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God Gives the Growth

Mark 4:3-9
1 Corinthians 3:4-7

The two scriptures I’ve chosen today are ones from my covenanting service 8 years ago.  Some of you will remember  Ian Smith preaching on them and giving us seeds to plant and to tend together in ministry. Well its time to reflect on the harvest!   

But first,  Paul’s  letter to the Corinthians.  He reminds the folk in that ragged Christian community that church leaders come and go,  But that the God who gives growth does not.  The ministry belongs to God and to the community here. At Cedar Park, you have been blessed with excellent ministry leadership’;Victor Rose,  Lorne Brown, Jack Nield, Paul Evans, Brenda Bell and for the last 8 years me. Some of you have lived through all of those leaders and know that not all had the same gifts, not all growth was the same,  But God used each one to grow this ministry that we celebrate today. And God will continue to use new leaders;  Ron Couglin, and whomever you choose as your new minister in the future.  

 I think there’s also a slightly hidden message in this passage. That is don’t say to your next minister….”But Sharon always did it this way”.  I hope you will give your new ministers the same generous support and accompaniment that you have given me. And I hope you will wear name tags to help them (and one another as well).

Now to the harvest.

Jesus told a story of a generous God who squanders grace recklessly.   A sower  went out to sow.  Some seed fell on the path and birds took the seed to other places.   I  think of all those whose ministry journeys touched our work these last 8 years. Jen DeCombe, Phil Reade, Elaine Beattie, Genevieve Trudel, Margie Ann MacDonald, even our own Elisabeth Jones.   Seeds of Cedar Park’s vision of church have been carried on the wings of the spirit to many places.   Many lay people  have moved to new congregations and brought with them seeds from this congregation. Others have brought the seed of other places here.  Our healing Pathway ministry has sown seeds in many other congregations where they have grown and taken root.

Seeds of discipleship have grown plentifully here and been carried elsewhere.

Truly God has blessed us with abundance.

 

The story goes on to speak about seed that fell in rocky ground where it sprang up because it had no depth, but wilted in the sun because it had no strong roots.  This is part of the nature of a generous seeding God. God offers the seed of transformed living everywhere, generously, even to those who are not ready or able to let it  grow deeply in them at this stage of their journey.  We know from our own experience of life,  that just because this is not the time for the  spirit to root deeply, does not mean that there will not be other times, and other opportunities to receive and to grow.  

Then the story speaks of  seed falling among thorns which choke out  new growth.  You might want to reflect on what strangles growth and fullness of life in you.  Might be addiction to work or fear, or control, or perfectionism.  Or maybe to powerlessness,  negativity, busyness or poverty thinking.  Might be other things.     Jesus was very realistic that there are things which crowd out healthy growth, and they are usually like weeds which grow wildly and selfishly demanding all the attention and energy for themselves.

But the real focus of the story is the shocking abundance of the seed that falls on good ground that multiplies exponentially-30,60,100 fold.  Truly a miraculous harvest!!

There have been so many seeds of God that have flourished abundantly in this community in these past 8 years!  I spoke of seeds of discipleship carried elsewhere.  But such seeds of discipleship have remained right here!  This congregation has some of the strongest lay leaders I have ever known…at the board level, Kidzone, in our various ministries. CD, Worship, Social Justice, Pastoral Care,  Healing Pathways, Welcoming, Stewardship and Finance, Fundraising, Property and Décor. Ministry and Personnel, Trustees.  We have had strong leadership for our programmes bible study, faith discussion, journalling, care for the caregivers, We have had strong leadership for our projects like Free the Children,  Grandmothers to Grandmothers, and Coffee House, and Raising the Roof, Gourmet food fairs and so much more.

Our staff team of Elizabeth Chown, church administrator and Douglas Knight, Music Director is the strongest and most committed I have ever worked with.  Together, we share a vision of reaching out beyond our walls, discovering people’s gifts and integrating new people into the heart of community. Both of these staff partners  have done that in very powerful ways. I have been truly blessed.   You have been truly blessed!   Shocking abundance  

Seeds of leadership and discipleship have grown here

Truly God has blessed us with abundance.

 And  our numbers have grown. Shocking abundance! This  happens for a reason.  It  happens because this congregation speaks a message.  and creates a vision of community that matters to people’s lives, and makes faith relevant to daily living.  We are an open faith community seeking to keep Jesus’ message relevant and real in our complex world – a message of abundant life for all.  We have committed to a powerful statement of our Values as a congregation and also to a clear covenant for harmony in how we will treat one another in community and how we will make decisions.   We have also made a strong decision to become an Affirming Congregation welcoming  the GLBT community and their families, committing to work in advocacy and justice for Gays and Lesbians Bisexuals and Transgendered.  Here All are welcome, really does mean all. In Sept. you welcome an openly gay minister in a committed relationship.  These statements, seeds of purpose and meaning,  will continue to orient your life together, and will continue to challenge you to grow into them .

