Growing Deep Roots

Dry ground requires deep roots

In the last reflection, I introduced our theme for the fall: Dry Ground Requires Deep Roots. This comes from our wondering if this will be a difficult fall because of Covid and a reduced ability to have fellowship. It is also a time when we are going to need to be creative to find ways to encourage and support one another when we can’t lean on our normal habits and practices.

With this in mind, we have planned our reflections this fall to help people deepen their faith, as a way of encouraging the kind of inner life that will support us all through hard times. Previews of this fall’s series on growing deep roots are below.

1. How to Pray

This series will be a practical primer on the basics of a Christian prayer life. This starts with God, who wants to share his life with us. Faith is the way we say yes to God. Then, prayer is the nurturing of an ongoing relationship with God. There are so many ways to pray: adoration, intercession, confession, meditative reading, thanksgiving and more. In this series, we will look at them all and give practical tips on how to develop a richer prayer life.

2. Spiritual Struggles

In this series, we want to look at the fact that everyone struggles at times. The issues people face are almost endless: self-doubt, illness, loneliness, anger, fear, addictions, isolation, and on and on and on. Faith does not take away struggle, but it does allow us to find strength, meaning, and a deeper relationship with God as we walk through it. This series will look at the question of what it means to struggle from a faith perspective and to offer practical tips to cope day by day while growing in our faith.

3. Sacred Pathways

One of the truths about prayer is that there is no single way that you should pray. Christians have found a great many ways to be in relationship with God. Some people love silent prayer, some like helping others, and some people go to nature. There are those who like traditional worship, others who like to pray spontaneously in the spirit, and more. What way is best for you to grow closer to God? What ways can you use to grow deep spiritual roots? In this series we will look at the work of Gary Thomas as he guides us through these sacred pathways. There is a path of prayer just for you!

4. Is it Reasonable?

This series will look at the content of our faith from the perspective of our postmodern world. People come to me with many questions: can people still believe in God? Is the Bible trustworthy at all, or is it a relic? Can we believe in the resurrection as a real event or is it just a metaphor? Why should we still talk about sin? Aren’t modern categories better? In this series, we will look at all these questions.

I believe that the Christian story of the love of God in Jesus is the most amazing story there is, and I will argue that not only is it reasonable to believe, but it is far more reasonable than not to believe.

Strength from Within: Surviving Winter in the Pandemic

Hope Canteen: Surviving Winter

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:16-17, our theme verse for this fall.

Looking Ahead to the Cold Months

I want to use this reflection and the next one to tell you about the theme for the upcoming season. I keep thinking about how different this fall is going to be from previous years. In one sense, it is obvious that everything will have changed. Our church services are under emergency Covid protocols. Our Christian education will happen over Zoom. We won’t be able to do the programming that we normally do. The simple answer is that it is going to be a lot harder, given the realities of Covid. But I also want to ask the question in a deeper way.

Over the past two weeks, I have become very aware that the temperatures have started to turn. I was sitting on my back porch when the wind came up, and I noticed the chill in the air. It struck me that we have been able to cope with Covid a lot better because of the warm weather. Different groups have been able to gather outside to talk and have fellowship. It has been really good to be able to laugh again with people. With the cold weather coming, I realized that meeting outside is going to become more difficult. With the daylight waning, I wonder what this means for our congregations. This could be a difficult winter for many of us.

Focus on Spiritual Health

I have started to pray about this, asking God what we need to focus on this fall to help us pull through the cold months together, and indeed to be spiritually healthy as we wait for the return of the warmth. The image that came to mind was one of my favourite scenes from the movie Chariots of Fire. Eric Liddell, a runner in the 1924 Olympic Games, is talking to a crowd and comparing faith to a race. He says,

“I want to compare faith to running in a race. It’s hard, requires concentration of will, energy of soul. You experience elation when the winner breaks the tape — ‘specially if you’ve got a bet on it. But how long does that last? You go home. Maybe your dinner’s burnt. Maybe, maybe you haven’t got a job. So, who am I to say, “believe,” “have faith,” in the face of life’s realities? I would like to give you something more permanent, but I can only point the way. I have no formula for winning the race. Everyone runs in her own way, or his own way. And where does the power come from to see the race to its end? From within. Jesus said, ‘Behold, the kingdom of God is within you.’”

Strength from Within

Finding strength from within.

That little phrase is so important: from within. There is so much imagery in the New Testament naming ‘within’ as the place we meet God. The heart is the chief metaphor of the place where we most deeply encounter the living God. Our strength from within comes from God.

In Galatians 4:6 we read, “God has sent the Spirit of his son into our hearts.” Ephesians 3:17 says, “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” In the John 14: 23, Jesus says, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” As Eric Liddell tells us, to get through hard times we need to be able to draw strength from God whom we meet within us, in our hearts.

If this fall is potentially going to be a difficult one for many of us, then one of the best things we can do as a church is to deepen our faith life within. We want to be strong enough in faith not only to get through these difficult times ourselves, but in turn to be a source of support and strength for each other. With Jesus Christ as the head of the church, I know we are going to get through this stronger than before.

Dry Ground — Deep Roots

We are using the image of Dry Ground Requires Deep Roots for our theme this fall. As we know from gardening, plants get their water from underneath the soil. The roots of a plant both stabilize the plant and allow it to draw the necessary moisture to survive and even thrive. But when times are hard because there is little rain, the roots of a plant have to grow even deeper to reach the water.

In our theme, the roots stand for our faith, by which we draw life and strength from God. In hard times, we need to attend to our faith more than ever. We want to help you grow in spiritual health. In the next reflection, I will talk a bit more about what we have in mind.