When I began to think on the theme “rooted,” these words from Isaiah spoke to me: “A shoot shall come up from the stump of Jesse and a branch will grow out of his roots.” I pictured an ax striking old tree again and again, until it finally falls, leaving just this stump.
Lent is about repentance, and a key metaphor for repentance is the cutting away of dead, damaged branches. It’s not my favorite image. But, in grace, God shows me what needs to be cut away—what in me must die. I serve in a community where there are many people who have been chopped down, so to speak. By poverty, mental illness, physical and emotional abuse—people judged and rejected for simply being who they are. By placing me here, God has rooted me in the pain of the world. And every day God calls me to be with these people in their pain and to see and use my privilege and power to serve these precious people. This is my dying and this is my rising.
And both are possible because “A shoot has come up from the stump of Jesse and a branch has grown out of its root.” Jesus came into the world to show us the beauty and power of a human life thoroughly rooted and grounded in God, and also thoroughly rooted and grounded in a world that cries out for redemption.
This is who God is. The one who creates the world and chooses to be rooted in its life. The one who gets down in our dirt and stays there. The one who is felled by the ax of human fear and hatred, then like a tender shoot springs to life again from the never-ending life and love of God. God is the deep root of the world’s life. The deep root of our being in Christ. The deep root in whom we die and rise, so that our dirty hearts become good soil for bringing forth the fruits of love and new life.