Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Some First thoughts about Gardeners and Sowers

purple irisI was back home last week and one of the first things that I did was get over to my mom's house to say hello.
I noticed almost immediately that many of the flowers in her garden were either cut back, or gone.

My mother has grown iris, roses, and chrysanthemums since before I was a little boy. She told me that they had experienced a terrible freeze in February and some of her plants didn't make it. She had to remove some of the plants and pruned many others back, almost to the ground. It was sad for me, as I think it was for her. Nonetheless, we observed where a few of the plants were recovering in the shade of the house, even as the temperatures sky-rocketed over 100 degrees. Plants are very hearty, especially when properly tended to, and given the proper set of circumstances and care to grow.

The Prophet Isaiah writes: For as the rain and the snow

Parable of the Sower
Parable of the Sower - Earnest Graham

come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Isn't life on the whole somewhat similar to my mother's garden and Isaiah's hopes? Winters come and go. Summer arrives. The flowers or vegetables in the gardens of our lives suffer setbacks, contend with adverse conditions, and flourish when they receive proper amounts of sun, rain, and stewardship. Most days are ordinary, some are not.

We count on God through the ecological and environmental processes of life to offer us the circumstances that we need to live abundantly. Nonetheless, our gardens do not tend to their own needs in and of themselves. We must be observant and involved.

God expects us to properly receive the seeds of creation's bounty as well as to sow and distribute the fruits and vegetables of our labors. How are the irises, roses, and chrysanthemums of your Christian spirituality and faith doing. Are they well? Are you sharing the beauty of the God-given gifts with others? Don't take Jesus Christ's Grace for granted nor expect that all is necessarily well without your involvement and prayer. Most successful gardeners that I know love the work of their hands as well as the art of The Creator who initiates life in the first place. Taste and see that the Lord is good at church as well as out in the world where and when you encounter God.

Monday, July 4, 2011

A New Call in my Priestly Pilgrimage

I have some news that I would like to share on my blog. My guests can read about it here or you can click on the banner instead:

There are times in one' s Christian pilgrimage when one moves along to another community, another set of Spirit-led opportunities, and - in my case - to a spiritual and practical "home." The challenge for early Christian churches, according to Diarmaid Macculloch, was to choose between whether or not to heed the advice of wandering sages/evangelists, much like Jesus of Nazareth and Paul of Tarsus or local leaders who eventually would guide liturgical practices and shape Christian doctrine. Early Christians eventually began to heed the the spiritual and pastoral guidance of leaders who abode with them in their towns and villages. This was probably the case because many of them were familiar with the presence of rabbis in their former synagogues and/or it is more comfortable and possible to form vulnerable and mutually affirming relationships with a counselor, priest, friend, and/or pastor when that person lives close by and is a member of one's own social community as well as one's spiritual community too. I certainly hope and pray that is what is taking place in my life and the life of the Christians and spiritual seekers who are the Episcopal Church of St. James in the Westwood neighborhood of Cincinnati.

Today is, of course, our nation's Independence Day. Citizens of the United States give thanks for their liberties, including freedom of relocation within the nation's states, freedom of legal occupation, and freedom to worship God according to one's own morals, conscience, and the laws of the nation. I am especially thankful for these liberties this morning. I am likewise grateful that God invites people of faith to set out to new places and encounters with new people as part of their vocational sojourns. The author of The Epistle to the Hebrews writes:

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to set out for a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; and he set out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he stayed for a time in the land he had been promised, as in a foreign land, living in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he looked forward to the city that has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

I have a sense of where I have been. I have a sense of where I am going. I have a sense of the freedoms I have experienced as an American citizen and Christian. I am grateful for these liberties that I have sought to protect as an Air Force officer and as an Episcopal priest. Thanks be to God, this nation's founders, Christian pastors, priests, rabbis, imams, monks, and other religious leaders who have called the nation's citizenry back to lives endorsing liberty, and justice for all. I am grateful for my call to St. James - Westwood and for the experiences yet to come.

Go REDS!~ Blessings Along The Way