A sermon based on Psalm 107:1-7 and 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13, preached on November 3rd, 2014
So, we are planting a tree today.
Joan and Johnny Sharp have donated a Hawthorne tree especially for this occasion. This is our Centennial Tree. Capital letters. Some of our kids will set it down in the ground for us after worship.
We’ve been celebrating our Centennial year all year ‘round, but now is the exciting part where we’re just a few weeks away from the actual date: November 16th. And at this, our 100th anniversary as church, planting a tree is a sign that even after all these years, God still has plenty of growth in store for us.
As we pack this tree in the ground today, and as the next months and years go by, its roots will begin growing outward and downward, sinking deeper into its new home and soaking up nourishment from the soil around it. And as the roots soak into the soil, the tree will grow stronger—more resilient to wind and rain, the coming snow and ice of winter—because it will find its nourishment underneath. This tree will grow from its roots up. It will grow strong because it will find something to connect to—something to attach itself to—and be ever fed by.
Trees seem to know that before they can grow upward, they first have to grow downward and outward—roots before branches. That’s the way to flourish. Roots before branches.
This Centennial Tree will be a sign for us of how God continues to create among us and promises to care for us, His people, all the days of our life as we continue growing together in sacred community.
As we continue growing here at Kuhn Memorial, right where God has planted us. As the roots of this tree grow underground, establishing a solid foundation for itself, so we too as God’s people need to know what’s happening in our root system. We need to tend to our roots or we too we be blown around by any wind or rainstorm that comes along.
You might say, “This church is 100 years old, we’ve spread our roots and they go deep and wide!”
But I’m not talking today about institutional roots—yes, those roots are deep.
This morning, I want you to think about your roots and my roots. How are you and I rooted in God? How far down do those roots go? And are they still growing?
What I’m asking is: How’s your relationship with God? Are you well connected to the Ground of All Being?
How is it with your root system?
Paul encourages the Christians in Thessalonica to continue pursuing the call of God upon their lives. Paul tells them that God’s Word is alive and growing among them and in them. Paul assures the church in Thessalonica that God is still calling them into stronger relationship with God, and Paul is appealing to them to keep their eyes and ears open to the call of Christ upon their lives.
There’s more relationship yet to come, Paul is telling them.
God is speaking to you. Can you see that God is still working His Word into you?God’s Word continues to work in us who are believers, Paul writes.
I have been guilty, many times, of making the mistake of thinking that God’s Word is old. When I read the bible, I have a tendency to approach it as if it is a historical artifact—something left over from 2,000 or more years ago. When I do that, I still learn much from it, but I also cut myself off from the life-giving root system of Christ who is the Living Word. I wonder if you’re like me.
Sometimes we have a tendency to kill scripture that way, by looking at it as a record of promises once made—to some people long ago, in a land far from our own. So, I have to remind myself, just as we as a community have to remind ourselves, that the promises we find in scripture are still alive—just as alive as they ever have been before. We follow a God who not only gave us this Word—this book—but a God who sent us Jesus, who is the Living Word. Capital L, capital W.
The Word is alive, friends! God’s Word continues to call to us.
Jesus wants a relationship with you and with me, to be in communication with us. Jesus is calling us into a stronger and deeper and fuller relationship with Him. Jesus wants to be the soil that we plant our own roots deep down into. Jesus is the Living Word in whom we grow, the One from whom we gain our nourishment and strength—roots fed from deep down so our branches can grow strong and we as individuals and as a faith community can flourish.
So, how can we build up our root system? The only way we can expect to grow in our faith is if we connect to God’s Word through devotion to scripture and prayer. Rooting ourselves in God’s Word—personal and daily devotion to scripture—and connecting to God through daily prayer, that’s what makes for a healthy root system. One that will keep us stable in our Christian faith.
Now, God’s Word is of course much bigger than the words we read in the bible, God’s Word, capital W, is the Holy Spirit that blows among us, opening our eyes and our ears to the glimmers of God that shine all around us. But it order to notice God’s Word unfolding in front of us, we need to train ourselves to see it, hear it—we need to be trained observers of God’s work in the world. And the best way to dig roots down that deep is through constant devotion to a life of prayer and reading scripture. That’s how we participate in God’s Word—that’s the way to hear God’s voice among us and in us.
To use Paul’s words, That’s how God’s message continues to work in us who are believers.
It is when we lay ourselves down into the soil of a prayer-filled and scripture-filled life that we will grow.
A root system nourished by prayer and scripture will spread out far and wide and keep us anchored to the rich soil of God’s Word, and connected to each other, the branches of our Christian family tree.
The Word of God is alive, friends! Be observant, be absorbent. God will feed you with it and you will grow stronger and be more rooted, and we as Kuhn Memorial Presbyterian Church will be also when we devote ourselves to knowing God’s Word through prayer and devotion to Scripture.
Tonight we will gather together to break bread around tables at our annual Stewardship Dinner. The entire evening will about nourishment, really! As we eat our meal together, we will hear from Bruce Boone who is from ECCHO. He will talk to us about the ongoing food and clothing needs in our community. Bruce and others at ECCHO work hard to feed and clothe the undernourished and the underprivileged in our midst, and tonight will be a great occasion to learn more about the people ECCHO serves on a daily basis because they are also the people we serve here.
In essence, that is what stewardship is, it’s the daily awareness of how were are nourished and sustained by God, and a daily thanksgiving—a daily pouring out of gratitude as we respond to God’s goodness in our lives by caring for others.
Stewardship is about being rooted in the life of God, and paying careful attention to our root system, being grateful that we are the beneficiaries of the rich soil of God’s good news in Jesus Christ, the Source of all our living, the Continuously-Blessing Source of all of our blessing. Christ, our very Nourishment and Strength. That is the Ground from which we grow and are being fed. We will come tonight to dedicate our first fruits to the mission and service of this church. To double-down on our commitment to participate in the ongoing work of God’s Word in the world.
God’s Word is alive, friends!
So my question to you this morning is this: How do you expect God to continue to work inside of you? Will you connect yourself—will you put roots deep down into the rich soil of God’s Word, connecting yourself to the Ground of Being through prayer and the reading of scripture? And will you come this evening to our Stewardship Dinner to pledge a part of yourself and a part of your livelihood expecting God to grow something new in you?
God continues to work His Word into us and our life together as His church. God works with what we offer to God. May we come offering our very best to God, because it’s when we come offering the very best of ourselves that God will work in us and transform us into something even better. God will work His Word in us and transform us by it.
And the very best gift we give to God is the gift of ourselves, as we plant our roots deep down into God’s rich soil by devoting ourselves entirely to knowing God’s Living Word. That’s when God will grow something new in us.
God wants us to be observant and absorbent people—observant in prayer and absorbing the Word. Growing our roots deeper into the rich soil of God’s Word.
If we commit ourselves to that kind of life of prayer and devotion—watching out and listening up for God’s Word in us and around us—we, just like that small sapling out there—will lay down deep and strong roots that will connect us to the Source of all our nourishment and strength. That’s how God will build you up. If we commit ourselves to that work, we will have a whole lot of growing to look forward to.
God’s Word is alive, friends! What do we expect God to do next and how will you participate in it?
All praises to the One who made it all and finds it beautiful!