Lessons from the Garden - Beneath the Surface
As I shared with you last week, I enjoy digging out the plot for the garden with simply a shovel in hand. I feel like that slows me down enough and gets me close enough to the ground that I truly get to know the soil. I learn where the hard-packed clay is, where the rocks like to congregate (and possibly multiply by the looks of it), and where the worms like to live.
A couple of weeks ago as I was digging out a fresh area of our garden, my shovel stopped only a few inches into the ground. I jumped on the shovel again, but I had no more luck. This, of course, is not an uncommon experience around here with all the many rocks lying beneath the surface. What was strange was the sound the shovel made - more a clang than a grating noise. I moved the shovel an inch or two back and tried again. This time, the shovel went right on down. I begin to pry upward, but my shovel got stuck and would not budge. After a few more tried, I realized I was not dealing with a rock at all. I dug out around object and realized it was the end of a long tube of metal. I tried to work it loose, rocking it back and forth, but it was firmly stuck way down deep. I dug and dug deeper. Fortunately no rocks were in the way and I eventually made it a good couple of feet deep. I was getting close to the end of the tube and after a minute was able to work it out of the ground. What I found was a rusty old tube attached to an elbow that had held it fast in the ground. It was no treasure to be prized - not like the old play shovel or hunting knife that the boys and I have dug up before.
The thing about digging around in the earth is that we never quite know what we will find lurking below the surface. Will we find a thorny barbs of an old rusty pipe lodged deep in the ground or will we uncover a hidden treasure? The people in our lives - family, friends, and strangers - are no different. We only know so much about them, and we barely get below the surface with that. What thorns lying hidden and yet hurting them are at the root of things which we would judge them for? What treasures have they kept buried and safe from the harshness of the world? So often, we only know people by the surface that we see and not by what truly lies beneath.
May we take the time to grow close enough to one another to see the thorns and treasures that lie hidden just beneath the surface.
Blessings on the journey, Jim
Worship This Week: Praise in the Park!
Join us this Sunday, May 31, for Praise in the Park! Worship will begin at 10 am at Bradburn Park down by the river. We will recognize graduates, sing praise, and baptize and confirm new members! We will not have Sunday School but will hold a potluck lunch at the shelter following the service. Lawn games to follow. Bring a lawn chair, potluck dish, and outdoor games!
We are asking that parking at the park be reserved for our older members and guests. All others, please park at the church and walk down. Please feel free to dress informally. In case of rain, we will worship in the sanctuary and eat in the fellowship hall. Baptisms will then be held at the river in between the church service and the meal for those willing to brave the rain.
Faith Facts: Baptism and Confirmation
Have you ever wondered why we sometimes baptize infants and confirm them as youth while other denominations - including many that some of us have been a part of in the past - do not baptize anyone until they are old enough to make a decision for themselves? These beliefs in infant baptism and believer's baptism have divided Christ's church for many generations.
The United Methodist Church believes in the legitimacy of infant baptism in addition to adult believer's baptism based on the Scriptural accounts of entire households being baptized when the head of the household converted. John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement, spoke of infant baptism as a gift that has been entrusted to the child's parents and community until the child is ready to care for it themselves - much in the way that an inheritance of property or assets would be held in trust until a child is of legal age to care for it. Confirmation then becomes a continuation of the baptismal service in which the child accepts and commits to take of his or her own relationship with God.
In baptizing infants, we celebrate God's prevenient grace - the grace that God gives us before we even know we need it. Likewise, in baptizing youth and adults who make a decision for themselves, we celebrate God's justifying grace - the grace by which God forgives our sins and gives us a new birth into a life of loving God and neighbor. Whether we baptize someone as an infant or as an adult, we celebrate God's work in the life of the new member in Christ's body.
We do not believe that one age for baptism is superior to another or that people should choose one time over another for their children. In fact, in the United Methodist Church, we recognize a wide range of baptisms - infant and adult, by dunking and by sprinkling, and from any Christian denomination - because we believe that it is the work of God in baptism that truly matters rather than the work of the pastor or the person confessing belief.
