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Every Flower Reaches for the Sun

(a sermon for June 17, the 4th Sunday after Pentecost, based on Ezekiel 17:22-24 and Mark 4:26-31)

I’m not sure if it was a wedding present, or if it was for Christmas or a birthday, but once when Lisa and I were first married, we received a gift of…wait for it (!)… a can of seeds!

Thinking back, it was actually kind of neat; this was literally a coffee can sized container of wildflower seeds – direct from L.L. Bean, don’tcha know (!) – from which, when properly planted and nurtured, would grow a variety of flowers both annual and perennial.  Even now I still remember what an amazing thing that was: first of all, how despite the fact that all these seeds, at least to my untrained eye, looked pretty much the same, what we ended up with all that first summer and for many more to come were these immensely beautiful, fragrant flowers of every size and shape and color you can name.  I’ve lived in New England just about all of my life, but I’ll confess that I didn’t know we even had that many flowers in this part of the world; but that was the wonder – and the fun – of that particular gift!

But the other thing I remember about those flowers is how utterly relentless they were!  Like I said, there were quite a number of perennials included in that wildflower mix, which means that even given a modicum of care they should continue to grow year after year.  But here’s the thing:  after a couple of years we were shocked to discover that no matter what we did or didn’t do as regards those flowers, or how they may have been – however unintentionally (!) – used, abused or at the least disrupted, despite our best (or worst) efforts not only did they just keep on growing, sometimes they downright flourished!

I mean, inevitably every summer that garden plot where we’d sown those seeds had faced alternate bouts of drought and flooding; every winter it got snowplowed into oblivion; and this is to say nothing of what happened once we had little kids running around!   Understand, it’s not like we set out to ruin this gift or to destroy these wonders of God’s creation, but looking back, in all honesty given everything they went through they really shouldn’t have stood a chance at all! But such was the strong nature of these wildflowers; they seemed determined to grow sunward and to triumph over whatever nature (or humanity!) set in their way!  And because of this, every summer that we lived in that house we were not only treated to the utter beauty of nature as only a wildflower garden can provide, we were reminded in glorious fashion of the resiliency of all that which God has provided!

To put this another way, it’s in the DNA of a seed to grow, isn’t it; it is the seed’s design for the life that’s placed within it to take root and sprout up through the soil, prevailing over whatever hardship it encounters, so to fulfill its purpose as part of the circle of life.  What we’re talking about here is basic botany, and truly, “nature’s way;” but having said that, I’d also have to say that such an explanation says nothing about what ultimately comes from the seed as it makes its way sunward; nor does it really express any one of a multitude of ways that every flower that “reaches for the sun” will end up serving God’s purposes!

Which, come to think of it, is not entirely unlike our lives, yours and mine… after all, you and I might be able to say something about how we live and grow in this life; but that can’t possibly express in fullness what that life is for!

This is wonderfully expressed in a song written by Noel Paul Stookey, the “Paul” of “Peter, Paul and Mary:”

Every flower’s reaching for the sun
Every petal opens when the day has just begun
Even in the city where they grow up through the street
Every blossom needs the sunshine to makes its life complete.
Some are torn out by the roots and cast aside
And some might be arranged and brought inside
A flower’s just a seed when it’s young
And every flower’s reaching for the sun.

Some are bent by fears they cannot see
And some are touched by Love and set free
A flower’s just a seed when it’s young
And every flower’s reaching
Oh every flower’s reaching
Every flower’s reaching for the sun.

 – “Every Flower,” written by Noel Stookey, Bob Milstein and Peter Yarrow

In our gospel reading for this morning, Jesus offers up a parable about how the Kingdom of God “is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground… and the seed would sprout and grow,” despite the fact that the sower of said seed “has no idea how it happens.” [The Message]  It’s a reminder both agricultural and theological, that “just as seeds grow without our effort, so also will God bring about God’s reign.” [David Lose]  If Lisa and I learned anything from our long ago “mystery garden” of wildflowers, it was that ultimately its growth wasn’t up to us; we didn’t make it happen and whatever else we did or did not do to it (!), we couldn’t prevent it from happening either!  Seeds grow of their own accord, you see, and every flower reaches for the sun; and so it is with the Kingdom of God.

