Thursday, March 08, 2007

Wasted Soil: The Sermon I Want to Preach

"Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it. If it bears fruit in a year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down." (Luke 13:9)

We are, each of us, responsible for the nurturing of our faith lives. We need to take action, in prayer, in relationship, in community, in some manner, to nurture our faith lives. Our lives are intended to be fruitful, spiritually fruitful, a witness to God's presence, a vessel for God's abiding love to pour out and fertilize a broken, barren world.

For some years now I have been living in a barren world.

Our Lenten program this year, held on Wed. nights, joins "small church" with our sister small church down the road. This year they have about 10 people coming, I have three, including me. THREE. And for that I make a meal, set the tables, prepare the room for our discussion, and clean up.

"We're too tired....we're too busy....we already have commitments on Wed. night...we're satisfied with our faith and our spiritual lives..." Actually, no one says anything. This is what I imagine they would say. But they say nothing and do nothing. They don't even complain. They could at least say, "I hate that idea for a Lenten program..."

"See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree and still I find none. Cut it Down! Why should it be wasting the soil?"

For years I have tried to grow the faith of this community. I have tried many things. I have built some grassroots support, a few who have been affected. I have worked hard. I like to be creative. I get excited with Christian Formation...mostly I think they are just complacent....You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink...

And so now, I am considering leaving "small church." They are too comfortable. They love me. They say I inspire them...but since I see no fruit, I wonder what I inspire in are they inspired? To come to church on Sunday? To have a "nice" worship experience, a cup of coffee and some conversation and go home, unchanged?

"Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will perish as they did."

Repent: to turn around. To change one's heart. To turn and return to God.

Unless you turn to God you will perish.

The soil will not nurture you if you only water the surface. The water must soak the roots so they grow deep and firm.

Sometimes though, even deep watering will not be enough. Adding manure will not be enough. Water and food cannot heal if the environment is not ready for food and water. Clay cannot sustain vital growth. Sand cannot sustain healthy plants. Sometimes all one can do is move on to a new spot and start again.


Songbird said...


Mother Laura said...

This may well be a sign that you need to move on, since it seems to be part of a bigger frustration or questioning of fit. So I hope and pray that you can find a place you like better if that is what you decide to do.

On this specific issue, though, you might consider asking them if they want a midweek Lenten program and, if so, what topic/format they would prefer? Then you could change it to something that would work for them, or save your time and energy if they're just not interested--it doesn't make them bad Christians or you a bad pastor.

I spoke with a local minister recently who is very frustrated that the faithful attenders of Wed. night Bible Study rarely come to the night once a month when she cancels it and brings in a speaker on whatever topic she thinks is interesting or can round up. I pointed out (much more gently than I'm phrasing it here) that, when I visited, they seemed to really value the strong community participation and faithsharing they get at Bible study--everyone gets to share their view of the passage and how it relates to their life, as well as prayer concerns. She also sometimes brings in their insights to the sermon, so it's one of the few ways they can get some voice on Sunday mornings as well. For some of the older folks I am guessing it's one of the high points of their week. And when she brings in a speaker they lose that valued time and have to passively listen to whoever talk about whatever, and clearly it doesn't feed them so they vote with their feet...She just looked at me dubiously and changed the subject.

Homily for the Festive Eucharist at the closing of the Episcopal Women's Caucus

The readings that we chose for the service tonight were all picked specifically for this service because they lift up the role of women ...