Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lesson from an Embankment

My morning walk regularly takes me by an embankment that was created in the grading for a shopping center parking lot. For years, the dirt washed over the sidewalk every time it rained. Finally, about a year ago, grass seed was planted and netting laid over it to hold it in place. Now the bank is a carpet of green and the erosion has ceased.

As I walked by the bank earlier this week, I thought about the mutuality of the relationship between the grass and the dirt. The dirt needs the grass to hold it in place. The grass needs the dirt to grow. Neither can flourish without the other.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 says:
                But blessed are those who trust in the Lord
                   and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
                They are like trees planted along a riverbank
                   with roots that reach deep into the water.
                Such trees are not bothered by the heat
                   or worried by long months of drought.
                Their leaves stay green,
                   and they never stop producing fruit.

Psalm 1:3 echoes a similar message. And Paul, in Ephesians 3:17, speaks of our roots growing down into God’s love, keeping us strong. If we are the plant and God is the soil, is it not safe to say that God needs us just as we need God?

Without our roots, God’s “soil” washes away and is wasted. Soil on the riverbank won’t stay on the riverbank without roots to hold it there. It is washed downstream, away from where it is needed. If I fail to put roots down into God’s love, others cannot experience God’s love through me, and I miss out on experiencing God through others.

The Church is much like that embankment I see as I walk. It takes all those grass plants with all their roots to hold the soil in place. If only a few grass seeds send down roots, they likely don’t have enough strength to hold the whole bank in place. We need each other. The body of Christ needs us all and we need each other.

When we gather for worship, we are putting down our roots into God’s love, which strengthens God as it strengthens the church. My absence from worship weakens the embankment, making it more difficult for the remaining “seeds” to keep the bank from washing away. My attendance in worship is not for my benefit, but for the benefit of God and the other members of Christ’s body. My showing up is something I do for others, but at the same time, my own roots are strengthened.

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