What Jesus is wanting his disciples and us to know through this little parable is that the Kingdom is indeed coming as surely as will come a harvest of grain, but rest assured that it comes apart from our efforts.  To quote David Lose, “We can’t bring God’s reign of redemptive and surprising love and grace, but neither can we control it, moderate it, or domesticate it.  And we definitely can’t stop it.”  God is on the move, you see; God is at work – in our life, in our community, in our world – and that work will be done in God’s way and in God’s good time. Whether or not you and I actually see or even know what’s going on; the fact remains that by God’s full intent and grace, his kingdom is coming to us in ways and with an intensity that we can’t even predict.  In fact, as Jesus points out in the second little parable he shares in our gospel text for this morning, the kingdom might well be “like a mustard seed,” the source material for what can be described as “an out of control weed [that] grows and spreads and can hardly be contained, even if you’re not sure [at that particular moment] you want it.” I mean, it’s definitely not the lofty, noble cedar we heard about from the Ezekiel reading; it’s a mustard plant!  But there’s no denying that the end result of its growth into “the greatest of all shrubs” fulfills its purpose: to be that one place where every possible bird of the air can find a place to rest and to “make nests in its shade.”

Seeds grow; and every flower (even every weed) reaches for the sun!

So what do we say to this?  How do you and I deal with this utterly relentless God who promises us that in due course his rule and his will will be enacted among us?

Well, to begin with, we let that prayer we repeat each and every Sunday morning become real for us:  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10)  More than merely another piece of worship liturgy, these words serve as our acknowledgment that God is at work as surely as seeds sprout and grow in the soil and “the earth produces of itself.”  And we also need to be patient about the way that happens and how long it takes; for the world as we know it and live in it most often tends to live in steadfast opposition to God’s plan and purpose for it (all the more reason to pray, again and again, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done…”).

But mostly, what you and I always need to be doing is to simply be about the work of that kingdom until it comes in its fullness, to “enact God’s reign wherever we are,” living out of our confidence that God’s promises are true and that the kingdom will come in its fullness.  What that means is that you and I become the flowers reaching for the sun; doing that which we’ve been fashioned for from the very moment of our creation: to align ourselves with God’s will and way; to seek to love and nurture others in the same manner that we have been loved and nurtured; to let our hopes and dreams, our talents and skills, our opportunities and challenges, our joys and even our sorrows become intermingled with our ongoing call to be Christ’s disciples.  At best, what that means is that every piece of our lives – and every fiber of our being – becomes centered on how God has always intended for his creation to be; filled with hope and love, and the joy of living in a close relationship with the Creator.  And by the same token, and once again I’m quoting David Lose here, “when life is hard, when we meet resistance, or when we fail or fall far short of our hopes… we can take refuge in the promise that God is still at work and has not given up on us or the world.”

Because seeds grow; and every flower – and yes, that even includes you and me – every flower reaches for sun.

I think I’ve shared with you before Lisa’s and my other great gardening story, also from early on in our marriage: the year that we grew a bumper crop of beautiful butternut squash… which was amazing, because we never actually planted any butternut squash!  Moreover (and I’m a tad embarrassed to even admit this!), there wasn’t a single crop we planted in that particular garden than managed to make it to harvest or at least past some hungry raccoons!  As we came to understand it, it turns out that there were a fair number of squash seeds in the soil of that garden plot; the remnant of the previous growing season before we’d lived at that house or ever had attempted to plant our pitiful little vegetable garden.  So something else – dare I say, someone else? – was at work.  And the good news was that at the end of it all we had squash enough to last us well into the fall; and trust me, that was truly something!

I kind of like to think of the Kingdom of God that way, beloved.  Because as much as we try to make it happen, and even think we might succeed in it by our own efforts, in the end what grows in our spiritual garden comes about because of what God is doing just beyond our sight with a firm and steadfast resolve.  There’s an old saying, you know, that seems applicable here:  that we should “work like it’s up to us, and then pray like it’s all up to God.”  In other words, plant those seeds of faith and love; tend that garden of righteous living; and do whatever it takes to keep growing up through the soil and to rise up ever sunward, in the great hope and expectation that you’ll become exactly what you’re meant to be.  But know that if that doesn’t work (and despite your best efforts, it might not, because who can predict what happens in a growing season), you’re still meant to blossom; because at the end of the day, what makes a garden strong and beautiful and purposeful is the work that God puts into it.  Beloved, no work done in love is ever lost, especially when that work is done by God; and God, in time and with care, will draw all things together for good so that the harvest can come.

Seeds grow, you see; and every flower reaches for the son.

And for this, and so much more, thanks be to God.

