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Note: Pastor Will Reinmuth delivered this meditation to the faculty and staff at our opening convocation. We were so inspired by his words that we wanted to share them with the entire school community.
As we begin this new school year, with all of its potential, all of our great plans, and all of our hopes for something better than what we have had to live through over the past year and a half, the first week of school can and should be a time of excitement. However, as we are already hearing the swirling winds of more turmoil from the Covid Delta Variant, the various hurricanes pounding our shores, the fallout from the collapse of Afghanistan, and the many lives lost from the earthquake in Haiti…just to name a few of the headlines recently…how are we supposed to hold onto our hope? Where can we find our footing for the year ahead, when the world around us seems to be crumbling?
This year’s theme at Eastern Christian School gives us our answer: Rooted in Christ. Only in Jesus, do we find a foundation that is immovable, unchangeable, and everlasting! Only in Jesus, do we find the anchor that our souls need when all other foundations are crumbling around us!
But what does it mean to be rooted in Christ? And how do we as Christian teachers, administrators, and parents live out of that rootedness?
In Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae he writes:
“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” -Colossians 2:6-7
As we begin this year together, please consider this encouragement and challenge:
You have been rooted by Jesus, to endure, so pray and teach!
Okay, so firstly, what does it mean that you are rooted BY Jesus? In our passage, Paul writes “as you received Christ Jesus, so walk in him, rooted…”. To be honest, this is not the best translation for us of the word “rooted,” because it tones down the power of what God is actually communicating to us through Paul. You see, that word “rooted” is a perfect middle participle, meaning that it is referring to an action performed on us, in the past, that has implications for our present. It is not, therefore, an imperative, but an indicative. It is not telling us what to do, but first and foremost reminding us who we are in Christ. A better translation would have been, “having been rooted,” which is the position from which we are to learn to walk through life.
Why does this matter? Because it means that the primary work of rooting our lives on a foundation that lasts belongs first and foremost to Jesus! It means that it is not up to us to try to build a place of sure footing when the world and our lives seem to be spinning out of our own control, but instead, it is the promise and work of our Jesus to anchor our souls in a truth and a reality that is unshakeable! If there is anything that we, and our children, need in a time so turbulent, it is an immovable strength upon which to truly understand our world and build our lives. And that, friends, is precisely what Jesus came to do, and who He is!
Is this not what Jesus, Himself, proclaimed when He picked up the scroll in Luke 4 and read from Isaiah 61:
1 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor…
We are all familiar with Jesus’ declaration of His life’s work, that being anointed by the Spirit, He was going to preach the good news to those bound by sin, and then bring the year of the Lord’s favor (jubilee) through His death and resurrection. Hallelujah!
But how does the prophet Isaiah then go on to describe the fruit of the work of Jesus FOR us and IN us? Please do not miss that he says it’s all about being rooted!
3 …that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
Jesus came to root our lives in what He accomplished for us, that we might become like the strongest of trees, oaks, rooted deeply in His righteousness. Beloved, we are rooted, first and foremost, BY Jesus Himself!
And like an oak tree, we have been rooted to endure!
Whether it be the rubble of the storms that have already passed through, or those that are to come, our roots are there to enable us to survive and even thrive! In Isaiah 61:4, the prophet goes on to say:
4 They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.
Did you hear it? Not only is it the work of Jesus to root us, but even if the hurricane of our worst failings has already come through and destroyed, leaving ruins and devastations; ours is the God who delights to use our rubble to build His masterpiece! He is not afraid of our broken pieces, but promises to use them to make us whole!
And this is not simply for the storms that have already come through, but for those that are still on the way as well! For, as Colossians 2:4 and 2:8 both indicate, there is an enemy pursuing us and our children. One who seeks to deceive and enslave. One whose arguments and attacks on the truth of our Jesus will seem reasonable and loving, even while they are intended to lead us away from Love Himself.
