St. Mark's United Church

Believe Belong Become



Sermon for June 26, 2022

Sermon for June 26, 2022 Third After Pentecost/Anniversary “Roots and Wings”
It was with a personal commitment to faith, a zeal for proclaiming the teachings of Jesus and a long term vision that the first Methodist circuit was established in Fairville, Lancaster and surrounding areas. Our roots are in that fiery personal passion and devotion to Jesus and our wings enable us to soar by the desire to be the people of God in our time.
In his outgoing remarks as Moderator of the church Richard Bott comments: “For the longest time, probably my entire ministry or longer, the message I have heard in the church is that The United Church of Canada is dying. That’s been the narrative. My sense of call was not necessarily to be moderator. My sense of call was to stand in front of the General Council of the The United Church of Canada and say, ’this narrative is a false narrative, and we need to stop repeating it,’ if we are truly living our call as community, then what our future is doesn’t actually mater. What we’re doing matter, how we’re living matter, that whose sense of being integral. When I said what I said to the General Council, I had accomplished what I felt I had been called to do. The fact that that resonated with the General Council for whatever reason, and they asked me to be in this role, was a continuation of that call. My task has been to challenge a narrative of death and to talk about who we are as people now and who we are called to be as people living the ministry into the future.”
As we celebrate this year, not only St. Marks but most other celebrations, the overwhelming theme is…Finally! After almost three years of COVID which seemed like so much longer, we can do events in person, choosing to wear a mask or not, and even tempting a handshake or hug. These years have put on hold much of we and I hold dear in ministry, have caused us to react quickly and innovatively and have proven that we can change and adapt and thrive. It is my hope and prayer that we do not return to the restrictive COVID measures and that we can move from a place of reacting to protocols and restricting what we do, to a place of enthusiastic planning for the days and months to come.
It would I think, be a mistake to hold on to a belief that things will go back to the way they were in 1859 or 1959 or even 2009. We are on a path of continually discerning the path forward. In no way does that diminish the lessons from history but it does require us to use all the tools that worked before and the advantages that are available in the 21st century. It has always been hard work and it has always been filled with joy and faith. And the path forward will continue to be filled with work and joy, worship and wonder.
I quoted Richard Bott because I like the image he offers. If we say often enough that we are dying, we are declining, that we need start planning a funeral then that becomes our influencer. So we need to change the narrative and plan and live and worship like who we are and what we do matters to us, our community and to God. The Board has started to plan like this and it is much easier if you offer your gifts for the ongoing success of St. Marks. For God sees us and has held us carefully these past few years. Now God is challenging us to see where the opportunities are, how we can shift to the adventures that await. We have proven to ourselves that we can be creative, responsive and dynamic and that truth will move us to great and faithful ministries in the months to come.
God promise to Elisha continues even today, that if we are aware, if we keep our eyes and hearts wide open we will be granted the wisdom to lead. And with that promise we continue to be faithful servants of God’s people, proclaiming the good news of Jesus’ love to all.
Our history which is a continuation of God’s history gives us strong roots and solid foundation. God’s wisdom upon us, our faithfulness and the Spirit’s imaginative creativity gives us wings to soar beyond what even we thought possible. So no, the United Church is not dying and a definite no St. Marks is not dying. So this is my invitation to be part of a committed, energetic life enhancing ministry that has much to accomplish.

