I have never really pondered the meaning behind the politically-charged term “grassroots.” I have only thought about it in the most basic of terms. The people are basic, grass is basic, so as an organization or movement made up of basic people; this must be their connection. These past few weeks creating a garden in a space that was previously untamed ground has really changed the direction of my contemplation on this term. I had taken a great deal of time to till up the ground, remove the vegetation, make a raised bed, and amend the soil. We sowed new vegetable seeds and waited. And waited. And WAITED. To our horror, we watched the most beautiful patch of grass within our entire yard form but not a single seed germinate and reach the surface. Together my wife and I removed the newly formed grass, this time with great care to remove as much of the roots as possible. We sowed the seed again and waited. This time the vegetables plants grew alongside the grass.
This is when I began rethinking “grassroots.” There is and was so much of it. It was impossible to get rid of, to stamp out (at least for the novice gardener). The roots run in so many directions and are intertwined. Momentarily getting rid of the green is possible, but the grass comes back stronger, greener, and flourishes even more from the pruning. Culturally and politically, grassroots make a deep connection to this extended metaphor. As regular folk, we can be part of big ideas or shared values with expectations that are entrenched and hard to amend or move. However, we are not the root, we are just the greeny growth that thrives off the vine.
“Consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you.” – Romans 11:18b
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. – John 15:1-4
Romans 11 makes an ever deeper root connection (this is a pun, and you’ll see why in a moment). In this case, the gardener is not a novice. Grafting branches onto a tree takes an experienced hand. The metaphorical botanical in this passage is an olive tree. But why? Because they live an insanely long time. They are a millennial perennial. Additionally, the roots of an olive tree can grow deeper under the surface than above. It is extremely hard to extinguish some of these species. Impossible, when you consider the species specifically spoken about here: Jesus Christ. His Father is the Gardener, He is the vine, and we are the branches. We are grafted by God into the Savior, which predates His arrival. It is the oldest, deepest promise of God. “After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!” Romans 11:24
No longer is there a single type of branch budding on the tree, but the Good Gardener has chosen a variety. Each one is equal to the other because none can be supported without the vine. This makes us all part of the same faith, intertwined in the same hope, which strengthens and flourishes the whole plant, (or body – 1 Corinthians 12) These roots run from the origins of the universe and the branches are fruiting, growing, and reaching towards Kingdom Come. Are you accessing the sap of the Spirit? Utilizing your provision to make fruit? Allowing the gardener to prune the dead bits? Tap into the power and the promise that most assuredly lies in the deepest root.
Questions for Discussion and Reflection
- Reading Romans 11, what do we learn about the Gardener who grafts in branches? How would you describe Him? What is His purpose?
- How does the Doxology (an expression of praise to God, sometimes sung) in verses 33-36 tie in with the rest of the chapter?
- How is your grafting process going? How have the roots supported you? How are you getting along with the other branches?