“Therefore”, Paul writes, “because these attacks are coming, and you have been rooted by Christ, learn to walk, build upon, and be established on that foundation! Or, to put it like King David wrote in Psalm 1, blessed is the one who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the way of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers. But who instead meditates (walks, stands, sits) upon the Word of the Lord! For that person will be like a what? Like a tree planted by streams of water that bears its fruit in season. Do you think Paul might have had Psalm 1 on his heart when he wrote this letter to the Colossians? Do you think God really wants to make sure we get this point?
Beloved, we have been rooted by Jesus, so that we can endure the devastations that have already come, and those that are on their way! Jesus has done this! This is who we are in Christ! Please do not rush past the indicative to get to the imperative! Sit and meditate upon the truth of who Jesus has made you to be, and what that means, no matter what this year throws at you. And only after you have done so, then move on to the imperative…
Therefore, let us pray and teach!
In Colossians 2:1, Paul says, “I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you.” And just one verse beforehand (Colossians 1:29), Paul says, “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy…”. The word in both places for “struggle” is “agonizomai” or “agonize.” Paul has discovered the mystery of the universe, the most profound, freeing, encouraging reality of being rooted in Christ to endure, and he wants more than anything else for his friends in Colossae to share in this reality with him. And as Paul modeled for them, and for us, that begins with prayer. It starts with Paul’s willingness to be poured out like a drink offering, weeping before the throne of God on behalf of those for whom he was responsible. Crying out, that they (and we) would be knit together in love, experiencing the full assurance of knowing our rootedness (Colossians 2:2). For it is one thing to intellectually ascribe to the fact of our being rooted by and in Christ, but quite another to KNOW, experientially, that oneness and strength. That is the kind of intimacy that comes only through prayer. And so, the question is, will you? Will you prioritize the time to go before our Almighty King this year, on behalf of your students, that they might be rooted by Jesus, and know how to live in that place of stability and strength? Will you pray?
And in addition to prayer, will you also teach? In Colossians 2:7, Paul points to the fact that these Christians in Colossae have been taught the faith that they believe. And while it should come as no surprise to us that teaching is a fundamental aspect of discipleship, the clear message here is that our teaching is not limited to our lesson plans, or the words that come out of our mouths, but is much more accurately the whole of our lives! We cannot lead anyone to a place where we ourselves have not been. We cannot teach an intimacy that we do not have. But, conversely, WHEN we have such knowledge, when we know that intimacy and power, when our lives outside of the classroom or office reflect that rootedness, THEN the lessons we teach will come with power and fruit! What are you teaching, beloved? Will you aim to build on the foundation that Jesus has laid and invites you find your hope, strength, and joy upon? Will you teach, in word and deed, that our children have been rooted by Jesus, to endure, and invite them to look at your own life as evidence of this incredible intimacy and power on display? Will you teach?
Please know, that this parent and pastor, is praying that you will. I am agonizing before the King, that you would be knit together in love, and there find such a firm foundation, that the joy of the Lord would be your strength, no matter the storm! You are seen, and known, and loved. Your hard word and incredible faithfulness IS producing fruit in our children! Your labor is not in vain, and nothing can change that. For you have been rooted by Jesus, to endure! And so have those children in your care. So let’s pray together! Let’s teach with our lives! And let’s rejoice, as we see how firm a foundation, how strong an anchor, how deep the roots…that Jesus alone has made for us!
He alone is able! He alone has done it! And He loves you!
Come close, Lord Jesus! Come close, and shape our hearts this year, to know the strength and sure footing of being rooted in deep intimacy with You. Drive out all fear and confusion! And let the light of your Presence shine brightly in and through Eastern Christian School…our faculty, staff, parents, children, and families. Let this year be saturated with Your grace in our lives, that no matter what happens around us, we will bear the fruit of being deeply rooted in You! All glory and honor and praise belong to You alone! Come Lord Jesus, and build something beautiful! We open our hands and our hearts to You now. Come! We pray in your matchless Name, amen!
With you in Christ,
Pastor, All Souls Community Church