What does it take to grow deep roots?
What does it take to grow deep roots in our lives?

For Hadiya-Nicole Green it was the love of her aunt and uncle, the aunt and uncle who raised her after the premature death of her mother and grandmother. (NPR, Storycorps, July 10th, 2020) The love of her aunt and uncle made possible the deep roots in Hadiya-Nicole, deep enough roots so as to be able to persevere through the tragedies she experienced, get well-educated and become a physicist; deep enough roots to be able to keep her going through yet another tragedy when both her aunt and uncle were diagnosed and then died from cancer when she was in her early twenties. And these roots were not just deep enough to keep her going, but they helped Hadiya-Nicole to delve deeper and grow farther in her life, deciding to focus her scientific work on finding cures for cancer, including a new method and approach that has already seen success in testing with mice.

What does it take to grow deep roots?

Though I do not know what Hadiya-Nicole Green’s faith tradition is, I know that as Christians when we look at her life marked so distinctly by tragedy heaped upon tragedy, we would name as God’s grace the fact that somehow Hadiya-Nicole did not grow bitter, resentful, and depressed, but grew and flourished amidst these tragedies. It would seem that her aunt and uncle had a part to play in that, and as Christians we would again name that as grace, when people show up in our lives in ways that make possible the turning over of tragedy into the good soil that has room for good seed to grow deep roots so as not only to survive but to thrive.

Sermon, 6th Sunday After Pentecost

So, what does it take to grow deep roots? Clearly it takes the nurture of good soil. And God in Christ, the generous planter of seed, is also the generous and watchful tender of the soil of our lives. Jesus seeks to prepare in us room, readiness, and rhythms allowing for the formation of good soil that will make it possible for the seed that Jesus plants to grow deep roots; roots deep enough to see us through every storm; roots deep enough so that God’s blessings can even be shared through us and made known to the world.

Jesus is the faithful planter of seeds and the faithful tender of soil, and thanks be to God for this, for as we hear in today’s gospel lesson, there are all sorts of problems with our soil! And any of us looking honestly at our lives know this to be true; that at various times we are like all these kinds of soil described in Jesus’ parable. We are all at times the pathways packed too tightly to receive a fertile planting, good only to provide a brief resting place for the seeds destined for the feeding of the birds. We are all at times the rocky soil in which the seeds of grace may spring up quickly, but then wither in the heat produced by hardship and the haranguing challenges of the world. And we all probably know what it is to have our lives so jam packed with this and that and everything in between that like the thorn bushes described by Jesus, our lives leave no room for the seeds, no room for Jesus to take root.

For that is really what we are speaking about. Jesus taking root in our lives.

Jesus, who chooses us despite the qualities of our soil on any given day and our brokenness; Jesus who loves us even in our brokenness; Jesus who let himself be broken open on the cross, life blood pouring forth so that our lives might be turned over to become good soil in which good seed might be planted not only for our sakes, but for the sake of the world. Jesus taking root in our lives so that our lives might carry God’s blessings to the world.

Hadiya-Nicole Green did not just survive tragedy to then thrive for herself. No, what makes her story the kind of story that we as Christians understand in light of God’s resurrection power through Christ is that Hadiya-Nicole arose from the ashes of unspeakable grief and then did a new thing for the world. She let her grief and tragedies turn her into a beautiful instrument working through science to help others.

This is the work of the Master Gardener who not only scatters the seeds, but diligently seeks to prepare the soil. We see this work of Jesus the Master Gardener in people like Hadiya-Nicole Green’s lives. We see this work of Jesus the Master Gardener in stories such as the one of St. John’s Lutheran Church in TN, which saw its sanctuary leveled by a tornado this past spring, yet had members of the church not wallowing in grief and feeling sorry for themselves, but packing food bags for 350 needy school children the very next week.

The common denominator here is that of God in Christ working over the soil, turning grief and tragedy into the potential for new life work. I think we are seeing this new life work right now in the Peaceful protests on the streets and in the legislation being crafted in the statehouses and yes, even in some churches like Redeemer, New Paltz where instead of closing our eyes and hunkering down amidst the revelation of Racism’s deep rifts and deeper grief that lay upon our land, we are rising up.

This is evidence of God’s work through Jesus, tending the good soil, planting the good seed. This is how we will garner the courage and the fortitude and the perseverance to let our lives be an offering in God’s hands for the world; not just talking the talk, but walking the long walk towards freedom.

For all over world people are rising up. Oh, may this rising have roots and let us as Christians be a part of building those roots for the world and this justice movement. May we strive to build the rhythms of our calendars and our days and the landscape of our interior lives so as to become strong and able participants, contributing to the labor of taking the greatest tragedies of sin and destruction and turning them over and over and over until something new is born and answers found and cures administered and all of this becomes a sign of God’s blessed resurrection work through our hands.

Lutheran Christians profess that it is only possible to receive Jesus, to have room and readiness to receive our Savior’s gift of redeeming relationship because God in Christ through the power of the cross makes it so. Jesus whose limbs went limp on the cross is the only Power vast and persistent enough, vast and insistent enough to inhabit our limbs, yes and our very innermost beings so as to make it possible for a Tobias to say “yes, Jesus, please make the soil of my life ready, please plant the seeds, please help me to grow up in you even as you take root in me and may those roots go down DEEP so as to grow a new branch that proclaims God’s saving mercy is at work for saving of the world.

It’s time to grow deep roots my friends, and Jesus is at hand so as to make it possible. Amen.