Green plant shoots are a picture of hope

“Green Shoots” Photo by K. Rummer, 2022


Hope like a green shoot

What I noticed preaching for presbytery

by Ken Rummer

“Like a green shoot pushing up through scorched earth.”

I had just spoken these words when I noticed the listening. Heads tilted for a better view. Silence pooled in the pause. They were listening, really listening.

I was preaching for presbytery at the time, and Lamentations 3:19-24 was my text.

In the sermon I pointed to what we’d been through over the past two years. I spoke of how scary and hard it’s been, and how, despite all the lemonade we’ve made from all the lemons, there have been losses and we are grieving.

Then I turned to the alphabetic poems of Lamentations. Here were outpourings of anger and grief and shaken faith, written out of the rubble of Jerusalem destroyed.

But then, I noted, right in the middle of the woe and alas, the poet finds something unexpected. “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. [God’s] mercies never come to an end.” (Lamentations 3:21-22 NRSV alt.)

Trying to find an image to convey this surprising hope, I said it was “like a green shoot pushing up through scorched earth.” And that’s when I noticed everyone was listening.

There’s a story about the not-yet-famous Giuseppe Verdi. At the first rehearsal of his opera, Nabucco, when the company began to sing the chorus, “Va, pensiero” (Go, thought), the stage hands stopped their work to listen. And that’s when Verdi knew he was on to something with his music.

The all-ears moment after my green shoot line was something like that. I realized that it was happening. The bush was on fire. We had turned aside to see. And we were waiting, shoes off, to hear what the Holy One might say. The sermon was working.

Now I know that God is not limited to using only goosebump sermons. Like a skilled woodworker who can craft a dovetail joint with a hacksaw and a sharpened screwdriver, God can use even our hesitant and halting efforts.

Still, the rare sermon like this one, when it all comes together, the speaking and the hearing, the moment and the message, the life in the room and the life that is found in God — it gives me hope for all the other sermons, and for the next one. It reminds me that God is still bringing blessing through the speaking and the hearing of preaching.

Isn’t that what keeps us digging in the commentaries and typing late on Saturday night? Isn’t that what keeps us returning to our chairs and favorite pews on a Sunday morning?

This could be the day when the sermon speaks for our hearts, and to our souls. This could be the day when our words and God’s words swirl together on gusts of the Spirit and take us to an unexpected place. This could be the day when hope breaks through, like a green shoot out of scorched earth.

Ken Rummer writer

Ken Rummer, Teaching Elder PCUSA, Honorably Retired


Ken Rummer writes about life and faith from the middle of Iowa by the High Trestle Trail. Previous posts are available at