By Rev. Joan Kessler
As you can imagine, I have been thinking about today’s reflection for several weeks now. This Sunday has come as we say our goodbyes and commemorate this ministry we have shared these past three and a half years. And you might have been wondering what reading Joan would choose for this day. You won’t be surprised to know that this is the lectionary gospel text for this Sunday and I thought it was a beautiful and poignant reminder of what it is we have been doing together these past years.
I found myself reading this parable this week and thinking about the seeds. Seeds contain the DNA and ancestry of the seeds that came before it. That is a long history when you think about it. They represent lifelines that hold a future promise. Seeds lead to transformation and some kind of change. Jesus lived in an agrarian time and his listeners would have been puzzled by this parable. A Sower goes out to sow. This gardener just casts the precious seeds about, widely and extravagantly as if there is no concern for supply shortages or running out. There is always going to be enough to go around. And just like real life, the gardener sets out with good intentions. There is the hope that the seed will take root and flourish in good, nutrient-rich soil and what needs to flourish will flourish. Maybe not all at once, and maybe not in the places hoped for or imagined but that’s okay for this Sower. There is no concern over end results because the act of scattering seeds is a holy endeavor; it is done in cooperation with Creation and Creator. We humans may have expectations of the harvest, but Nature has other ideas and works differently.
In my time with you, we have reflected extensively together what our role in the ongoing work of Creation is… how our habits and lifestyles impact our planet earth. As one of you shared with me earlier this spring, we not only need to love our neighbor as ourselves but we also need to start loving our planet as we love ourselves. Good words that frame this parable. Wind blows seeds from trees and flowers all over the place and we have no control over where the seeds we planted will end up and take root. Some seeds will hit good soil while others will end up in places where they don’t stand a chance. Bees cross-pollinate and drop seeds as they work about… fruit falls from trees, pine cones and other seed pods all crack open by the forces of nature, as part of their very DNA, to expose future seeds that may or may not go on to bear more fruit.
I stayed with the Parable of the Sower this final week because it spoke to me of how we live together as a faith community. We come together with all kinds of hopes and dreams for the future. We have dreamed dreams of extending our inclusive welcome to the wider community in many different ways. Some seeds have taken root and flourished. Some have been tried and not successful. And others still await the right opportunity, the right skillset and the capacity to carry forward. The planting isn’t finished. But when you recall this final message from me and the parable of the Sower, I hope you will remember all that we have experienced together and will trust that there is no end to the seeds. The variety you will choose to plant going forward, the ideas and initiatives you hope to bring to life, will coincide with your capacity and your desire to meet the future. But be extravagant, friends. If there is something that resonates with me in this story this morning it is that we cannot plan away every element of life together. Randomness, extravagant sharing and scattering our hope and our dreams in this community is what makes a church set apart. We have been creating a garden where people feel empowered to bring forth their seeds and sow their gifts.
As I take my leave, I long for you to be open to the new leadership that will arrive. Examine your expectations these coming months. Think about an actual garden that is perhaps awaiting to take shape in our green space out back. Food production is going to be a necessity to flourishing communities as we continue to see population growth in our neighborhood. Bring the seeds and invite the community to plant them with you and grow something beautiful together. Care for our earthen home, look after the Community Fridge. Because when you do these things, we care for one another.
Before I conclude this reflection, I would like to return some items to you as the congregation of Winfield United. First, I would like to invite Yvonne, Fran and Sandy, and Sharon to come forward:
Yvonne, I would like to give you these groceries to be shared in the Community Fridge. I want to thank everyone for their support of the Fridge these past nearly two years of hosting it on the church property remember the hundreds of people that have visited it. And while they may never attend a service on Sunday, they know that we care about food insecurity. And to this, I would also like to thank the Thrift Store staff for making a place for me. I have so many wonderful memories of spending time next door, greeting customers during COVID, picking up donations and helping to gather even the messes that have been left. Thank you so much!
Fran and Sandy, I would like to return to you our Photo Directory as a symbol of commitment to our ongoing pastoral care of one another. I know that this is a community that cares for one another, and I pray for your strength and perseverance as you take on more coordinating in this time you are without a resident minister. I also thank those among us who do pastoral care on an everyday basis and always took the time to let me know of someone who was struggling. Thank you.
Sharon, I return to you the Winfield United Back-Up Sound System (two handmade megaphones). This for me has become a symbol of our worship services. Those things we learned about Zoom throughout COVID and the ongoing learning that is taking place as we strive to offer accessible Sunday service options to those who need them. Blessings on this journey. I have every confidence that with your perseverance and love of learning new things Sharon, you will get there. And for all of you, I hope and pray that over the coming weeks and months you will be blessed and challenged with new voices on Sundays and extend my gratitude to those who will lead and help prepare for the arrival of new minister among you. Thanks so very much.
Today is one of thanksgiving and gratitude for a Sower who plants among us and never tires of doing that wild and extravagant sharing – planting seeds that hope for new life and good things to come. Because our troubled and broken world needs these kinds of things. Parting today with you all is such sweet sorrow. But I know God of the soil and the seeds, rain and wind, is in this place and will bring you joys and challenges, heartbreaks and disappoint. That’s just life together. Thank you all for sharing this ministry with me. Blessings to you all this day and always. Amen.