“Rooted in the Word” – Rev. Tony Romaine – July 12th , 2020
When I was a child, my parents taught me that I needed to be really careful with the words I used. They taught me that unlike words on the page, once I uttered something, I could not take it back. And while this lesson was lost on me more times than I care to mention, it has stuck with me to this day as a tool to calm my tongue and truly think before I speak. Because words matter!
Rooted in the Word
Words matter so much that God tells us through the prophet Isaiah that God’s word sent out will not return empty, but will accomplish what God’s purpose is for the world. But how do we know what are the correct words or how and what we should say? Indeed this is the quandary that has flummoxed people for thousands of years. So much so, that we have had holy wars and schisms and killed fellow Christians all in the name of what is right and what is wrong. And yet, none of us are God and none of us can truly know. Therefore, there must be something else we need.
Paul almost gets us there in Romans when he speaks of how distraught he is about our flesh. How our flesh and bones do not submit to the law of God, but rather go after the humanly desires of their bidding. How we are weakened in our flesh and need the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ to save us from our wretchedness. This wretchedness of flesh is exactly that which pervades our words. We say things, and spit vitriol and hate toward our neighbor instead of loving them as we would want to be loved. We utter hurtful words which cause us to divide and grow farther apart from one another, rather than unite and live in peace as God desires. We use written word to make laws that demean and dehumanize our fellow Christians, our fellow humans, only so that our power and privilege remain intact. And we use words to ridicule and debase other people’s beliefs, religions, and essence; thinking that in some way, shape, or form, we are lifting up Christianity to where it should be. When in fact, we are lowering it to the depths of the sins of our flesh.
So what hope is there for us? Good soil is the answer. The good soil which we spoke about in the Children’s Message. The good soil we are remined of in the Gospel message for today. The good soil that when seeds are planted hold that seed, that Word of God, and allow it to take root and change the soil from nutritious dirt into the fruit that yields one hundred, sixty, or thirty-fold. Good soil rooted in the Word.
We must not be so rock hard in our beliefs and in our ways that all we are is a pile of stones. For when the Word of God from whomever is sowing it, falls upon those stony hearts of ours; it will not take root, it will not change us, it will just be there ever so briefly and then blow away in the wind.
We must not be filled with the thorns and the brambles of our world which seeks to choke us out on the greed of money, power, lust, and fame. We cannot take any of the treasures of this world with us, but the thorny soil longs for more and more and more and does not care what grasses it chokes out, does not care what flowers it destroys, does not care what fruit it consumes; all it wants is more earthly treasure. The thorny soil only longs after the world of this world and cannot see past their own desires to empathize and understand what pain they are causing others. When God’s Word lands in these soils, it is choked out for its call is too demanding, too expensive, too troubling, too convicting; and so, the thorns of the flesh choke out the Word of God’s love.
Instead, we must be good soil, note I did not say soil that always does good; but good soil. Good soil is aerated and open to be filled with oxygen and nutrients. It is open to ideas and discussions. It is not afraid of the seeds that may fall, but is ready to discern between which seeds to hang onto and which to get rid of.
Good soil is open to being watered and fed through the Holy Spirit. This may mean that the good soil gets washed out sometimes, that it drinks up more than it can imagine. But the good soil knows that God is in the rain and is thankful for the showers that come.
Good soil is sometimes in need of turning and raking and hoeing. It is not afraid to have its world turned upside down and over and over. For the good soil has faith that through the turning, through the jumble comes new life and the promise of a brighter future. Good soil is strong enough, deep enough, faithful enough to withstand the turmoil of life and trust that the seed planted by God’s Word will find its place within good soil. And good soil is open to when that Word of God is planted, to take it in and nurture it so that it may grow and foster a faith-filled fruit; a fruit rooted in the Word.
As I was reflecting and planning for this week, I kept coming back to the idea of us planting roots with the words we use. In our modern day and age of busyness and social media and technology, words seem to have lost some of their value. People spread false info, opinions, and hatred and pass it off as fact. People share their “knowledge” on an issue they in fact have no training in, or in which they have no actual experience. And people flippantly use words which spread hatred and harm and have real life consequences; words which give people permission to hurt innocents or systemically degrade fellow humans. And while some think they can innocently spit anonymous hatred throughout our world without damage to self, the truth is our soil is drying up as the winds of hypocrisy, jealousy, and evil eat away at our fruit.
It is time we once again become the good soil that God laid down all those years ago. It is time we once again root ourselves in God’s Word. Whether we find that in the Bible, the depths of our hearts, or the words of our prayers. It is time we simplify, and remember the commandments we are being called to enact; to love God as the ultimate planter of our soil, and to love each other as we would want to be loved; as the seed that the Sower has spread. It is time we aerate, water, nurture, and turn up our soils to produce the greatest of fruits. And it is time that our words we use with each other come from the depths of good soil and return through one another to our God in joy and peace; so that the mountains and hills will indeed burst forth before us, and song shall ring throughout the land as all the trees clap their hands in the fruitfulness of the Holy Spirit.
Rooted in the Word
It matters that we are rooted in the Word of God, in the Word of Christ, in the Word of the Holy Spirit. And this might sound like a daunting task to go forth and be good soil. But if I asked you all to share the Good News with me right now, where would you start? If I asked you to tell me a story about God, what would you share? If I asked you to tell me what you know about God, what would you say? I doubt that you are going to go into the intricacies of temple worship, or tell me about ritualistic holiness problems, or even recite Paul verbatim or the priestly principles of Peter.
But what I know you can tell me are the stories of God’s love, of God’s Son, and of the Holy Spirit still working in and through our world; in and through you. We have always had the good soil within us, we have always been rooted in God’s Holy Word, we just need to listen, hear, understand, and nurture that Godly soil. We get so caught up in trying to say the right thing, do the right thing, be the right thing, that we actually bog ourselves down and take something so simple as sharing how we know of God’s love and we ensnare ourselves in complexity, only to lead to inaction.
God planted good soil within us so that the Word which is rooted deep within us could sprout and yield and grow unto the world. It is time for us to work our soil into good soil that is prepared for God’s Holy Word and for us to hear, understand, and put into action the seeds of love God planted in us through our creation. It is time for us to recognize that God’s Word has sprouted many fruits; fruits of different color, gender, nationality, race, creed, thought, and place. It is time for us to use our words to spread the seeds of the Holy Spirit that reside deep down inside our good soil and to indeed love our world into changing for the better. It is time for our soil, the good soil rooted in the Word, to yield its fruits of love upon our rocky, thorn-filled world. For God’s Word which resides within us does not return empty; but through the good soils of God’s creation, returns as the everlasting sign that can never be cut off. It is time for our good soil to sprout shoots of love and peace.
Good soils of God’s rooted Word, it is time, Amen!