Sermon for May 29, 2022

Sermon for May 29, 2022 Seventh of Easter “Images of Compassion”
“As you, God, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” This prayer of Jesus is offered to give encouragement to generations that will follow the teachings of Jesus even though they did not know him. In this post Easter prayer, Jesus deep desire is for those who follow to know the closeness of a shared faith and relationship with each other as Jesus has with God and Spirit.
The companion teaching in Acts offers a glimpse into what Jesus is praying for. Paul and Silas come across a slave girl who is possessed by an unclean spirit. That spirit is making money for the owner of the slave. Paul and Silas command the spirit in the name of Jesus Christ to leave her and the unclean spirit does. You would think this would be cause for celebration that a life has been restored but the owners think otherwise.
It is worthy to note that this act of compassion was offered to a slave girl. One who had no status, no standing and was considered in her day, as being less than a neighbourhood dog. Compassion in this case and in every case is not given or withheld by status or personhood. Compassion is how we treat all people and perhaps especially those most different from ourselves. It is also of note that the text does not indicate what happened to the girl but only the reaction of her owners.
Following Jesus is believing that we are named, redeemed and chosen to be agents of compassion and love in our world. Following denotes motion and action in every moment. The actions of compassion in our sphere.
Like Paul and Silas, it may take some time to act but act we must. And in that acting there may be unintended consequences. Paul and Silas had no idea the owners of the girl would react the way they did not did they expect to end up in jail. Living into compassion will have consequences, intended and unintended, it does not mean we stop. For Paul and Silas it opened an unusual door for more compassion and a larger door for welcoming new believers.
In my opinion there are few truly inspiring speakers in the world. But there are more than 7 billion people who have the capacity to act with compassion and change lives for good. Actions speak in the absence of words. That was true for Paul and Silas and it is true for each one of us.
As the jailer was about to kill himself for not fulfilling his duties, Paul stopped him and showed him that they had not escaped as the others had. So moved by this compassion that the jailer and his entire family were baptized that very night.
As has always been the case, not everyone will respond to compassion with gratitude. We cannot predict the outcome for others. Our choice in being a follower of Jesus is to decide to act with compassion and love. In an age of growing individualism, of I have the right to…and no one is going to tell me what to do, it just may be more important to spend time with the prayer of Jesus in the text today that asks us to be deeply aware of our connection to God and Jesus, to let the love of God seep into our very core and be the ones to demonstrate compassion and love in all we do.
The prelude to ‘be in the world making disciples and baptizing in the name of Jesus’ is acting from a place of compassion and love.

Sermon for May 1, 2022

Sermon for May 1, 2022        Third of Easter            “The Place Jesus Interrupts Us”

The number of sermons that have been and will be preached on the texts for Acts and John are more numerous than the stars in the heavens or the sand on all the beaches and deserts. The conversion of Saul to Paul in Acts and the shared breakfast on the sea shore in John are profound insights into the heart of God and Jesus.

Saul was on a mission to gather up and bring to justice, Roman justice followers of Jesus. Along the way he encounters Jesus, becomes blind and is led to Damascus. There he is entirely dependent on others. The part of the story that moves me these days is Ananias. He is a disciple and hears God’s voice directing him to go minister to Saul. Of all the people he was called on to minister to, Saul was not one of them. All the followers hated Saul and worked hard to avoid him, now Ananias was being asked to go and minister to him! It is a tribute to his dedication and commitment to Jesus that he listened, heeded and went to Saul. Laying his hands on him, he was healed and became a tireless disciple and follower of Jesus and his teachings.

The Gospel teaching is of some of the disciples fishing, they see Jesus on shore and head toward him. Peter, is frustrated with the slow progress so leaps from the boat and swims. When they all arrive, Jesus asks how the fishing was? Not so good came the reply. Cast your net on the other side. After doing so the nets are full. Then breakfast is prepared and teaching continues.

In these texts are years of sermons. For today I remind myself that Jesus meets us on the roads we travel, at our places of work or leisure, and there disrupts our lives, or maybe it is a nudge away from complacency and routine.

Paul needs some blindness to be able to see, Ananias needs to get over his well held prejudices to minister to Saul/Paul. The disciples do not seem so amazed at a net full of fish and are reminded that they are to offer food to others not force feed people. And for us it is a reminder that we offer ourselves, our work, our presence, our gifts to others, and the hardest part of all…make space for God to enter, allow the Spirit to fill the spaces that we are tempted to force feed.

In our 21st century need to get it all, all at once, to multi task our way to something less than even mediocre and to believe if I work harder, longer that success will happen (whatever that is). We forget that God is here. So instead of a gentle nudge there is a full on road block that stops us and after the flash of anger, there is the realization that we were in imminent danger to ourselves and others.

Where are the places and times when God has stopped you, changed your path or your mind? We are in many ways like the first followers of Jesus who needed constant reminders to change our mindset or our way of being. Jesus did not interrupt the lives of the first followers so they could have a three year break and travel around doing cool stuff and they going back to the way it was. Jesus interrupted their lives forever, they were not going back to the way it was before. The revolution of changing hearts for good, was beginning and with resurrection was set on a path that would last for generations, to our day and beyond.

The interruptions were not intended for us to be in an even bigger rush once we were around them. They are intended to get our attention and then set us on a new path. Where to now? Jesus has a plan, you are part of that plan, and much to the chagrin of the GPS genie, it is for us a leap of faith. Did you notice that the disciples were not surprised at the nets full of fish?

