Deep roots, tall growth

Proper 11B

In the name of God in whom we take root, Christ through whom we grow, and the Spirit by which we are fed.  Amen.

A couple of months ago, we had the annual St. David’s plant sale.  We sold more plants than ever before – due in large part to the reputation we’ve built for having quality plants to offer to or community.  But even so, I have to admit, that not all of the plants that Michael and I bought are thriving as much as we’d hoped.

Now, it’s not the fault of the plant sale – Mike and Deb procured beautiful plants for us.  If I were to be entirely honest, I’d have to admit that Michael and I didn’t really do our part, as well as we should have.  We put some of the plants in the ground, and in pots and baskets pretty quickly.  But there’s never exactly enough time to do all that we envision doing, and we hadn’t planned ahead and didn’t have all the materials we’d need right away, and sometimes the days just weren’t the best days for planting – it would rain, or be too hot, or whatever else…  All of that came together into our reality that some of our plants just didn’t get planted right away.  Some had to wait a couple of weeks.  Some waited quite a bit longer than that.

One of the plants that suffered the most was the snap dragons.  These beautiful flowers climb into tall stalks and bud out into dozens of gorgeous flowers in a variety of colors.  But we didn’t plant them in time.  In their little plastic pots, they kept growing up, but it wasn’t until it was too late that they finally had the chance to grow down.  Their roots just weren’t strong enough to support the plants they’d become.

We all need strong roots.  Whether we’re plants, or people, or even whole communities.  We need to establish ourselves, and grow deep to support our growing tall.  Because it’s down deep – at the roots – where we are fed, and it’s up high – at the top – where we can see the light.

In the lessons we read today, we hear stories of roots – people putting in roots, and people finding and reconnecting with their roots.  It all starts in the Hebrew scriptures.  David, the young king, and his prophet – his conduit to God – Nathan, are noticing their experience.  David says, “See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.”  In his discernment and prayer – in his deepening understanding of God, Nathan realizes that this isn’t right.  The people had begun to put in roots in the place where God had led them, but even so, God’s place among them was left in a tent – a temporary shelter.  God deserved at least as much as the people for whom God had done so much.

And this is the beginning of the narrative of the temple in Jerusalem – a place that would be set aside for centuries of Jewish ancestors to worship God.  God’s roots, planted so deeply by David, that even though the temple no longer stands, its footprint and its roots continue to this day.

God was ready to put in roots.  It’s part of how God showed the people that they were not and never would be alone.

If we fast forward a few centuries – to the time of Jesus – we hear of roots of a different sort.

If you were here last week, you heard the story of the beheading of John the Baptist, but that was really more of a side-bar in the life of Jesus.  The story we read today, however, is really a continuation of the story we read two weeks ago – the story of Jesus returning to his hometown, only to discover that those roots no longer supported him.

So he and the disciples get back to business – the business of healing and teaching and spreading the emerging gospel of Christ.  Two weeks ago we heard that the disciples were sent out into the world to take Jesus’ work even further.  Today, we read that they’ve come back.  They’ve done as they were told, and came back to reconnect with their community’s roots (which are, indeed, the community itself).

And in this community, we hear about two ways that the community that forms around Jesus roots itself: with work, and with prayer.  When the disciples return to the community from their work, Jesus tells them to go away to a deserted place and to rest – to spend some time building themselves back up, because the work wasn’t finished yet.

But the other thing that rooted them, was that work, itself.  The teaching and the healing.  Wherever they went, the people would crowd around them to be taught and to be healed.  That work of bringing people closer to God also helped to root themselves in the life of God.

In our own community, just like that community that first formed around Jesus, we have roots.  And it’s not all that different from the things that rooted Jesus and his followers.  We come together to teach and to learn.  We go out into the world to do the work of Christ, to try to bring people closer to God.

And today, in this community, we’re celebrating another thing that brings us together – that roots us in the community, so that we’ll be prepared rise to our potential and to see the light.  We’ll celebrate the baptism of Alex Luino, but as a part of that, we’ll all remember our own connection to Christ and to the community through the same.  As we said at the start of the service today, “There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”  And that unity binds us together.

In the baptismal liturgy, we promise to support one another – to look out for Alex, and for his family and his community, but also to look out for one another.  We promise to pray together, to spend time together, to respect one another…

These promises, and the water through which we all pass, are what roots us most to this community and to this faith.

Baptisms are an exciting and joyful time in the life of a congregation.  We can’t help but have hope for the future when we see beautiful young people coming into the community.  But they’re not just about the future.  Baptisms remind us of our past, and what roots us, and they give us the strength and courage we need right now, to keep growing to our greatest potential.

In our garden, the snap dragons, though still growing and flowering, have fallen to the ground and failed to reach their potential because they didn’t have roots strong enough to hold them up.  We won’t be like that.  We are rooted in this community and in this faith and in the joy that comes from growing the tribe.  Today, our roots dig a little bit deeper.  May we also see the light.  Amen.