Jesus says “to grow into what God created you to be, you need to be rooted.”
He tells a parable at Matthew chapter 13 about a farmer planting seed that falls on rocky soil. It grows quickly, but doesn’t last long because it has no root and gets blown away by strong wind.
Most of us would agree that roots are important. But, rooted in what? Career? A strong work ethic? A certain value system? Cultural and ethnic tradition? And then there’s family. As far as root goes, that might be number one for many of us.
For Jesus, what does it mean to be rooted?
I was 10 years old when I started piano lessons. It was exciting. It was new. Got my shiny new piano books. Took the price tags off. I’m gonna be Elton John and Billy Joel.
And then came my first few lessons with Miss Baumgartner. She was a nice enough woman, but for that entire first lesson she had me playing scales. C major, up and down. One hand, then the other, then together. What fun is this I wondered? My fingers hurt, my back throbbed, my tongue was dry, and my dream was dying like the last rose of summer.
As if reading my thoughts, she said “Look Timmy, (she called me Timmy because that was my name) whatever you want to play, Hungarian Rhapsody #2 by Franz Liszt or Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, it’s not going to come without some hard work”. Work, eh? Hmmm. Hadn't occurred to me outright, but makes sense now that you’ve made it so clear. Thanks Miss B. A lesson, though difficult, that remains with me today.
It’s the same with a lot of things. When our young adults start their first year at university, it’s all good because it’s new and exciting. New friends, lots going on, great bands playing at the pub, and all things awesome overflow.
But then comes the essays and the classes and the mountains of readings and dry mouthed nights at the library. Yikes, so this is university. This isn’t going to be easy.
Wedding season coming up. It’s a beautiful thing, and all is good in the beginning. Try as you might, you can’t get enough of each other. But soon enough you discover that love needs to be nourished, and the only way to do that is to be willing to put you on the backburner and your partner on the front. Whether or not the marriage lasts will depend on that. That kind of committed love will be your root.
Oftentimes, when people first get involved with a church, and begin to absorb all the beautiful things that God gives us; that God is real in our lives, and is alive and present today, and can be the source of miracles and healing. That this life is just a pin prick in eternity, and that God desires for us abundant life. We embrace that with hope and joy. That’s the seed that grows so quickly. I remember when I rediscovered God, I was in my 20s, and it was an exciting time.
But as God leads us along this new way of being, you realize that there is some work involved to make it real. There is some discipline required. In prayer. In serving others. In generosity. In the challenge of making forgiveness real and not just theory. In being faithful to God’s instruction to us.
You realize that the road Jesus walked is not always about receiving, but also about giving. Without that root, that seed that grew so quickly, dies just as quickly.
The fact is that Jesus is just reminding us of something we knew all along. Nothing worth having comes without some work, some discipline, and a willingness to make some sacrifices. Is there anyone among us who would not give this advice to any one of those graduates taking this giant step into a whole new world?
Yes, God’s grace is free, God saves us from a world of hurt, and we are loved unconditionally, and that’s the basis of our faith.
But then God turns to us and says “It’s your turn. You be gracious to people around you. You love as I have loved you. You can have a hand in the saving of people.” And that takes a willingness to give ourselves to those around us.
For Jesus, this is our root. He asks that our lives be the soil in which this seed might grow into things beyond our imagination.