Holy Trinity Episcopal Church

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    Jul 12, 2020

    The 6th Sunday of Pentecost

    Preacher: The Rev. Sarah Carver

    Series: Year A 2020-2021

    Category: Pentecost

    Detail:

    This past spring we moved 18 cubic yards of soil into our backyard to replace the topsoil that had, over the past several years, been washed away by rain, wind, and excavated by our dogs. What had remained was mostly compacted, and unyielding clay that even weeds couldn’t take until our backyard looked like a moonscape void of those things we all enjoy seeing in our backyards: birds, chipmunks, green things. So we brought in the soil, a wheelbarrow full at a time, digging away at the massive pile we’d had left in our driveway, and dumping what we could in smaller piles around the backyard. It was a slow resuscitation, but it was apparent immediately that we were bringing new life into the yard, because the soil itself was alive. You could see the minerals sparkling within it, smell the compost, and it was full of living things like earthworms and insects. This soil was light and easy to dig into, yet was holding much needed moisture—it was the kind of soil that easily welcomed seeds and the kind of soil that could nurture seeds to maturity.

                Today the yard is green again, with new ground cover, trees and shrubs growing. And there are birds again, and squirrels and chipmunks—it feels alive again and even more so than when we first moved in. And none of this would have been possible if we hadn’t added that soil. Good soil is foundational to all life.

                Jesus is talking about what good soil can do today—and it seems like a no-brainer: good soil produces fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. His agrarian audience would have easily understood the soil reference. Where he was challenging them was to think of themselves as soil, to be that open and nurturing heart in which the Word of God could land and take root, maturing to eventually produce fruit: Some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Jesus’ metaphor here is powerful, but an image we don’t often use in the church—we don’t see ourselves as soil. And yet, in a way, we are—we are have received God’s word, it is up to us to nurture that within ourselves, to allow it to take root within us and ultimately, to produce fruit, that fruit being the ministry that we have been called to. The Church requires good soil.

                Recently I have been reading the history of Holy Trinity, from its beginnings to 1980. What got Holy Trinity started was not some clergyman missionary or a bishop arriving in the area declaring grandly that an Episcopal Church was to be built, it was a small group of lay men and women who desired a church to be formed. It was through their commitment to worshipping with one another, caring for one another and administering the business of the church that the Holy Trinity we now know today exists. In the early days they were, at times, able to have a clergyman. But not often, and often not consistently. Nor did this church yet have its own building. And still the work continued because the soil was good and it was producing much fruit.

                Christian communities that are healthy, and life-giving are those that are made up of men and women and youth and children who see themselves as foundational to the work of the church, who know that the church is because their hands, and feet and hearts and souls are the beginning of ministry, of service, of community, of worship, of producing fruit. The church is at its best when its members see themselves as the building blocks, individual parts of the greater whole, ministers within a greater ministry.

                Early on in my ministry, I was exploring the whole phenomenon of what was called the emerging church and hanging out with some of these communities as I tried to learn what they were about. These churches tended to emphasize things like living in community, the sacraments and worship, and hospitality—they were really good at welcoming people. In everything these churches did there was a consistent emphasis on living as if the Kingdom of God was here. In exchange they deemphasized buildings, formal leadership roles, and even denomination. What I found were smaller communities of church where people  practiced faith in this incredibly embodied way with a sincerity that was breathtaking. These were people who lived with others on this same journey of faith, both individuals and families—trying to figure it out together, trying to be church in new and meaningful ways.  At one point I found my newly minted ordained and seminary trained self, participating in Eucharist in the middle of a cornfield. There was no silver chalice, no brilliant brocade vestments, no candles, no altar. No choir, no altar guild or acolytes, no priest. Standing in this field was a group of us who’d been camping at a festival hosted by a group of leaders of this new expression of church. We were all dusty, all needed a shower, and yet here we all were, gathered around the bread and the wine, with our voices raised in song that one lifted up and others joined until we were a chorus of worshipers who didn’t know each other save for this time together and yet had come in this moment through Christ to be one.

                There was good soil in that field that day. Not just in the ground under our feet but in the people gathered there. Good soil is being a community that welcomes the world at its doorstep and all the needs that come with it. Good soil is a church that can tend to the word of God, in however and whoever that looks like. Good soil allows your ministries to flourish—ministries that come directly from the heart, and from gifts freely shared.

    In today’s gospel Jesus really lays it on his listeners to choose what they do with the Word they receive. There is no magic here, just a question: what are you going to do with what God gives to you, and sows in you? What will you do with the love you have been shown, the gifts you have been given, the community you were baptized into? You are the church, and you are the soil out of which the fruits of our community will grow. As we move forward into this unfamiliar world, keep in mind that we are all still figuring it out as we have for 2000 years. And just as we always have we will need each other, so be that heart in which the word of God can take root and grow. Be that good soil. Amen.