With the river so close by here at Port Church, it makes sense that so many folks would chooose to wait for their children to be baptized as a part of confirmation rather than baptizing them at the font in the sanctuary. In the end, we believe that the choice of when to baptize a child is a personal one made by parents in conversation with the pastor. Whether it's infant or believer's baptism, we give glory to God for the grace of new life in Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit!
Living in Community
Lessons from the Garden - Anything Worth Doing...
I am thankful for the time off last week and for all those who made it possible. With the boys still in school, we did not travel last week. I spent a good part of the week digging out a spot for a small garden. With all the rocks and boulders in the soil, it was slow work but enjoyable nonetheless. When we get a dry day or two, I hope to finish it up by getting the green beans in the ground.
I've worked in a garden as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories are of being three or four years old playing in my family's garden, swinging tools around and picking the squash my oldest sister pointed out to me (it was her chore, of course, but she has always been good at delegating). By the time I was ten, my father had given up on the garden himself, and I missed it. I think he gave up as much because he was tired of battling our old beat-up tiller each year as because it had broken down and needed fixing. I went to him and told him that I wanted to plant a garden. I envisioned myself fixing up and using that old tiller to create an even bigger garden than we had ever had before. My father looked at me, took a second, and then said simply, "Sure. I'll help you get started." We went out to the yard and, walking past the old garden lying fallow, came to a small spot in the yard where the ground was fairly bare. He told me to wait, so I did. I looked at that small spot a bit disappointed. Then he showed back up carrying our old shovel. He handed it to me and said, "You can plant as much of this spot as you dig up by hand." I looked at the shovel and then at that small spot - it didn't look quite so small anymore in comparison to the scoop of the shovel. I worked for weeks to dig up that small spot, but that was my first garden. In the next year, I would receive a new tiller for Christmas (an odd present for a kid, to be sure, but I did ask for it) and continue to expand the garden year after year. I would till most of it myself, but my father and I would plant, maintain, and harvest together. To this day, I still enjoy breaking ground on a new garden by hand with just a trusty old shovel.
Looking back, I wonder if my father was trying to discourage me from gardening by making it too hard or whether he just wanted to see if I was serious enough to do it the hard way. Either way, the lesson I learned from his handing me that shovel that day was this: "Anything worth doing is worth doing well, even if it's hard - and maybe especially because it's hard." We face challenges all the time, and sometimes we want to simply give up because it's too hard. Yet that may be the very reason we need to continue the struggle and to persevere - to show how much we want it and to prove to ourselves just how strong we really are.
The Book of Revelation opens with letters of encouragement, correction, and hope to seven churches. Each one concludes with a promise: "To the one who conquers will be given..." something representative of eternal life. God never told us that following Jesus would be easy or that our journeys would be free of challenges and obstacles, but God has promised good to those who conquer the difficulties of following Jesus. What we are called to do, may we do well, even if it's hard, for the rewards are great and the company along the way is good.
Blessings on the journey,
Living in Community
A Mother's Day Tree
I must have been about ten years old the year that I gave Mama a tree for Mother's Day. And by give, I mean, of course, that my father likely picked out and paid for the silver maple that he and I then planted in the back yard in view of the kitchen window where my mother spent so much of her days. That tree was not much more than a sapling - barely taller than myself once we had it buried in the ground. Still, the pictures we took that day show my mother beaming proudly beside that freshly planted tree.
That tiny tree grew slowly at first and then blossomed into the wonderful shade tree we had hoped for. Almost thirty years later, it still stands there in view of the kitchen window - only now it is my sister and her family's home. That tree has shaded many an outdoor family gathering and picnic, served as home base to quite a few games of tag, provided relief from the summer sun for folks as they shucked corn, snapped beans, and shelled peas, and held up several swings for all my mother's grandchildren (and their parents) to enjoy. Looking back at those old pictures, it is amazing how such a small thing planted with a measure of hope on a Mother's Day long ago could become such a central point in the lives of generations of a family.
What seeds and small trees are we planting today with hope for a beautiful tomorrow? May God bless and sustain them into fruition!
In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
- Hymn of Promise, Natalie Sleeth
Blessings on the journey, Jim
Living in Community
News and Updates
Find out what is going on at Port Republic UMC this week and in weeks to come!