Sermon for April 24, 2022

Sermon for April 24, 2022      Second of Easter                    “It is good to ask questions”

There was a delightful cartoon posted to a clergy site I go to from time to time. The scene is some of the disciples sitting in a circle and one is ranting that Jesus is dead and that dead is dead. Then there is a pause..and the text continues…he’s standing behind me isn’t he? It is good to ask questions just ask Mattea Roach. Or in the opening of the Divinci Code Dr. Langdon says “a picture tells a thousand words but which words”, the right questions make all the difference.

Resurrection was and continues to be one of the great challenges to our fact driven culture. It does not make intuitive sense, it goes against all we know of the cycle of life, and yet we believe with all our heart and every fiber of our being that Jesus lived, Jesus died, Jesus lives again and forever. It is why it is called the mystery of faith and that mystery manages to sustain us in spite of its illogical nature.

Thomas, who was not present when Jesus appeared the first time and who some challenges believing the other disciples is our hero for today. He was brave enough to ask questions that lead to belief. And we continue to ask questions. And we have all sorts of questions: the biggest may be why does God allow bad things to happen? The challenge is that question can apply equally within and outside the church. Perhaps the first one I might ask is why did God allow the church to be taken over by politicians? This grassroots revolution Jesus started was about a new way of being and seeing, ourselves, others and creation. And yet from the time of Constantine Christianity has been a political tool to oppress. And it still happens and you need look in Plaster Rock or the American south to discover the ugly side of Christianity.

Why did the Crusades happen? Why have women been denied status? Why do we plunder creation? Why do wars happen? Why do children die? Why can’t I win the lottery? And on and on it goes as we struggle to fit God into our own image of who and what God should be.

It is good to ask questions and these are good ones but not the ones I am going to tackle today. Maybe someday with a coffee or tea.

The question I would like to explore is: is the resurrection of Jesus about my external life or my internal life? Jesus never said follow me and I will make you rich, popular, skinny, smart, successful and so on. And yet we have, over the centuries shifted the message to mean just that. What Jesus said was more likely to say is: follow me and you will continually give to the poor and needy, follow me and you will be wise stewards of creation, follow me and you will likely be last and least, follow me and you embrace meekness, kindness, mercy, a thirst for righteousness, pureness of heart, a peacemaker and one who is ridiculed.

The resurrection of Jesus is not to anoint rulers and rules that pit one against another, it was not about one gender or race or colour being better than the other. Resurrection is a wide open invitation to cultivate the inner landscape of your own life with the tools of justice, equality, genuineness and meekness. And from that place be a citizen in your community and world.

The kingdom, kin-dom, realm of God is not about conservative, NDP, liberal, republican, democrat, sultan or Czar, they are human constructs and will come to an end. The realm of God is beyond where we are now or as Jesus said ‘not of this world’ and it is to that realm that resurrection invites you. Our task is about tending our own inner selves so that can spill into our outer selves.

Maybe like the comic I referred to at the beginning says, before we start asking why gender or First Nations apology or climate change or my church is better than yours…we might be well served to pause and say…Jesus is standing behind me isn’t he?

Sermon for April 17, 2022 Easter

Sermon for April 17, 2022 Easter “Teacher”
Prepared with the spices and ointments to prepare the body of Jesus for burial, Mary made her way to the tomb. This was not going to be a good day, for the powers of Empire killed her friend. She was still angry that no one came to his aide, not even the disciples. It broke her heart that it was a few women, close to Jesus, that now were responsible to this task. And yet she would and they would because they loved Jesus.
From the conversation of concern with a ‘gardener’ to the shocked realization that this supposed gardener is Jesus, Mary’s heart and mind must have been in a tsunami of emotions. Of all the things that Mary could have said, what is recorded is ‘Teacher’. You will never convince me that Mary kept a stiff upper lip, or was pan-faced or stoic when Rabbouni crossed her lips. Rather it was uttered with the joy filled, and unexpected shock of seeing her dear friend alive. Imagine here if you will (with no apologies for the comparison) a Jewish mama who had no filters when it came to public displays of emotion. I can hear the shrieks of delight, the gasps, the hands to face and heart and most of all the impulse to grab Jesus into a vise like hug. And I expect it was all Jesus could do to persuade her from this hug.
This scene is I hope, more prolonged than scripture gives it credit, but after some time Jesus asks her to go and tell the others. The others heard the shriek that pierced the locked windows and doors and by the time Mary arrived there the others were unlocking the doors to go and see if she was alright.
I have seen the Lord…He is alive.
These word reverberate through the centuries even to our ears. Jesus is alive is not a subdued comment, it is not an ‘Oh and by the way’ sort of notation. These are the words that state in no uncertain terms that God and Jesus silence Empire, give voice to our silence and confound the skeptics.
All of a sudden we know what Jesus means when he says ‘the stones will shout’, and all creations shouts glory and hallelujah so that all will hear.
And we gather here, we gather where you are, bound by the glory of Spirit to celebrate this feast. I can assure you it is not a feast of sacrifice, it is a feast of love, a feast that gathers us together and a feast that sends us forth. No longer are we silent and ashamed for we have in us the love of God that transforms us and through us our neighbour.
And Jesus says: ‘go and tell others’.

