Father’s Day… Aboriginal Sunday… Dedication of a new stained glass window… communion… Weather that is providing a challenge to local farmers… children being torn from their parents at the US border… officials using the Bible as justification! A passage from the gospel of Mark likening the realm of God to a mustard seed… What’s a preacher to do to try and connect all that?
A random Facebook post led me to this quote, part of a longer Litany of the Seeds by Fran Pratt, and that gave me a way in. She writes:
How should we understand big things? By looking closely at small things.
The scripture for today has Jesus telling the disciples parables… of sowing seeds and comparing the small seed to the realm of God. Let’s listen to words from the gospel of Mark in the 4th chapter.
26 He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”
30 He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
Did you know that in the time that Mark’s gospel was written, mustard was not a desired plant… much like dandelions… It was often considered an invasive plant… so for Jesus to liken the kingdom of God would be the same as us saying the kingdom of God is like a field of dandelions. So many of us spend countless hours trying to get rid of dandelions… and why? They provide the first food for bees… the greens of the young plants are tender and tasty… you can brew tea out of the stems… In fact, they are a really useful plant… and despite our best efforts, we can’t eradicate them.
Jesus also talked about the kingdom of God being like a sower… who sows the seed and tends it… but really how do any of us know how a tiny seed grows into something?
It’s like a miracle every time… but it is so commonplace, we forget to be overcome with awe. What seeds are growing in our midst… in our church or in our community that we might think of as weeds, but are actually the realm of God breaking forth?
A little more than a year ago, we started acknowledging the territory at the beginning of worship… a recognition that we ARE on unceded territory. One SMALL step of reconciliation towards our First Nations people and one small step of self-awareness on our part. This acknowledgement is becoming more widespread. Woody and I attended Mamma Mia on Thursday evening and part of the introduction there was an acknowledgment of being on Mi Kmaq territory. A recognition that this land was inhabited when our ancestors landed here… and that through the land… and through the people… we are connected to one another.
Listen to a story of how we, through the Mission and Service Fund, support the work of relationship building with Indigenous brothers and sisters.
The Mohawk words “Akwe Nia’Tetewá:neren” (in English, “All My Relations”) were added to The United Church of Canada’s crest in 2012, recognizing that we are all connected to each other and all of creation.
A recent visit from the Uniting Church in Australia’s Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress demonstrated the truth of this phrase. The visit was part of a dialogue on reconciliation between our two countries and churches. A return visit from Canada took place in March 2018.
The Australians arrived in Vancouver, British Columbia, and after exploring its urban Indigenous context, were scheduled to fly up the coast to the Indigenous community of Bella Coola. The United Churches there had worked to ensure a meaningful visit, but wildfires intervened. Concerned that the community might need to provide refuge for those displaced by fire, everyone reluctantly decided to cancel the visit.
Several phone calls later, friends in Peepeekisis and Carry the Kettle First Nations in Saskatchewan helped out with “Plan B.”
The warmth with which the visitors were received was overwhelming. In Peepeekisis, after a brief service in the beloved old church, everyone was invited to a community feast, where the Australian guests participated in sacred ceremony. At Carry the Kettle, a visit to the annual powwow turned into the Australians being part of the Grand Entry—an incredible honour, and an experience that most will likely never have again.
This happened because of a simple recognition, that no matter how far apart we are, we are all connected; we are all relatives.
If Mission & Service giving is already a regular part of your life, thank you so much! If you have not given, please join me in making Mission & Service giving a regular part of your life of faith. Loving our neighbour is at the heart of our Mission & Service. Mission and Service – June 17, 2018 – UCRD
We are all connected; we are all relatives. We are connected to one another. The people…the soil… the air… the water… Health for us depends on healthy relationship with each other and with the natural world.
The bread on the communion table is bannock, made from a recipe given to me by a Mohawk friend. Her grandmother’s recipe… connecting us with the land and with her ancestors… grains of wheat… seeds of hope…becoming part of us…
The stained glass window we will dedicate shortly… a mother and father’s love commemorated by their children… love that was planted deep within them… love that enables them to share love… we will be forever reminded of that love as we see the light shining through it.
And on Father’s Day, we cannot forget the importance of how a loving father, through seemingly small actions, enables children to grow healthy and strong.
Psychology Today writes this:
Research shows consistently what children know intuitively: Fathers are important.
Children learn how men should behave in relationships by watching their fathers.
They offer 10 ways that a father models healthy behaviour:
• Value their mother: Children value themselves and others more when they feel that their mother and father value one another.
• Perspective-taking (seeing things through someone else’s eyes): Show your children the importance of respecting the perspectives of people they love, even when they disagree with them.
• Cooperation: Show how to participate willingly in work, problem-solving, or task-accomplishment.
• Negotiation: Show your children how to work out solutions to problems that respect one another’s perspectives.
• Motivation to improve: Approach everything, including disagreements, with the attitude of making things better, not worse.
• Compassion: This gut-level reaction to their mother’s pain, discomfort, or anxiety includes sympathy, protectiveness, and willingness to help but not control. It recognizes that their mother is different from you, with her own temperament, set of experiences, beliefs, values, and preferences.
• Good will: Learning a positive attitude toward the people they love will greatly improve your children’s chances of having good relationships as adults.
• Affection: Showing affection toward their mother makes children feel more secure.
• Relationship investment: Successful relationships require that people care about – do good things for – one another.
• Protection: Loved ones support and protect one another. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/anger-in-the-age-entitlement/201106/ten-ways-fathers-model-healthy-relationships-their-children
That’s the kind of love that the people seeking asylum in the US are trying to provide for their children. People don’t leave their own countries and all they know on a whim…Just like our ancestors came to this land looking for a better life for themselves and their families so are the families that immigrate… whether it’s to our country… or another. The seeds of love that we first learn in our families can expand to include others… Let’s plant the seeds of love, hope and new life.
I am going to close with the complete Litany of the Seed by Fran Pratt
God, we know that your kingdom, your kin-dom, the Community of Heaven
Is like a seed –
It’s potential unknowable;
The smallness of the seed
Defying the magnitude of its becoming:
Bursting with life.
We don’t always know the end result
Just by looking at the seed.
Infinitesimal, full of potential, the seed is the start,
The prime of possibility.
The smallest of seeds
Can become the tallest of trees
Bearing fruit and shade,
Fractalizing, reproducing, and expanding,
Continuing out infinitely.
How should we understand big things?
By looking closely at small things.
How should we understand God’s Community?
By looking at its seeds among us.
This is what we want to be part of:
Ever-expanding, ever-life-giving communion.
May the seed find good soil in us. Amen
Mark 4: 26-34
June 17, 2018
Elmsdale Cooperative Ministry