital to our faith, but I do believe that there are facts about cicadas that can encourage it. First and foremost, cicadas reflect the hand of their Creator and ours. Please consider with me:
· Cicadas are intricately designed with bright colors and delicate body parts. They have been created with great care and flare.
· Cicadas feed off trees, taking the nutrients converted by the trees from sun and soil and making those nutrient accessible for all the organisms that eat them; and then in turn, those organisms that consume cicadas provide food for the next higher members of the food chain, and so on. The arrival of these cicadas represents a ripple effect of population growth at all levels.
· Cicadas serve to functionally prune trees: as they lay their eggs in weak and dying branches, eliminating sections of trees that would otherwise drain the tree of energy that could be better used in serving healthier and more fruitful parts of the tree.
· As cicadas die and decompose into the soil, they enrich the soil and boost the growth of trees and other plant life, again providing a broader foundation for the entire food chain.
· Humans are part of the food chain, and some cultures regard them as either a food staple or a delicacy. Cicadas have a place in history as providing food for a Native American tribe during a time of famine.
· Humans benefit indirectly from cicadas as members of the food chain. But beyond that, they remind us of time and seasons, of the rhythms of life given to us by the Lord. They can even add depth to our stories and histories as we have opportunity to remember graduations or weddings or other family events punctuated with the buzz of cicadas.
Without doubt, cicadas are a powerful reminder that there are no casual components of creation, no after thoughts. Cicadas are a glorious example of our Lord’s infinitely complex creation, with each piece unique in appearance and role as part of an amazing whole.
This is where we are invited to deepen our appreciation of our Lord and expand our faith. Cicadas are uniquely created by God to play an important role in His creation. To borrow a phrase from the Apostle Paul, how much more significant are God’s purposes for us! Each of us has been uniquely created to perform a particular, vital function within the body of Christ and as we do so, to fulfill the Lord’s eternal and glorious purposes for us.
This, then, leads me to one last purpose/use of cicadas: regardless of what we might think of them—as curiosities, as a source of wonder, or as an annoyance—they are reminders that we are an integral part of God’s amazing and glorious creation. May we continually praise Him for that.