September 2016 – Sowing the gospel and remembering blessings

He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden….”  (Luke 13:18-19)

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed…”     (Luke 17:5-6)

I’ve been thinking of mustard seeds because the garden I planted in May failed twice-over, with most seeds never germinating, and those that did mostly scorched into oblivion. The next batch of seeds I replanted was soon over-taken by weeds… And I’ve been tempted at times to abandon the garden…

It’s easy to make excuses. It’s been a hot summer. The earth has been very, very dry… Which often feels like a metaphor for the American political scene, which has remained over-heated for what seems a long time now… The world’s tensions smolder constantly… Raising a garden doesn’t seem anywhere near sufficient to make much of a difference… And I tell myself I have other duties more important than watering and weeding…Though I can almost hear the garden crying for attention…

Yet there is always something or someone to remind me, whenever I start feeling sorry for myself – that a lot of people in this world are facing much greater difficulties than I am. And Jesus reminds me ‘from those to whom much has been given, much will be expected (Luke 12:48)…’ And the signs on our church lawns this summer have been preaching – “God knows what He is doing – Trust Him”… And – “The more time we spend on our knees, the better our standing.” And – “Every good deed is a song of praise to the Lord...”

I’ve been reminded to count my blessings, visiting a parishioner dealing with serious medical issues, who tells me the verse of the bible he always remembers most is – “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Others I visit, many with significant health issues, tell me how much they feel blessed by our church and its members. Often while visiting I feel ministered to by those I visit…Thanks be to God for this beloved community we’re part of…

Jesus tells us we should always be inviting others into the community of his kingdom, the fellowship of all believers. One way we’ve tried to do so this summer has been by hosting a Neighborhood Block Party on the lawn of the Bourne church. Parishioners and neighbors, more than sixty of us, about equally from the church and the neighborhood, gathered together in early August, meeting and greeting, getting to know each other over burgers, hotdogs, and potluck. Thanks to Susan Goux, lead organizer, Mike Eden, Tracy Jaekel, Susan DeWitte (who also loaned a tent), all of whom helped plan, and all who helped set up, cook, serve, and greet – introducing neighbors to this beloved community we’re part of…

Community has been alive in our comings and goings… We’ve said good-bye in Cataumet to Cynthia Reams, a beloved member of both the Cataumet and Bourne churches at different times, who passed from this world in August. Her family, friends and members of the church shared stories and memories, connecting earlier generations with those of us here now… We’ve said farewells to Ray and Phyllis Pitman, beloved members of the Bourne church, as they move to a retirement community…. We’ve celebrated the baptism of Marcus Mateu Sandwith in our Bourne church in August and been blessed in meeting many of his family and family friends.

We will always, of course, face challenges as we seek to be God’s community of faith. Jesus assured us of this. And Jesus also told us to pray about how to see each challenge as an opportunity. We’re nearing the end of a sermon series from the book of Acts, where in chapter after chapter we see disciples of Jesus turning each challenge into a means of telling others about Jesus. When they’re put on trial or jailed, disciples share the good news. The gospel takes root and grows… as the church plants the seeds of the gospel… and persists in faith.

Our Valley Farms community garden has a community-sharing-shelf where people give away items, including seeds. After two major crop failures, I noticed a tiny envelope of mustard seed –  which I then planted in a few short rows – watered – prayed…. and…

Grace happens. When I’ve visited our garden since then, even when I’ve had good reason to expect yet-another crop disaster due to my insufficient attention in the midst of drought… Time and again I’ve found – friends and neighbors have watered – sometimes even weeded(!) for me… And among the bountiful harvests of beet greens, chard, and cucumbers…  The most abundant of all has been the mustard greens…More than enough to share…

Which almost seems too small a thing to mention… Except Jesus does tell these odd little parables involving mustard seeds…. So again I’m back to counting blessings. And you’re all included in my counting.

The love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ bless you and keep you, Pastor Tim

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P.S. – In our next sermon series we’ll be reviewing the vows we make in our membership covenant – vows to support the church with our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service and  witness. We’ll be taking a look at each of these promises over five weeks starting September 18.

I’m also wondering if are there topics you would like to hear addressed in a sermon? Please let me know; I’m praying about what should be next.     Grace and peace,   Tim