Amen and AMEN!

c. 2018  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

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Posted by on June 17, 2018 in Faith, Jesus, Sermon, Spiritual Truths

 

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Ready at the Right Time

(a sermon for November 12, 2017, the 23rd Sunday After Pentecost, based on Matthew 25:1-13)

I would suspect that most, if not all of us in this room can vouch for this particular undeniable truth of life: that there are consequences for being unprepared!

I learned this truth back in school; although admittedly it took me quite a while!  After all, you can’t not read the assigned chapters in “Moby Dick” and expect to come even close to correctly answering the teacher’s questions about Captain Ahab the next day in class; and they’re called “pop quizzes” for a reason, and so not doing your homework is almost certainly a recipe for academic disaster!

And then there were the great many “all-nighters” I pulled in college, at least until eventually I discovered that I could not wait to study for exams or write my term papers at the last minute and expect to do well.  I remember one paper in particular; it was one of the very first I ever wrote for a seminary class, in fact. All these years later, I’m still not sure it was because of the work load from all my other courses or if it were just pure procrastination on my part, but I do remember that as I cranked out the final pages of that paper – due the very next day – that new day was actually dawning (!); and also that I was convinced that what I had written was brilliant, cutting edge theology!

But a few days later, when the professor invited me to his office and graciously allowed me the chance for a rewrite (!), I realized that what I’d passed in what was basically a 20 page-long run-on sentence, pretty much lacking any of the insights that should have come from a semester’s worth of study (the professor was kind, however: “Well, Michael,” he said, “this paper does have a great deal of vitality!”  Probably more like the effects of a great deal of caffeine, but I was grateful nonetheless).

In retrospect, I could never have hoped to have been ready with that paper at the last minute, any more than I could ever do well on a final exam without first having studied for that exam!  And therein lies the undeniable truth:  that in whatever opportunity, or challenge, or crisis comes our way, most often we cannot hope to have the tools, or the skills, or, for that matter, the character to face what’s coming unless that skill or that part of our character has been previously and sufficiently nurtured over time and with concerted effort.  In the end, you see, preparedness is not about what is done at the last minute, but everything else that’s been done in anticipation of that last minute.

Our gospel reading for this morning tells us that this is especially true for that which is the most important thing of all: the coming of God’s Kingdom into the world.  Jesus actually speaks a fair amount about this in Matthew’s gospel; the gist of the message being, “you… must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” (24:44) But in order to illustrate the consequences for not being ready, Jesus goes on to tell the story of ten bridesmaids waiting with lamps burning for the arrival of the bridegroom and the beginning of a wedding feast.

It would have been a familiar scenario for those of Jesus’ time: it was customary in those days for a groom to escort his bride from her father’s house to his own home, followed by a grand procession of attendants, guests, musicians and townspeople.  Once they arrived – and sometimes this arrival would happen well into the evening, especially if the groom was bringing his bride from a neighboring village – they’d be met there by the bridesmaids waiting outside his door, the light of their lamps glowing in the night.  And then together the whole group would then go inside, so that the wedding celebration could start in earnest.  It was also a custom – and this is important – that once everyone had entered and the festivities had begun, the doors would be locked and no one admitted late.

So here, according to Jesus, according to proper wedding tradition and etiquette are these ten bridesmaids; except that Jesus also makes a point of telling us that “five of them were foolish, and five were wise.”  It’s an interesting distinction, because just like members of a wedding party today, they were probably identical in appearance and all dressed to the nines; they were certainly all friends and family of the bride; and each one of them had been invited to be there and equally desirous of celebrating this marriage!  And if we’re looking for a lack of etiquette, it wasn’t the fact that they fell asleep waiting for the bridegroom, who we’re told was delayed in his arrival; because all ten of them did that!

No, the only difference, the only thing that sets apart the foolish from the wise, turns out to be a lack of preparedness; specifically, five of the ten who did not bring along an extra flask of oil, and thus did not have enough fuel to keep their lamps burning through the night.  Asking the other bridesmaids to share their oil was no solution, since then none of them would have had enough fuel; so the only solution, they reasoned at this last minute, was to go out and buy some extra, and so off they went… and wouldn’t you know it; while they’re gone the wedding party arrives, the party begins, the doors are locked and those five bridesmaids miss it all.  And the story ends rather harshly, with the groom refusing to even recognize them, much less let them come to the reception.  But, suggests Jesus, sad as it is, it was the bridesmaids’ own fault because they weren’t ready when that crucial moment came; they were unprepared for the bridegroom’s coming!

