10th Sunday after Pentecost – B (Proper 12) LSB #535 tune 651
Text – Ephesians 3:17-19
So that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted & grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth & length & height & depth, & to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
ROOTED & GROUNDED
Do you feel that your life is stable & settled with no worries & no concerns? Does anxiety never come knocking at your door? Are you being tossed here & there by the waves & the wind of living in a rapidly changing world?
The root is an essential component of a plant. From studying them we can see that they were created to draw nutrition from the environment in which the plant was designed to grow. Jesus used illustrations from God’s creation to help us understand what it’s like to be part of the kingdom of God. St. Paul does a similar thing in the 3rd chapter of Ephesians.
He emphasizes that being part of God’s kingdom means you are rooted & grounded in the love our heavenly Father displayed in the sacrifice of His Son. Like a plant, human beings also draw nutrition from the environment surrounding them. Paul made that point in the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians: “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.’” (v. 33 ESV)
The environment you’re in affects you – how you think, how you speak, how you act. If you hang out with bad company, you absorb unhealthy nutrition. On the other hand, Paul encourages children of God to recognize that being rooted & grounded in the love of Christ is what enables you to live a healthy & fulfilling life.
Paul had founded a church in the pagan city of Ephesus, & the members there were torn between their old, unbelieving way of life, & the new way that Paul had shown them. The promise of acceptance, sexual pleasure, power & worldly success was a continual enticement as they watched their friends & neighbors participating in the old ways. The situation is reversed in our culture, largely a Christian one until recent decades. Here, the old ways involved being in church every Sunday, treating others with respect, while being honest & polite. Though it certainly existed, sexual immorality was not openly flaunted & celebrated.
As the people of our nation move further & further away from God, the same temptations are in play. The dusty old words of St. Paul from thousands of years ago are just as relevant to the culture we live in, as they were to the members of the church at Ephesus.
Like the Ephesians, we are living in a battle with foes that are far more powerful than flesh & blood. Yet, the constant message of Paul’s letter to Ephesus is that Jesus Christ has risen & ascended far above any earthly or heavenly powers.
Instead of finding fulfillment in fifty shades of gray, God’s children find it in Christ’s perfect love, which gives to those He loves, rather than takes away. Sexual immorality always revolves around selfishness instead of giving. Likewise the anger becoming so prevalent in our society, it always desires to take away from others & refuses to give.
However, like a plant with no root, which therefore has nothing to give, human beings that are not rooted in Christ also have nothing to give. Like a root is designed to draw nourishment from the soil, human beings are designed to draw nourishment from our Creator. The Fall into sin separated mankind from physical & spiritual nutrition.
Being rooted & grounded in the love of Christ is not the natural state of affairs in this fallen world. Without proper nutrition, it’s no wonder we experience anxiety & feel as if our lives are not stable nor settled. Here’s one of those world of nature illustrations that Jesus used:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me & I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 ESV) Anxiety, selfishness & sexual immorality are signs of someone who is spiritually malnourished at best, & spiritually dead at worst. Sin has corrupted each & every human being that is conceived in this world. Yet, the Lord of heaven & earth has provided an antidote & cure. The prophet Jeremiah didn’t write these words for nothing:
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, & does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, & is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” This tree has plenty of fruit to give because it is rooted & grounded in the love of Jesus.
A main function of a plant root is to absorb water & minerals from the soil for the plant to use. Another important function is this, roots anchor a plant into the ground, offering support & keeping it from washing or blowing away. In the chapter after the sermon text St. Paul speaks about the results of being rooted & ground in the love of Christ:
“As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here & there by waves & carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ.” (Ephesians 4:14-15 NASB)
Through being rooted & grounded in Christ’s love, we won’t be blown off course by false teaching. The devil constantly works, through believers & unbelievers alike, to convince us that we should finally get to work & do something with our faith. While that is a noble goal, the danger lies farther down the road. It’s a subtle shift & barely noticeable at the beginning.
Satan’s goal is to convince us that Jesus won’t love us if we aren’t striving to serve Him. It’s as if we are supposed to be a root in thin air that’s drawing moisture & nutrients out of nothing. Once we’ve produced fruit, then Jesus will love us. The truth is Jesus has loved us 1st. Jesus has rooted & grounded us in His love 1st, through His death on the cross specifically to take our sins away. At Baptism we are connected to the Vine, by the wisdom & skill of the Vinedresser. Then we can begin to serve Jesus. First we have to be rooted & grounded. Then we bear much fruit. It is never the other way around, “so that no one may boast.”
It is the love of our heavenly Father in Christ that provides the secure basis for all Christian living. As we are connected to Christ in Baptism, at the Lord’s Supper, Jesus Himself comes to root & ground us in His love for us. He joins Himself to us through the eating of His body & blood. He conveys to us all the blessings He earned for us on the cross.
And to what end does our Lord & Savior do this? “…that we may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19 ESV) That is as complete a description of heaven as we can comprehend here on earth. Our mission statement here at St. Matthew, “To Know Jesus & To Let Him Be Known” ties in directly with that verse.
What a glorious day entering the unveiled presence of God & experiencing His perfect glory. That is true life completely free of sin & free of sorrow & free of suffering. No more limitations. No more anxiety. No more instability – safely & perfectly rooted & grounded in the love of Jesus.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV)
How wide the love of Christ! It knows not class or race but holds our one humanity within its broad embrace. How long the love of Christ! Its patience will not cease until this broken world is bound in everlasting peace. How high the love of Christ! Beyond all thought it soars, & yet upon our passing lives unmeasured mercy pours. How deep the love of Christ, descending to a cross! He bears within His wounded hands all human pain & loss. All praise to You, O Christ, for love whose depth & height, whose length & breadth fill time & space with endless life & light! Amen. LSB 535:1-5.
 Jeremiah 17:7-8 ESV
 Ephesians 2:9 ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet