Maybe it was the snow and ice storms this week all around the country; maybe it was the fact that the Groundhog saw his shadow promising 6 more weeks of winter; maybe it was watching the winter Olympics with all the snow and ice; maybe it was conversations with many of you saying that you are sick of winter and ready for spring; maybe it was the forecast of a little warmer week; maybe it was talking with Alicia and Amy about buying a house with a flat yard so they could plant a garden; maybe a combination of all of these things made me hear Paul's letter to the church at Corinth in a certain way-a horticultural way.
Paul says that, as disciples of Christ, we are called to plant the seeds, water the plants, but that God gives the growth. Paul says that we are God's field. I think Paul inviting the church, the 1st century church at Corinth and the 21st century church at Ben Avon, to consider the question: How does your garden grow? And so, I imagined walking through our field at Community Church, and as I looked over our garden, I prepared a report, based on what I have seen in my 4 months as your Pastor. And to show Paul that we are doing things in good order, and just for fun, I prepared this report alphabetically: one plant, one fruit of the spirit, one viable attribute of the Christian life, for every letter of the alphabet:
So, Community Presbyterian Church of Ben Avon, in response to the question "How does our garden grow?" I present to you THE MORNING REPORT:
A-ACTION-Not just on Faith-in-Action Day, but all the time, this church is a Church in Action.
B-BELIEF-We believe, but even when we doubt, we are welcome here. We pray, Lord we believe; help our unbelief.
C-COMMUNITY-We seek to be a community church where people can come to know and be known, where people can come together for theatre, fellowship, worship, music concerts, craft fairs, soup days, day camp, youth group, and friendship in Christ.
D-DEVOUT-People come to Bible study every Wed.; People come to worship every Sunday, in growing numbers.
E-ENERGY-There is a new energy here: it is palpable and contagious!
F-FAITH-People of all ages-from nursery school through confirmation to adult discipleship-are growing in faith.
G-GIFTS-Have you heard the choirs offer their gifts to glorify God?
H-HUMOR-The only thing that we do more than eat here is...laugh. How many Presbyterians does it take to change a lightbulb? Well, it should take about 5 committees to review the idea and if each committee has 6 members, that makes 30 Presbyterians to change a lightbulb.
I-IMAGINATION-Can you imagine on Epiphany Sunday, three magi bringing gifts to the children? Can you imagine on Christmas Eve, children going in search of the animals missing from the stable, and finding the donkey on Melanie's head? We can and we did.
J-JOY-Take a look at the children's faces when they come for Conversation with the Children-that's pure joy!
K-KINDNESS-I have seen Deacon visiting those who are sick or shut-in, and those in nursing homes, bringing meals, flowers, and a kind word.
L-LOVE-That's what gathers us-love of God. That what sends us-love of neighbor. That's how people know we are Christians-by our love.
M-MISSION-You serve meals at Pleasant Valley Men's Shelter, send money to Malawai, and dresses to Africa; you fill shoeboxes to send around the world and backpacks to send to nearby schools; you fill shopping bags with canned goods for North Boros Food Pantry; you make Dignity robes for Allegheny General and prayer shawls for those in our neighborhood in need of prayers. This is a missional church.
N-NEWSPAPER-With the Newspaper in one hand and the Bible in the other hand, you are thoughtful Christians seeking to put your faith in conversation with the news, understanding what God is up to in the world today.
O-OPEN doors, open minds, open hands, open hearts.
P-PEACE-We pass it, we seek it, we pray for it, we nurture it, we seek to preserve it, we believe in the peace of Christ that passes understanding.
Q-QUIET-This sanctuary is a quiet place for prayer and meditation, to simply be still and know God.
R-REAL-We are who we are; we don't pretend to be otherwise. Real people; real Christians; real church. We keep it real.
S-SACRAMENTS-Baptism and the Lord's Supper are celebrated here regularly to give us visible signs of an invisible reality of God's grace; to remind us who we are and whose we are.
T-TOLERANT-We are all different-that's the way God made us; We are all beloved-that's why God says we are all precious children. We are all a part of the body of Christ.
U-UNITY-We do not strive toward uniformity here-we have too many different opinions for that; but we are all united in Christ.
V-VIBRANT-I see it in the activities; I see it in the numbers of people; I see it in increased giving to the church; I see it in people's faces: New life, increased energy, steadfast hope. A vibrant church.
W-WISDOM-Some wisdom has grown out of a painful past; some wisdom has grown out of years of faithful commitment of the saints here; some wisdom has grown out of patience and perseverance and providence.
X-XEROX MACHINE-Well, we do have one. And it makes copies for all ages of eyes. And X-XTRA SPECIAL people that volunteer behind the scenes to make the church and all of its programs and reports run smoothly.
Y-YOUTH-Youth are involved in the church as choir members, deacons, Sunday School teachers, sound technicians, and Scripture readers.
Z-ZEAL-a strong interest in making the world a better place; we are enthusiastically committed and pray that our zeal will help to make God's kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.
So, Community Presbyterian Church of Ben Avon, that is my report and I pray that it is a true reflection of our garden. And as we work together in the garden, side by side, getting our hands dirty, to till the ground, and plant the seeds, and water the plants, inch by inch and row by row, let us pray that God will give growth, good, abundant, fruitful growth; and that our harvest will nurture our faith and nourish our neighbors and bless the world in need of a garden of God's love.
If you are in favor of this report and your commitment to helping to make our garden, say "Amen."
Sermon by Rev. Donna Giver Johnston, preached on Sunday, February 16, 2014