Deacon Maggie's Sermon from February 9th:
When you read or hear scripture, what do you do? How does it affect you? I imagine we all have our own personal response to that question… And I admit, I have more than one response… For me, it depends on what else is spinning around in my mind…what I am thinking about at the time, what I am dealing with at the time, what other plans and obligations I have at the time. But one thing I have learned over the years, is that for me, if I take the time to sit with it, scripture speaks to me… The same scripture passages might say very different things to me at different times, depending on my mood, what’s going on in my life, and, I have come to believe, what I am supposed to think about, pray about, act on… in this particular moment. That’s why I like the lectionary…it provides me with a set of writings, of ideas, that have come down over the ages, speak to me in my present circumstances, and are there for me to imagine… “What now?”
The collect for this morning says… “Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; and it \
Last week, I had the opportunity, along with my friend Ellen, to travel to Michigan as the first step in a journey to explore our contentedness with God’s amazing creation. We have joined a project called the Church lands Project, a gathering of folks in the church, who want to learn about, think about, discern, what our call might be around the use of our land in our communities. I admit I was a tiny bit hesitant at first, to travel to Michigan in the middle of winter, to talk about use of land… but I am very happy that I did. It was an amazing gathering, we met some wonderful, inspiring people, and left with much food for thought. Through scripture reflection, sharing stories of our church land and communities and imagining possibilities together, we had the opportunity to open our minds and hearts to what God might be calling us, and our communities, to do and be in this present time. There was no set agenda, no rules beyond a commitment to being present, for two in-person gatherings and monthly calls over the next year. We met church leaders from around the country, listened to their stories and shared ours, of how they and their communities use their land to build up the kingdom of all God’s people.
It was a diverse group, representing parishes with:
o different types of property, some urban, some more rural,
o small and larger congregations,
o projects for growing food to provide for, and involve, themselves and their communities
o exploring and living with the land with which they have been entrusted,
o restoring some much-needed plant life to enrich both the land and the environment, (some partnering with honey bees!),
o erecting housing to support the diverse populations in their communities…
some providing affordable and senior housing.
One thing we all seemed to have in common is a love for our land, our communities and a commitment to inviting every member of our communities into this work together. And we all have a desire, a commitment to exploring, to connecting with and being stewards of nature through our land. I left with my head and heart so full… to be honest it was a tad overwhelming… and I have only just started to unpack it… there is much more to learn and to do… and so I bring the conversation to you, because this is your parish, your place and your time to think and dream about the possibilities God has opened before us.
We are very blessed to have this church home and nearly 15 acres of land to care for, to use to the glory of God and His creation. In the weeks before our first gathering, we had some time to begin to explore our history, the community of Franklin, the topography of our land. Our land here is diverse… gently rolling hills, expansive patches of grass… and behind our building, an abundant forest. Show of hands: How many of you have spent time appreciating our front and side yards, and exploring the land behind the church? We are blessed here at St. John’s to have a diverse community. Some of you have been here for decades, living, understanding and being part of creating the history, the legacy of this place. Some of you are just beginning your journey here… a future full of possibilities. We are so very thankful to have, and we absolutely need, each and every one of you here as we move forward together.
A couple of weeks ago, Ellen, Kathy and I had the opportunity to roam around back there, this piece of God’s kingdom, and explore the forest, the terrain, the trees and ground cover and the gently moving stream, the wetlands that border the property and the ponds beyond. There is an array of living things, in all stages of growing, from a diverse variety of trees, including an abundance of newly sprouted life, just beginning… some even with bright red berries, growing aside trees which are older vessels of the history of the land, and are appreciated and in active use by beavers that live in the adjoining ponds. There is evidence of campsites, rock walls, and meandering paths. It’s a place teaming with life and history and possibility. We’ll share some pictures with you soon, and we invite you to explore yourself. I am looking forward to seeing how it changes through the seasons.
In our gospel reading from Matthew this morning, Jesus says”
“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Salt and light.. these are images that make me think of hope and… and possibility… and action.
The question on my mind as I left this first Church lands gathering is, “How do we live into the possibility of being salt and light in the world?” I think we have an opportunity, here and now, to discern what God might be calling us to, as we move forward. Care for creation includes a contentedness with what is in our own back yard. In our very busy lives, we can miss the beauty, the opportunity in God’s creation that surrounds us.
Church lands is all about our connection to God’s creation. Our understanding that it is not a burden, but a gift; not a possession, an opportunity. We stop for a moment and ask ourselves, “How do we use this property to the glory of God and His mission?” It is an invitation… to explore, to remember, to re-imagine. We have an opportunity to explore the history of our land, an opportunity for being with, for thriving, not just as a separate community, side by side with our neighbors, but as a connected and integral part of God’s creation. But to do that, we need YOU… we need your thoughts, your ideas, your stories…. Over the next weeks and months, we ask you to think about your place in this holy work… what are your experiences, your hopes and your dreams? What are your concerns? Share them with your family, with each other, with our community here at St. John’s. And we can, with God’s help, move forward together. Amen.