The seeds of strength of purpose and meaning have grown here.

Truly God has blessed us with abundance.

Our influence in the larger community has also  multiplied many hundred fold.  As we have risked going beyond our doors to encounter and partner the community, we have been blessed with abundance. The Dix Mille Villages fair trade ministry continues to work for justice and to change lives of the very poor around the world.  Youth in Action, Free the Children has raised over 90 thousand dollars for projects in Africa and China and will now turn its attention to rebuilding Haiti.  Not only lives across the world, but the life of every one of the young people in this community who have been involved has been changed. They know their lives make a difference!   Shocking abundance!  

This ministry to the larger world has happened through partnerships:  Grandmothers to Grandmothers and our partnerships with Family Life Centre, Monteal City Mission, St. Columba House, and our own Mission and Service fund of the United Church.

Seeds of community partnership and justice  have grown fruitfully here.

Truly God has blessed us with abundance.

Please do not become a congregation who becomes so focused on what goes on inside, that you lose sight of how much Cedar Park plays a key  role in the soul life of the larger community.

Seeds of Creativity have also grown here.  We have one of the best choirs in Montreal!  At a time when many congregations don’t have a choir, we have to create  space for our growing choir.  We have our own choir, but we also have the Voices for Hope community choir that Douglas began touch the lives of many lives in our community but also the lives of those for whom their fundraising brings hope.   Well Done Douglas!  

But our music creativity is even deeper rooted in our coffee house that showcases creative talent, in groups like the Purich family, Perfect Blend, Lisa Walsh, Brian Clarke. And of course the DANCING QUEENS!!!

And then there’s Bob and the banner making!  And Rosemary Cass Beggs and our dancers, and our budding acting troupe!

 And weren’t those seeds of creativity powerfully demonstrated at the living wake you gave me a week ago Saturday?  Wow . Creativity is abundant in our midst in so many other parts of the life of this place too numerous to mention

Seeds of creativity have flourished here

Truly God has blessed us with abundance.

Seeds of caring, of healing, of  love have multiplied many fold  in this place; Lives have been profoundly changed by being here; experiencing the ministry and community that is here!  Much of it happens behind the scenes, unseen, unknown;   Like the woman who visits every week for several years with one of our elders.   Or the work of the pastoral care team who have helped people die with dignity,  surrounded by love, But they have also helped people LIVE as they have listened and walked beside those going through stressful times. Healing Pathways is one of the most powerful, life-changing ministries of our congregation, and we have seeded that ministry in many other churches.  We have visited in hospitals, offered treatments in homes, or in our Monday clinic.  Every day we see God’s grace and healing become incarnate.   Then there’s morning connections and elves creating gatherings for seniors and friends. and  those who lovingly care for our space and our resources, and worry whether we will be able make ends meet.  Quiet faithful loving, concrete ways of making the love of Jesus Christ real.  There is much caring, supporting, listening that goes on in this congegation beyond official channels;   people being who they are; passing on the love they have received to others.

Seeds of caring love have grown wildly here.

Truly God has blessed us with abundance.

 

But there is an even greater abundance that I celebrate from this time of shared ministry.  Countless people in this community have come to experience the presence of God in their own lives.  People who thought God wouldn’t care about them, have discovered the God of grace at the core of their beings, their own holy ground, the spirit of God that lives and moves in each one and breathes life and wholeness into each one.  Through meditation, retreat, prayer, study groups, healing services, healing pathways, and Sunday worship, God has found  many ways to bubble up in the life of this people with life-changing energy and power.  

And as we encounter God, we are challenged to grow in wholeness, and to  unlock and use spiritual gifts.   My prayer would be that you will continue to  call out and nurture the seeds of spirituality and call out the spiritual gifts of one another so that you can use them for the building up of the whole.  

The seeds of spirituality and spiritual giftedness have flourished here

Truly God has blessed us with abundance.

 

Thanks be to the God of abundance. May God continue to bless you as God has already blessed you.  When you start to feel discouraged because everything is not happening yesterday, or irritable with one another or fearful of what lies ahead, I hope you will call one another to remember the Abundance of God  present in your midst.

Truly God has blessed us with Abundance

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