And to this Jesus says, “Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

It turns out that this parable of Jesus is all about spiritual readiness; about the faith necessary for this and every day until God’s kingdom comes in its fullness. We’re told by biblical scholars that this particular parable was Jesus’ way of saying (and by extension, Matthew’s reminder to the early church) that the kingdom might not come immediately but it will come; so we’d best be attentively and actively waiting on it.  Jesus is telling you and me that we need to be prepared; ready for the time that is the right time.  Because it’s important to note that while those five “foolish bridesmaids” (and understand, by the way, that they could have just as easily been five foolish groomsmen; this is not gender related at all!); that this “foolish five,” shall we say, may well have had good intentions to keep their lamps well-lit, the bottom line is that they ran out of time.

There are things in life that cannot be endlessly deferred; there are opportunities that come to us that do not come again.  There are moments in this life for decision, for commitment, for pronouncing the verdict of our very lives; and what the gospel tells us today is that there will be that moment, in the eloquent words of Will Willimon, “when God arrives on tiptoes, or comes rushing in, or surprises us with light, or flirts, or speaks.”  We’d better be watching for it, and we’d better be ready.

I recognize, of course, that when we’re here in worship or engaged in some faith-related activity, or perhaps about now when we approach the “holy seasons” of advent and Christmas, and later on with Lent and Easter; perhaps then our senses are more attuned to this kind of spiritual readiness. However, if we’re being honest, that kind of expectant spirit is hard for us to sustain over time, when the need is for that spirit to imbue all the other experiences on all the other days of our lives!  I love what M. Eugene Boring of Bright Divinity School has written about this; he says that “living the life of the kingdom” can be done relatively easily for the short term. But “when the kingdom is delayed, the problems arise… being a peacemaker for a day is not as demanding as being a peacemaker year after hostile year; being merciful for an evening can be a pleasant experience, but being merciful for a lifetime requires [true] spiritual preparedness.”

My point is that it is not easy to live the Christian life day in and day out; it is rarely a smooth road to travel when our own life’s journey is defined by our walk with Jesus Christ; when we’re imitating Christ and keeping the values of Christ as our own until Christ himself returns.  But it is crucial that we stay on that journey, and always be about this work of spiritual readiness, lest the kingdom of God comes and we be found asleep and unprepared.  Simply put, we need “oil in our lamps to keep them burning, burning, burning,” (!) the kind of spiritual fuel that gives light and direction to the standards of devotion and behavior we apply to our day to day lives; to the ways we nurture relationships with one another; in how we make real in our own lives the prayers we pray for peace, for justice and an end to hatred and all manner of abuse. And friends, make no mistake; ours is a lamp that needs to burn, and brightly; for in a time and place when there’s so much to be done for the sake of God’s kingdom, we would not want to be floundering in the darkness!  We need to be ready… and now is the right time. 

I’ve always loved the writings of Bill Bryson; as you might know he’s a mid-westerner who immigrated to England for a good many years and then returned to live with his family here in New Hampshire (up near Hanover, I believe), and from that perspective he writes these marvelous essays about American life and our history.  In his book Made in America, Bryson speaks rather frankly about the Pilgrims of the first Thanksgiving, saying that as much as we revere them, they were basically ill-suited for a life in the New England wilderness!

Consider how they packed for the trip:  historical records tell us they found room on the Mayflower for “sundials and candle snuffers, a drum and a trumpet, even a complete history of the country of Turkey.  One man named William Mullins packed 126 pairs of shoes and thirteen pairs of boots.  Yet the Pilgrims failed to bring a single cow or horse, plow or fishing line.”  With the uncertain exception of Miles Standish (who, by the way, was not a Pilgrim per se but something of a soldier of fortune who got hired on for security purpose!), probably very few of these pilgrims had ever even tried to hunt a wild animal! Bryson writes that these pilgrims “were, in short, dangerously unprepared for the rigors ahead, and they demonstrated their incompetence in the most dramatic possible way:  by dying in droves.”  In fact, by the time spring arrived, only about 54 of them (nearly half of them children) remained; but these were the survivors who turned Plymouth into a self-sustaining colony and the ones who hosted the first Thanksgiving.

Think of that as a parable, friends; for while we may never find ourselves in the dire straits of our Pilgrim Fathers and Mothers, we do know what it is to be unprepared for what life thrusts upon us.  We also tend to carry unnecessary baggage through our lives and then find ourselves lacking that which we really need to survive the storms of tough times and unforeseen crises.  Better in the here and now to be preparing ourselves spiritually for all that awaits us; looking to Jesus for the skills and the grace we need to embody God’s love, his forgiveness, his joy and hope in how we live and in how we relate to one another.

