October 22, 2017

Pentecost 20 October 22, 2017  Psalm 67, Isaiah 58:6-12, 1 John 3:1-2,16-18, John 15:8-17          Be fruitful

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The first commandment ever given (to people) in the first chapter of the bible, is to be fruitful and multiply and have dominion over the fish. Most of you know – I’m ready to fish at a moment’s notice. But even I have to admit – probably fruitfulness is supposed to come first – then fishing. There’s an order of priority here. Fruitfulness comes first.

And the fruitfulness God is talking about is not just biological reproduction. Remember, God has already commanded the fish and birds to be fruitful and multiply, before God even makes humans. And if humans are supposed to be closer to God than fish (which might be a big assumption, but if so – ) probably God has higher things in mind for people than just biological reproduction. Nothing wrong with that. We still need to reproduce physically for life on earth to continue.

But as we read on in the bible, we learn God is mostly interested in spiritual fertility. Jesus speaks of bearing fruit that befits repentance. Changed lives are the evidence of faith… The fruit of the Spirit, Galatians tells us, is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control… and…

The fruit Jesus is talking about today is spiritual fruit – all the results that come with following him – helping him in the sowing, watering, weeding, and nurturing of the seeds of faith he’s planting… Abiding in the true vine of Jesus, pruned, fertilized, watched over by God the Gardener…this is how we bear fruit that lasts. And we’re talking about fruitfulness today because…

Today is the third and last Sunday in this year’s stewardship series. Stewardship means taking care of something. Christian stewardship is about the care we take with all God has entrusted us with – meaning every good thing we have in life.

Two weeks ago we began by considering prayer as our basic foundation for all stewardship. We spent a little time together in small groups practicing praying for each other and our church and God’s world…

Last week we heard from Gary Melville of the United Methodist Foundation of New England. Gary’s sermon used the metaphor of a river as a way of talking about stewardship – letting God’s love flow through us, like a river of grace – not dammed or bottled-up, but flowing through us, making us stewards of the life of God. Gary nailed it. I can’t think of much to add to what he said about  stewardship.

So this week, let’s just take time to review the ministries of our parish – asking ourselves – Are we fruitful? Are we bearing good fruit for God?

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I’m going to be naming many of our ministries of our parish – as I name each, I’ll be asking all of us to be in prayer for each ministry. Then I’ll be calling on one or a few of you to speak briefly about each of these ministries… Not really to explain it all, or give a detailed report, but just to say a little about what makes this ministry important for you, for us, and for others. (I’m mindful that some of these ministries are geographically centered in one church not the other, but all are open to all – and I believe ministries generally work best when participation is widely shared… So…) Let’s start with one of our newest ministries.

* A prayer group is now meeting regularly in Bourne twice a month. Thanks to Rev. Sandra Smith for getting this started and leading us. More recently we have also begun offering prayer after church for individuals so desiring. Thanks to Betty Long for suggesting this. (*)

* Our weekly bible study group has been through Romans and Colossians earlier this year. Now we’re half-way through Genesis, using John Goldingay’s Genesis for Everyone commentary. (*  )

* Book discussion groups have continued to meet seasonally over potluck suppers in homes. Earlier this year we completed reading and discussing Slow Church by Smith and Pattison. We’re beginning (tomorrow night) to discuss The Hole in the Gospel by Rich Stearns of World Vision in Bourne. We anticipate another book group starting in Cataumet soon. (*)

* A year ago we began offering free clothing for children at the Bourne church on the first Saturday of the month. After a slow start, this ministry is growing steadily, and we’ve served at least forty families… (*)

* Another new ministry: About six months ago we began collecting household items for the homeless, in collaboration with the town of Bourne Human Services Committee. New relationships are forming…  (*)

* We’re in our second year of collecting food for backpacks for low-income school children, in collaboration with the Bourne school system. (*)

* We continue to host our annual free Thanksgiving Community Dinner in Cataumet. Deep community happens here each year.  (*)