Sermon for April 10, 2022

Sermon for April 10, 2022      Palm Sunday              “Not what I Expected”

Living with Jesus for the past three years, the first followers knew to expect the unexpected. The past few weeks where filled with surprises and the disciples where having a hard time keeping up. A lifetime of learning and knowing about life, people, temple, government, healing and God were being unraveled and the re-knitting was slow.

Lepers are healed, the kin-dom of God will come in God’s time, teaching about justice, job and ego, children, being rich, self-ego, Jesus and his death, Zacchaeus the tax collector believes, investing others money just to touch the highlights. All these teachings were new, difficult to comprehend and at the same time so, so life giving.

It would be a huge leap to think the disciples had a complete re-orientation of life values and social norms. They slid into family/neighbourhood of origin mindset on a regular basis. And we should not be so surprised that they did.

Palm Sunday or the parade of palms is a good example. The religious belief held that the Messiah would come as a mighty warrior who would overthrow the Empire, and not just overthrow but crush into the ground. Song of Hannah in Isaiah states: “The Lord shall shatter the adversaries who arose to do evil to His people; He shall blast them with a loud noise issuing from heaven. The Lord shall exact punishment from [the proverbial northern enemy] Gog and from the marauding armies of the nations who come with him from the ends of the earth. He shall give strength to His king and shall make great the kingdom of His Messiah.”

The Neofiti targum (a contemporary document to Isaiah) is even more explicit about messianic violence: “How beautiful is king Messiah who is to arise from among those of the house of Judah. He girds his loins and goes forth to battle against those that hate him; and he kills kings and rulers, and makes the mountains red from the blood of their slain and makes the valleys white from the fat of their warriors. His garments are rolled in blood; he is like a presser of grapes.”

Then the Chosen people would rise up and truly and fully occupy and thrive in the land flowing with milk and honey.

And here the Messiah is to ride into Jerusalem, the seat of power of Empire and all the teaching of a new way, love your enemy, be kind and just, forgive and heal are overshadowed by the learned image of a Messiah who would crush the enemy.

A donkey, you want to charge the Empire on a donkey…are you nuts. And Jesus smiles and reminds the disciples that he is about a new way of being, a new way of understanding God, a new way of loving. From a critic’s point of view, this would have been voted the worst float in the parade, the worst float in any parade ever. But there was something, a spirit moving that day that spilled into all the days since.

Here we are a fifth of the way through the 21st century. Christianity is a global movement with all sorts of colour and hue. On our worst days each claiming to be the only true way and on our best an openness to the variety of Christian expressions. On Palm Sunday we each, and each denomination brings its baggage about how Jesus will or should change the world. My suspicion is that each would be surprised at what Jesus would do. Living beyond our well entrenched ideas of ‘what should be’ to what is Jesus calling us to or who is Jesus calling us to be will fall firmly into the category of ‘I was not expecting that’.

I have a feeling that if Christianity or the Christian movement going forward does not fall into the unexpected category of ‘you are going to change the world/hearts on a donkey…are you nuts?’ then maybe just maybe we have some re-imagining in our future. For the teaching of Palm Sunday and Holy Week to be life giving into the rest of century and beyond then we will have to get used to expecting different.

Sermon for April 3, 2022

Sermon for April 3, 2022        Fifth of Lent                 “Leaps of Faith”

Have you ever spontaneously received a wonderful gift? Have you ever given one equally spontaneously? Each are met with the paradox of; I love it, you should not have or I saw this and thought of you.

In the Gospel teaching from John today we hear the story of Jesus visiting his good friends Lazarus, Mary and Martha. There is good food and lively conversation as is common when friends meet. Scholars are not sure why Mary took the expensive Nard perfume and anointed Jesus’ feet, maybe it was just a feeling, women’s intuition, a gift for her friend, but she did. She took the time to anoint his feet, to rub the expensive oil on his well-worn feet and she knew in her heart that she was doing a good thing.