Better to be ready… at the right time!

For our Lord makes it clear, beloved; this… this time and place… is not all there is or will be.  We are, in fact, on the verge of a moment in which this transient life we lead will be transformed into a kingdom of feasting and celebration.  It’s coming; so let us keep awake – let’s pay attention and get ready – for that time soon, and very soon, when the bridegroom arrives… for what a celebration that will be!

Thanks be to God!

AMEN and AMEN!

c. 2017  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2017 in Discipleship, Jesus, Life, Sermon, Spiritual Truths

 

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Fruitfulness

(a sermon for October 8, 2017, the 18th Sunday after Pentecost, based on Matthew 21:33-46)

Let me just say this up front: this is one of the parables that I would have just as soon Jesus hadn’t told!

I mean, as Matthew shares it in our text this morning, what we’ve got here is a story about tenants turned tyrants.  It’s about the continued and increasingly violent refusal on the part of some vineyard workers to hand over the year’s harvest to the landowner; culminating not only in the beatings and deaths of several of the landowner’s servants, but also in the brutal killing of the landowner’s son!  And it’s all done for the sake of obtaining, or more accurately, stealing the son’s inheritance – that is, the land on which this vineyard was planted!

It’s a story that’s very dark and much more violent than we’d ever expect from the mouth of Jesus; and to say the least, it’s unsettling.  I don’t know; maybe it’s because we’ve already witnessed so much horrific and inexplicable violence this week in what happened in Las Vegas that it’s hard for us to deal with it today in the context of scripture.  Or maybe it’s simply when it comes to talking about the Kingdom of God, we’d much rather hear it being compared to a forgiving father, or a good Samaritan, or that impractical but incredibly loving shepherd who’d willingly leave the 99 sheep behind to seek out the one lost lamb!

But no… not in this parable; here we have Jesus telling about this beautiful and apparently fruitful vineyard – an image, by the way, very often serves in scripture to represent life, hope and stability – that’s now desecrated with blood and caught up in a cycle of hopelessness.  And the worst part of all, especially for those of us who love our happy endings?  When Jesus asks those hearing this story – his disciples, of course, along with members of the crowd and, no doubt, a few eavesdropping Pharisees – what they think will happen to those violent tenants when the owner of the vineyard comes, their answer is swift and decisive:  “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants” who’ll do what they’re supposed to do!

An example of some biblically based “frontier justice,” so to speak?  Or does this provide a frightening case of our first and all-too human instinct to respond to violence with yet more violence… either way, as I said before, it’s all pretty unsettling; especially when Jesus concludes this parable by telling all those present that “the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruit of the kingdom.”

I’m guessing that’s not exactly the message we all came to hear this morning!  But there it is, right from the mouth of Jesus.

Now, to put all this into some kind of context, we have to understand that this parable has been traditionally understood to be Jesus’ condemnation of the religious establishment of his time – that is, the chief priests of the Temple and the Pharisees – as those who, by their opposing and rejecting him, are missing God’s plan for salvation and are going to lose the kingdom.  That’s why in the midst of telling this story Jesus also pulls out a verse from the Psalms (Psalm 118 (v. 22), to be exact!) about how “the stone that the builders rejected” was to become “the cornerstone” of a whole new world.  It’s no accident that this parable gets told very soon after Jesus’ “triumphal entry” into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and that it serves as one more catalyst leading to his betrayal, arrest and crucifixion a few days later; Matthew tells us that even the religious powers that be recognized that in these parables Jesus “was talking about them,” and they wanted Jesus to be “dealt with” sooner rather than later.

So there’s a political component in this parable that can’t be denied; and let’s be clear, Jesus doesn’t mince words here:  as The Message translates it, he says to them, “This is the way it is with you… whoever stumbles on this [cornerstone] gets shattered; [and] whoever the [cornerstone] falls on gets smashed.”  And moreover, it’s a statement about, in the words of Karoline Lewis of Luther Seminary in St. Paul, “what leadership looks like in the Kingdom of Heaven,” as well as a potent reminder to all of us in the here and now of what our purpose is as latter-day tenants in God’s vineyard.

That’s right, friends… beyond all the heavy drama of this unsettling parable of Jesus lies a deeper and more immediate question for you and for me, one that’s no less unsettling:  how are we doing taking care of that vineyard?