* Another new ministry is our Men’s Breakfast Group that meets monthly at the Corner Café in Pocasset… (*)

* We’re in our eighth year of selling pumpkins to raise funds for the Bourne Food Pantry. In recent years we have contributed up to $7000 annually. This takes somewhere close to 700 volunteer hours over 4-plus weeks.  (**)

* We continue to receive monthly collections for Haitian children and for our pastoral discretion fund for local needs. We take special offerings for UMCOR; this fall our parish gave over $2500 for hurricane recovery efforts. Tom and Susan Goux have recently taken the Methodist Emergeny Response Training, and are now able to help on site in mission projects like hurricane clean up… (*)

* Our Thrift Shop continues to provide high quality affordable clothing, household items and more to the wider community, while contributing greatly to our church budgets. Our volunteer staff offers listening ears and helping hands to all… (*)

* Our United Methodist Women continue to meet regularly, offering interesting programs and supporting and partaking in many of the church’s ministries. (*)

* We visit the sick and shut-ins. I’m especially grateful for all who visit regularly…. (*)

* Our Sunday School continues to thrive in Bourne. We’re very grateful for all our children, their families, and our Sunday School helpers.  (**)

* We’re a worshiping church. We’re blessed by all who help to make our worship happen…Robbie, who does our power point (*) – our greeters and ushers (*) all who contribute flowers and make the church look nice (*) Our liturgists (*), Coffee hour hosts (*) and clean-up helpers (*)…

We’re a musical church. We love our choirs (***)…   Our choir director (*)…  Our organist-pianist (*)…

We’re a hospitable parish… We’re always seeking to extend welcome to all in our coffee hour after church and in other fellowship times through the week…

We’re a seven days a week church. We strive to represent Christ in the world every day. Our various committees and groups help us remember our vocation to serve God…and give a little structure for serving.

* We’re blessed by all our many volunteers in all our ministries. Some of  our saints sometimes go almost unrecognized, due to their humble ways of avoiding the limelight. Only God notices it all. But we greatly appreciate all the essential ministries that go on largely behind the scenes…(Everyone please stand….)

* We’re blessed by our church staff – here in Bourne – Brian and Karen Jackman, our custodial team, Vicki Horne our Secretary and also our Nursery Coordinator, Tatsiana Mazheika, our pianist-organist, and Richard Jensen, our interim Choir Director. (Also in Cataumet – Arlene Wheeler, our organist, Tom Goux our interim Choir Director, Chris Casanova our custodian, and Linda Henderson, our Secretary.) All our staff are a blessing for us…(*)

* We continue to host nine twelve-step groups, five in Cataumet, four in Bourne. Many of us have expressed hopes that we can do more to support the twelve-step communities.  Rev. Mike Clark of the Belmont-Watertown Methodist parish will preach in both churches this coming November 12th and lead a lunch discussion afterwards on twelve-step ministries.

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We are already involved in many, mostly small, but real and vital ministries. We are already bearing fruit… Thanks be to God…

And – there’s always more we can do – and probably should be doing –  if this church we love is to be alive and fruitful in the community… five, ten, twenty, fifty, a hundred years from now.

God is our eternal help and comforter. We’re always leaning on the everlasting arms of Jesus. And – God is also always challenging us – to keep growing in faith. Keep learning to be better disciples. Keep learning to help others be disciples. So–

Please continue to pray about how we can be better Christ followers.

Please pray hard about attending our District Lay Academy classes and other Lay Servant training opportunities. Please pray about other District training events.

Please consider joining in a Methodist service trip to help neighbors in need. Locally, one of us has suggested our parish might help by serving as mentors for foster children and other young people.

Pray about joining our Prayer Group, or starting a new one at a different time… Consider joining our Bible study group or starting a new one.

Pray about participating in any of our existing ministries. Pray about starting a new ministry if the Holy Spirit leads in that direction… and

As the psalmist says in prayer  – God our God has blessed us – May God continue to bless us – and all the ends of the earth worship our God.

Thanks be to God. Amen.