For Mary, it was a leap of faith, a following of the inner voice, that spirit voice that moved her to act. Her logical brain knew this act would be frowned upon, she was supposed to be in the kitchen, she was supposed to be serving, she was supposed to be doing so many other tasks… but the one she chose was to anoint the feet of her friend. A public display of affection that would result in stares, ridicule and most likely punishment.

As we look at the context from a wider angle perspective we discover that the gift was also an expression of gratitude, deep gratitude. In john 11 we read the story of Lazarus’ death and Jesus raising him from death. So the question might be ‘how do you adequately or ever thank someone for that?’.

Biblical scholar William Carter writes; “Curiously, Jesus does not take issue with the temporary nature of the gift. He declares it is appropriate in that moment, particularly in light of his impending death. He is gracious enough to receive it with gratitude. Lots of extravagant gifts are put into the air, where they soon evaporate. A church choir labours to prepare an intricate anthem, and three minutes later it is gone. The teacher prepares the lesson, stands to deliver, and then class is adjourned. Mourners provide large arrangements of flowers to honour those whom they grieve. Saints donate large sums of money for their congregations to spend. Why do they do this? Love has its reasons. To reflect on the miracle of generosity will lead us to reflect on Jesus…Jesus is the one through whom everything was made. There is abundance wherever he is present.”

The how, why and when we respond to Jesus is for each of us to determine. Let us remember that for us, as for Jesus faith is a journey. If we only hop from miracle to miracle, healing to healing we develop an incomplete view of Jesus. For we miss that hard parts in-between. We miss the pointed fingers and disgust of others when Jesus spoke to a widow, touched a leper, ate with sinners, lost his temper in the courtyard of the temple or walked dusty miles to be with a friend.

What we do know is that Jesus came to the world, no one invited him and few understood him and yet he changed the world one heart at a time. We may not always want Jesus in our lives because he calls us to a higher standard of care for others, self and creation. And that often places us at odds with most everyone else. But Jesus is here, waiting for that gentle invitation or the scream of agony to enter. And he does. It may not be as we envisioned or even hoped but Jesus is here and we are different because of him.

How do we know Jesus is here? The answer is broad and wide and as diverse as people. It is the simple wonder and acceptance when a child asks; does God love me? And the parent answers yes, and the child smiles and says OK and returns to play. It may be the careful testing, measuring, double blind test and the accumulation of empirical data. It may be that God just became a common house guest and part of the family. It may be the agonizing cries from the rock-bottom place. That Jesus is here… is always, in some regard a leap of faith. A completely explainable/unexplainable presence.

The teaching of Mary’s anointing Jesus feet, provide a wide look at responses to Jesus presence. Mary’s public anointing, the raised eyebrows of the disciples and the scorn of Judas. For the disciples this was a turning point on the journey to Jerusalem. For us it is a gentle teaching that when it comes to Jesus, extravagance and going against the accepted norms is acceptable, even preferred. And here is a note to self and to you: it is always dangerous.

We live our lives in the shadow of the cross, but we also live in the presence of the risen Christ. So here is an invitation to daily companionship with Jesus in extravagant acts of compassion and generosity, in worship and in life. All this in a world which lives by a mind-set of scarcity, rather than a mind-set of abundance, and so temps us to close in and give little. And we wonder why leaps of faith are scarce and the world is becoming crueler and more violent. As we journey toward Palm Sunday and Holy Week, we are heading into one of the most violent weeks in the life of Jesus…and still faith and love rule the day.

Sermon for March 27, 2022

Sermon for March 27, 2022               Lent Four                    “Searching”

What do you want to be when you grow up? At age 3 or 4 it is one thing, at 15 or 16 quite another and along the way the responses keep changing. I keep wondering what I want to do when I grow up, I’ll wait and see. It is a question of discerning and discovery and what is different now than most of the last century, is that many now have many career shifts. Always searching and wondering and growing. And some figure it out and know for certainty what they want to do and it becomes a life’s work.

The question may not have been asked of the younger son in the teaching for today. We do know that at a young age he was certain he did not want to work for his brother. He wanted to search for his own path, he wanted to explore all the adventures he had only heard about from others. And so he decided to go exploring.

A few unusual things occurred, the father gave him permission and gave him, in advance, his inheritance (that was unheard of, but that is another sermon). And the son left to find his place in the world.

As is so often the case the search went fine until the money ran out and then life was not so much fun and it was not until he was fighting pigs for food scrapes that his ego subsided and the lessons of his upbringing that he so wanted to get away from came back to him.