You see, the beauty part of so many of Jesus’ parables, including this one, is that it becomes very easy for us to hear the story and point fingers of blame on people like the scribes and Pharisees. It’s truly the “low hanging fruit” of this story (pun intended!); but in fact in these parables Jesus always manages to find a way for us to take a long hard look at ourselves, if only we will have eyes to see.  And in this parable, what we need to see is who we are in the midst of the story and who we are as God’s people, and that’s workers in God’s vineyard.  Our charge, our task, our job is to care for that vineyard; and what that means is that you and I are the ones called to do the kingdom’s work: to care for God’s people, to embody God’s righteousness in how we live and in the ways we relate to others, to do justice and love kindness in all things, to be good stewards of creation and everything else we’ve been given… all of this, and more, is what grows in kingdom soil.  And friends, we’re the ones who are charged with doing the gardening!

And, the thing is, it’s not an unfamiliar task for us in the church, nor an unpleasant one; as we’ve been saying quite often in recent weeks, everything we do as around here, from Sunday worship services to Saturday night bean suppahs, ultimately has to do with caring for God’s vineyard!  Everything we’re about as a church has to do with who we’re working for:  it’s where our fellowship is nurtured; it’s the place that mission and outreach begins; and it’s the way things get done here.

But here’s the rub, courtesy of this still very unsettling parable… what happens when the owner of the vineyard returns for “the produce at harvest time?”  At the end of the growing season, so to speak, and the harvest is done, will it be said of us that we were “a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom?”   Ancient Palestinian politics aside, this is the question that Jesus asks of each one of us here, and it’s an crucial one; for I don’t need to remind you again of what the consequences are for those whose “fruitfulness” is not what it should be!

During the summers while I was in college, I worked as a “Cabin Boy” at a very rustic resort on the coast of Maine; basically carrying luggage and catering to the needs of our guests who desired to have an “authentic Maine experience,” but on an American plan and with gourmet meals!  And it was a great summer job; I met a lot of very interesting people, I got to hang out near the ocean, and I learned over the course of four summers what it means to work for tips!  But I must confess that part didn’t always come easily to me; I always did fairly well with tips, but in retrospect it always made me a little uncomfortable, and so I kind of held back on doing that which might have garnered me a bit more “remuneration,” shall we say!  In fact, one year my boss actually critiqued me on this and suggested that I did not put myself out there enough for the guests; and he said to me (and I remember this, because it stung at the time), “Just imagine the tips you’d get if you just made a little more effort!”

Now, let me be clear:  I am not suggesting in any way that you and I, individually or collectively as Christians or as the church, are not doing enough; in fact, from this pastor’s perspective, it’s just the opposite… and thank you, and thank God for that! But what I would suggest to you today is that we should always be mindful that what we do do always shows forth the fruitfulness of our faith and of our love.  We must always remember that this is God’s vineyard, not yours or mine; and that ultimately, we’re the tenants in that vineyard, caring for God’s kingdom in everything we do.  And hopefully, we’ll be known as very good tenants; the kind who put forth the effort to do, in love, for all those who God loves.  Friends, most especially in these times when one tragedy just seems to lead to the next, you and I who would call ourselves followers of Jesus must put forth all the effort that we can to bear good fruit for Jesus’ sake and for the sake of his kingdom.  To quote Karoline Lewis once again, we need to be “the kind of tenants that tenaciously tend the call to being the salt of the earth and the light of the world,” to be an example “to the world of leadership that seeks to care for the meek, that works for righteousness, that advocates for peace,” and to be the kind of people who “exercise justice [and] to work for a world where the Beatitudes are not aspirational but actually possible and palpable.”

Because let me tell you something else: the tragedy and violence and darkness that so often seems to prevail in this world is, in the end, “no match for love and life and forgiveness and peace.” (David Lose) That is the fruit that matters, beloved; and it is the fruit that you and you and you and me are nurturing by our very lives, even here on Mountain Road, steeped in the soil of the kingdom.  We can never be deterred from our work of faithful action, of unending compassion, inclusive care, and the resolve to do what God would have us do, no matter what.

And so, in the words of an “alternative verse” of one of my favorite songs:

“Brothers, sisters all around,
This is where our garden’s found
In the church our hope abounds
Where God’s own people grow.
So water them with love and prayer
Trust the promise that we share
Do our part and then prepare
For God’s first fruits to show!
(from “The Garden Song,” by David Mallett; author of additional lyrics unknown)

Indeed… by God’s grace and through his strength… “inch by inch, row by row,” let us make this garden grow!

And as we do that work, may our thanks be to God!

Amen and AMEN!

c. 2017  Rev. Michael W. Lowry

 
 

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