February 11, 2007
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
5Thus says the Lord: Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord. 6They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land. 7Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. 8They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit. 9The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse-- who can understand it? 10I the Lord test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! Our title today is “Deep Roots,” and our message is simply this: Let your roots grow deep in the Lord. I’m hoping that every one of us can make a personal commitment before the Lord this morning to let our spiritual roots grow deep in Him.
You know, my father was a gardener at heart. There was nothing he loved as much as watching things grow. I think of my dad at this time of year in a special way, when the earth is hard and cold, when the grass that usually grows so green is just a barren greenish-gray. It was then that I remember my father sitting at his special table, his cup of coffee nearby. He’d put on his glasses with thick black rims, and he’d gently and lovingly take in hand the seed catalog, that wonderful promise of spring. Have you seen any lately? They seem to come out just about this time of year. He would gently turn the pages and look at the most wonderful, colorful pictures – beautiful, lush red strawberries, splendid blueberries, big ripe tomatoes. He’d turn the pages lovingly from one to another and dream of summer to come.
My father also at this time of year would take seeds he’d taken from last year’s tomato crop and carefully dried on the basement furnace, separate them, and start the seedlings. I confess to you, my father was a recycler. He would fish out Styrofoam coffee cups – I’m not sure where he got them, and I’m not going to ask – and he’d wash them and put some soil in them, and he’d use those for his plantings. He’d start them in the furnace room, and when the weather got a little bit nicer, he would take them outside. You see, he had found an old, used baby carriage. He somehow disassembled it, put a wooden platform on it, and put the cups of seedlings on that wooden platform. Gently he’d wheel them out into the sunshine, and then he’d wheel them back in again at night. And he’d watch the seedlings grow.
Dad took real good care of those seedlings. And it paid off! We had the biggest, most wonderful tomatoes come the summertime, and cucumbers and squash. Oh, he was quite the gardener!
Why do I tell you all this? I tell you all this, my friends, because it is important to let our spiritual roots run deep. For some of us, we’re new to the faith. Maybe you’ve recently asked Jesus into your heart, or maybe you need to, and your faith is just a seed with a sprout. And maybe some of us have been around the church for a while but our roots are withered, like a plant that’s been taken out of water. Oh, friend, won’t you join me today in making a personal commitment to let your spiritual roots grow deep? There’s nothing like it. There’s nothing like the joy and the strength and the continuity and the stability that deep roots will bring you.
How do we do it? How do we grow deep roots? I would suggest those five keys, those five keys to Christian living that we’ve talked about:
Pray every day.
Worship every week.
Read and grow.
Give as you are given.
Help wherever you can.
If you go through those every day, you’ll be reminded of how to let your spiritual roots grow. It’s important.
When I think of spiritual roots, I think about some folks who work in hospitals. It just seems that the last few times I’ve visited with folks in hospitals, I’ve come across nurses and doctors who happen to be people of faith. What a remarkable thing, to watch them go through their very difficult tasks, declining no humble tasks. To watch them do what they do for people and then to discover that they’re also persons of faith happens so often. A dear woman from this church has been in the hospital, and when I visit her, she always makes sure she tells her nurses that I am her pastor. They often ask, “Oh, what church are you with?” and I tell them about this wonderful church in Belle Mead that I serve. Then they’ll say, “We go to the Baptist Church” in thus and such town. Over and again, I hear stories of faith from people who serve in those difficult capacities. People who serve in nursing homes are undergirded by faith in the difficult jobs that they do.
Let your roots grow deeper and deeper in the Lord.
Second thing I want to say is… let’s help the children. Let’s do everything we can to help the roots of the children grow deep in the Lord. In a short time, we’re going to begin our confirmation class. I’ll tell you, the confirmation class is a real challenge on my heart, because I know we need to help these children set their roots in good, deep soil and begin the process that is going to last their whole lives long. I’m inviting your prayers for them. Let’s bless the children.
Let’s bless your children. What memories will your children have of the faith they saw in us? I’m 55, and glad to be alive. I look back on my upbringing as a little boy, and I see my father kneeling beside a kitchen chair, early, early in the morning, saying his daily prayers. I think of my mother doing the same. I think of the fact that they took me to church every Sunday with great joy. I also think of the fact that my mother and father happened to be barred from Holy Communion in the Catholic Church, because my mother had been in a very unfortunate marriage in Poland from which she escaped. She obtained a divorce when she came to America. For this reason, she was barred from the Lord’s Table. And because my father married her, he was, too. But they never complained. They were never negative about it. And I’m sure, when the sacrament was being distributed, they received the Lord in their hearts. They always made sure that their roots were in the right place, and they assured me of the same.
Won’t you do that for your children? Oh, I know you are – that’s why you are here. You are doing a good thing. I bless you and the Lord honors you for it. Let’s help our children grow deep spiritual roots.
And third, dear friends, that with the challenge comes a promise. Growing roots deep in the Lord has great rewards to it. Let’s look at today’s scripture to see some of those rewards. From the lesson from the prophet Jeremiah – what happens to someone whose faith and trust are in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord? Take a look at verse 8, chapter 17:
“They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream.” What happens to people like that? “It shall not fear when heat comes” – and does heat ever come! Does the stormy, oven-like, fiery blast of heat come our way, to challenge our faith, to challenge our stability, to challenge us in every way! A person whose roots run deep in the Lord shall not be moved when the heat comes, whatever the heat may be for you.
Second, its leaves shall stay green.” What does that mean? I think that means that you are going to be looking good. No matter what age, no matter what condition, if you are a person of faith, you’re looking good. Have you ever known a person in his nineties who had a sparkle of energy about him, who had that special twinkle in the eye that let you know there was something solid in his soul? I have. I’ll bet you have, too.
Does anybody here remember Joel Nystrom? Joel Nystrom was one of the founding members of this church. He and his wonderful wife Doris always had the sparkle of the Lord in their eyes. There was something bright and youthful and fresh about them, no matter their age. They died in their late nineties, both of them, but there was always a freshness, a green-ness if you will, about them.
“In the year of drought it is not anxious.” When things are tough, our spirits are calm. “And it does not cease to bear fruit.” Whether from a hospital bed, whether from standing up or sitting down, the person of faith does good things and makes the world a better place.
So, my dear friends, my invitation to you is this: keep your roots deep and strong in the Lord. Pray every day. Worship every week. Practice the keys of Christian living, and you will have the rewards of a person rooted and grounded in Christ. I’d like to conclude our sermon today with a prayer. Would you pray with me?
Dear Lord our God, in this moment of consecration and dedication, we are devoting ourselves to You. We’re asking You to come into our hearts and deepen us in faith and love. Turn our hearts toward You, toward Your light. And if anyone here has not yet received Jesus as Lord and Savior, may this be the moment now. May this be the time when the seed breaks forth. Lord Jesus, we repent of our sins. We invite You to come into our lives, and we make You our Lord and Savior. Amen.
God bless you, my friends. God loves you. I do, too. Have a wonderful week. Amen.
© 2007 Anthony J. Godlefski