The palate of colour and hue this teaching offers are many and I find delight in that texture and possibility. Let me offer this facet of teaching from this text.

The teachings, values, morals and life teachings we offer our children will last a lifetime. And it is vital that we take the time and effort to, as parents, teachers, faith leaders and neighbours to teach, instill and practice what we teach or preach.

The parents in the story would have taught all their children the same life values and teachings based on the Torah. Part of that teaching would have been the truth that the eldest son inherits the land, the other son’s inheritance is money and any daughters would be married. We may not like the idea in our 21st century context but the story referenced made sense in a first century context.

We may wonder ‘did anything I teach my kids sink in? they learned about God and Jesus and the value of worship…what happened?’ For my adult self, the teaching is that I and we did the teaching of our children, that teaching did not disappear, it is there waiting for the right moment to emerge with new understanding. Understanding born of their own searching. Sometimes the search is short and by times much longer. The father’s/parent’s role in that time is to continue living and keep watch.

Part of the learning for the young son in the story is that you only have value in most venues so long as you have money. While dining with pigs the young son realized that his value was anchored in who he was and his core values. And those, much to his chagrin he learned at home. Dirty, scared, alone and embarrassed he turned his face toward home.

What he could not have known is that his parents kept an eye out for him every day. When the sorry image appeared at the entrance of the lane, rejoicing and relief were the welcoming embrace.

We often find ourselves as the parent, the young son and even the older son (but that is for another time) and it is one of the core understandings of the essential necessity of radical, uninhibited hospitality. All who come here are searching and all who come here are found.

Thanks be to God. Amen

Sermon for March 20, 2022

Sermon for March 20, 2022               Lent 3                          “Being the Gardener”

Rodney Clapp in his commentary on the Luke text writes; “Self-righteous anger. If emotions were cuisine, this would be the piece de resistance, the dish we love to linger over and return to, time and time again. Anger by itself does not taste so good. It is bitter and leaves an aftertaste. On the other hand, self-righteousness there is the seasoning that makes plain old hamburger anger irresistible. Self-righteous anger goes down smoothly. It makes us feel superior. It elevates us above lesser mortals, not to mention our enemies. So long as we have it on our plates, the confusing grayness of the wearisome world goes away. It is bracingly, refreshingly clear that we are the good ones and those others are the bad ones. If all these were not enough, self-righteous anger also reheats wonderfully and tastes just fine the next day and the next.”

In this teaching we realize that the owner is not the gardener. We also come to the humbling realization that the sin of others is not greater than mine. We so often diminish our sin or what we have to own as ours, and inflate the sin of others for all sorts of reasons. Mostly so that we can cling to self-righteousness. What we can know with certainty is that forgiveness is from God and we are not consultants or advisors to God. To know we all live with the capacity for good and ill, and we all live under the grace of God’s forgiveness calls us to responsibility and to awe.

The teaching calls us to be gardeners not only of our personal live but also our corporate lives. We live today on the foundational pieces of our ancestors. For St. Marks it was from the first gathering in homes and a barn, to the vision of a place a worship and over the years many places of worship. The result being where we are today.

I have heard it said that the best time to plant a shade tree is thirty years ago, the next best time is today. We live in the shade of the faithfulness of those who planted before us, and we are thankful.

We live today, being called to tend a garden that is different in texture and context than our ancestors. We had big dreams a few years ago and COVID forced us into a fallow time. I time of anxious and even nervous waiting. Like the owner of the field we want to see results now and being patient with the way gardens grow is difficult.

Yet we are beginning to be able to till the soil, dust off plans and ideas, see if they are still relevant or if they have gone past their best before date. We are called to the work of tending to all that we were forced to let sit and tend to the new and emerging.

One of the great acts of faith (for most of us) is planting a shade tree. We will enjoy its growth but the shade it will offer will be for the next generations. Our work and witness today is an expression of our faith and the faith that God will guide the church in directions that we cannot imagine but faithfully prepare the soil for today.

Being angry that it is not happening fast enough or pointing fingers that divert blame serve no useful purpose. Called to be gardeners of our lives, the life of St. Marks, of our community, country and world will require our patience, toil and faith. And once the seed is in the ground we practice that oh so difficult task of trusting God.

As we turn to our annual meeting we will celebrate what has been accomplished this past year, we will give thanks to the many who worked and prayed for the mission of Jesus and we will give thanks to the saints whose lives continue with God. And we will humbly accept the call to Jesus to continue the task of being faithful gardeners and tenders of the people of God.

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