Letters to the People: Rooted in Christ
July 17, 2022 – Rev. Stefanie Hayes
They spread. They grow deep. They choke things out.
Back in 2016 when I first moved to Nebraska, a town about 3 and a half hours west of here, I saw a random, out of place, but pretty, purple bloom in the parsonage flowerbed. I happened to share with someone in the congregation about it because the plant was unusually tall and kind of spikey but not sharp or pokey. The person immediately was like, cut it out, get rid of it because it was a thistle and she recognized that weed even from my inexperienced description. Weeds!! We don’t plant and nurture and cultivate so our creations can be dragged down and overcome by weeds. I want my plants to embrace the sun, to flower and bloom and thrive. We desire our plants to have full and abundant lives. The kind of life that God wants for us. The kind of life that the author of our Scripture today wanted for the church Colossae as well.
The author wrote about God’s power in Christ to a community that had begun to see Christ as just another powerful being among other powerful beings instead of love itself enfleshed. The Colossians struggled with “rival teachings” that conveyed unhelpful understandings of faith. They struggled with the concept of who Christ was, and what Christ’s life, death, and resurrection meant. In the midst of these struggles and teachings, the author brought home key points about Christ and wrote what is basically a beautiful poem about Jesus. Christ is, “the image of the invisible God…[who] existed before all things and all things are held together in him…the first over all creation…[Christ] is the beginning, the head of the body, the church…[and] the fullness of God was pleased to live in him and he reconciled all things to himself.”
Anchored in this understanding, the author followed up the poem with a word of advice, “but you need to remain well established and rooted in faith and not shift away from the hope given in the good news that you heard.” Basically, the letter tells people this truth: life around us and even our own thoughts and habits can work against us and the abundant life we were made to have. So stay rooted in Christ who is all in all, who is love enfleshed. God offers us a life of freedom, forgiveness, and reconciliation. God offers us a life where we can flower and bloom and thrive. Rooted in Christ, we find strength even amidst the reality of struggles, difficulties, and weeds, and they are real.
You know, a couple of years ago I bought a lilac bush. I tended that lilac bush, covered it with buckets and blankets during unseasonable freezes and checked it regularly for unwelcome plant invaders. I remember one time a weed snuck its way through. It had come from the ground, through the wooden slats of the planter, stuck close to the center of the lilac bush, and wound its way up almost to the very top by the time I had discovered it. When I saw it, I dropped what I was carrying and spend 20 solid minutes ripping the weed roots up and carefully and gently unwinding the vine from between leaves and stems.
Even when we’re careful weeds come up, they are a part of life. Thistles and vines. Anxiety and fear. Anger that festers. Addictions, unhealthy relationships, toxic habits. Weeds are a part of life and what being rooted in Christ helps us do, is recognize and acknowledge the weeds that seek to shift us and pull at us. Rooted in Christ, we remember that we are not abandoned to the whims of weeds. We are loved and supported by and connected to something far more powerful than any weed. Rooted in Christ, we can find the strength to get help, take medication, reach out. Rooted in Christ, all in all, love itself, we have the strength to dig up the deepest weeds and the grace to love ourselves while gently unwinding the intertwined ones.
This week, remain rooted in Christ, remain rooted in love itself, and claim the abundance God wants for you. May we embrace our lives as created, forgiven, reconciled, loved, and free. This week, stretch yourself towards the sun and grow and bloom and thrive. Amen.