Within the last couple of months, my apartment complex has chopped down two trees because they were dead and rotting. With the winter weather in full swing, the threat of snow actually threatens residents’ cars – like mine. If you were on the U of O campus during the spring of last year, you might have seen several tree limbs having collapsed due to the weight of the snow. And in one part of campus, an entire tree had fallen over. I guess my complex director didn’t want that happening to any of our cars (thankfully).
What I noticed, though, was that even though they chopped the trees down, the trunks are still there. Of course they cut as much of the trees as they could, but the roots are still there. It’d probably take them quite a bit of time and equipment to remove the roots – let alone physical energy and mental sanity – but they’re still there. The trees are gone, but the roots are still seen in the lumps and cracks of the pavement. All of this came to mind during Scott’s message Sunday morning.
Throughout our time at Emmaus Life, Scott has really hammered home the mission: connecting real people to the real life of Jesus. One of the major verses of inspiration comes from John 10:10; “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” What Scott talked about on Sunday, though, was how the church is supposed to bring this into action. As in, what does it mean to live out this abundant life – this life beyond life?
Acts 2:42-47 was Scott’s passage of choice to highlight exactly how we’re supposed to spread Jesus’ life:
“And they devoted themselves to the Apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
Living out the real life of Christ as the early church did goes directly against the grain of American society. We’re all about individual rights and being self-sufficient and focusing on our own careers and blah, blah, blah. The only time we might want to help someone else is if it somehow benefits us in return. And yet the church as depicted in Acts 2 “had all things in common.” Whatever one person had, they all had. Individual ownership evaporated.
Why was this recorded in Scripture? And of all verses to focus on for a message, why did Scott pick this one? Again, John’s Gospel comes to mind: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Being the church, as Wesley Towne (pastor of Ekklesia-Eugene/Springfield) has often said, is central to receiving the real life of Christ. In fact, I’d go so far to say that one cannot receive the real life of Christ without a church body. My hands cannot type words detached from my body (okay no, I haven’t tested this theory, but I believe the testimonies of the amputees), likewise, Christians can’t really be Christians – followers of Christ, not political labels – without fellow Christians devoting themselves, as the church in Acts did, “to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Individual walks with the Lord are essential, but cannot be the sole means to attain the real life of Christ.
As this process goes on, people get to know each other. Nerves are pushed to the limits, trust is tested over and over again, and little by little humility is practiced. Little by little the people devoted to Christ start acting like Him because we have each other to keep ourselves accountable, to keep us on His path. Little by little, we start loving each other just as He commanded.
What does this have to do with tree roots? Scott turned our attention to Ephesians 3, where Paul gives one of his more infamous passages:
“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” – 3: 14-19
My goal with and through Emmaus Life is to make impacts in the lives of others – so deeply, in fact, that even if I die in the effort, the roots of Christ through my work would still be there. Surrendering my time, money, energy, comfort zones, and anything else that Christ might ask of me, I aim to share that real life – the life that provides so much more than this one ever could – with those whom I care about, those who care about me, and the strangers I meet along the way. It won’t be easy, but it will be far more peaceful and joyful than if I were to live my own, selfish, American life.
Years may pass before I see the fruit of what Christ is doing through me and my involvement with Emmaus Life – if I get to see them at all. But, as Scott pointed out on Sunday, figures such as Paul and Peter died before they saw what their movement would become. Not only did they die; they were executed. They were martyred for sharing the real life of Christ. And yet, despite dying, they never stopped living that life of Christ.
Trees don’t grow fast, but they do grow strong. And even though they might get chopped down, their roots are still seen. May we all strive for such deeply embedded roots in the life of Christ, His church, and the lives of our neighbors that even when we’ve been chopped down, our roots are still seen and felt by those who knew us.