Today on my Monday ride (Monday’s being a day off when I try and take a longer cycling ride) I enjoyed seeing the beauty of some of Bartholomew County’s farmland in full summer season. The corn is growing and beans likewise. Most of the wheat has been cut and straw baled, with a couple of double crop bean fields noticed. One farmer was disking up a field that was yielding the sweet smell of fresh earth as I rode past – life in the country!
With such a firsthand view of these scenes my mind kept falling back to the importance of being grounded or rooted in life and faith. I’m a country boy at heart, raised to appreciate the land and the resources it provides. I’ve also come to understand there is a spirituality of land and place that God often uses to get our attention and draw us close.
Perhaps this is why I appreciate author’s like Eugene Peterson and his stories of place, be it the Montana landscape of his upbringing or tales from his time in the neighborhoods of Bel Air, MD where he served as a long time pastor. Peterson has a way of writing about place that acknowledges God’s use of earth, sky and air to connect. In a similar fashion author Diana Butler Bass’s book Grounded: Finding God in the World is equally engaging as she discusses how we are grounded or rooted in time and place, and how we discover God in the places of home and neighborhood (among others).
God has so often met people, or garnered their attention, in notable places – the Garden of Eden, Mt. Sinai, Bethel, Shilo, Jerusalem, Galilee, Gethsemane . . . these are just some of the places. Our faith speaks of a Promised land, or Holy land, which persons yet today make pilgrimage to in order to find a deeper connection with God. Our congregation’s summer elective study Walking the Bible is an example of one person’s study of the land and its connection to faith’s story and calling. There is something about place that roots us.
Our family lived for a few years in the Pacific Northwest – a place new and different from our Midwestern heritage. We came to love that land and appreciated all that we learned during our time there, but in the end determined home was the Midwest. There was something of this place where we were raised that called to us, that grounded us. It’s hard to explain unless you feel it. I’ve heard others describe such feelings for the places they call home or holy; the places where they feel rooted – including their church, or place of worship.
I rode past a church that is celebrating its 200th Anniversary this year. It’s as old as the state of Indiana – also in a bicentennial year. That’s a long time for a church to be rooted in a community. To be about rooting the Gospel in a community. God bless that congregation!
Such rootedness should not be taken lightly. A.W. Tozer wrote many years ago that ours in a “cut flower generation”. He was lamenting how easily we are severed from that which roots us – namely our faith in God. A cut flower no longer has roots to sustain or nurture it, it’s beauty and scent is fleeting, it’s impact short. Those are the consequences of no longer having roots.
As a pastor I understand what Tozer wrote of as I watch the fluidity with which persons often come and go in church life today. The absence of roots makes it easy to miss when the community gathers. Without roots the church (and by extension faith) becomes a choice among many others on the menu. Roots are always a primary generation enterprise. In other words, you can’t live off your parent’s or grandparent’s faith roots, you need to grow your own. If we are not rooted, we easily blow whatever direction the wind is blowing.
In my garden my favorite plants are often the root vegetables. I like growing and harvesting plants like potatoes, carrots, beets and radishes. I think it’s the mystery of not being able to see what’s taking root and growing below the surface that I find so intriguing. Then, over time, what a pleasant surprise when you discover that something has developed, something has matured.
The same thing happens when persons give themselves to a rootedness in their faith. Over time as they worship, as they study, as they serve; there is a deepening and maturing of their roots that takes place. They are no longer so easily swayed by the blowing of the wind, or other environmental challenges. They’ve grown strong in their roots. They’ve become grounded.
The churches of my discipleship are among the places that I look upon with fondness. Those faith communities helped to root me in Christ. But, in order to do so, I had to be available and present; engaged and willing. I had to plant myself in those places in order to be fed, watered, cultivated and led. Only then did roots take hold and faith grow.
What are the places where you’ve allowed yourself to become rooted in Christ? Can you name them? Are they current or past? I hope both.
If you are currently without such a place, let me encourage you to reconsider the peril of living life and faith as part of the “cut flower generation”. Maybe it’s time to put down some roots.