Monday, March 26, 2012
March 25, 2012 Reflection by Rev. David Boyd
An Anglican Bishop, Dr. Leslie Hunter, once told of a dream. I've told this story before as has Christine. The dreamer went up to heaven to the spacious storehouse where God kept the gifts of the Spirit. The dreamer was depressed and worn-out; he was burned out and tired. He was dispirited. He entered the storehouse and spoke to the attendant behind the counter. The dreamer asked, "I have run out of the fruits of the Spirit. Can you give me some more?" The attendant behind the counter refused and said, "I am sorry, but I cannot." The dreamer became angry and demanded the fruits of the Spirit, "In place of war, injustice, lying, hate, and tyranny, I want love, joy, peace, integrity, compassion — without these I shall be lost." But the attendant behind the counter replied, "You do not understand. We do not stock fruits; we only keep seeds!"
Where will we be in 20 years? We can't possibly know. All we can know is that we carry within us the seeds that will grow into fruits in the next 20 years. We are the seeds, for we have been filled with the essence of God, the DNA if you will, of what this community of faith will look like and grow into in some years.
And that is heart stuff. We won't necessarily figure it out. A lot of the church growth stuff and the ideas floating around in these past 20 years as a response to a certain amount of panic on the part of church leaders that the church will disappear have been largely based on trying to think our way out of this dilemma. Yes, we need to think clearly and rationally, but we also need to get out of our heads and into our hearts. I think one of the things that has characterised our congregation since our beginning in 1995 has been that we've tried to find a heart-felt way into the future that is known only to God. There certainly have been some puzzles to figure out along the way, but it is the heart that will see us through with integrity and hope.
I suspect that Jeremiah had a similar belief in his day. All was chaos and destruction. The Babylonians had ruined everything. Jeremiah had been quite vocal in his criticism of the people and the leaders; they had not followed God's covenant and they had perpetrated injustice on each other. But now that the Babylonian exile was a reality and the country lay in shambles, Jeremiah spoke of God's presence and hope for the future. This is not something to be figured out; it is something to be lived and experienced. God's new covenant will be written on our hearts.
The heart for Jewish people is the centre of one's personhood. It is the place where we meet God, where the essence of each of us truly resides. All of what and who we are rests in our hearts. And that is why, not just with Jews, there are so many references to the heart with respect to spirituality and religious beliefs. The heart, quite simply, is where we are most truly human.
Like many people, I battle with getting out of my head and into my heart more. I like to think things through and be clear and rational about what I believe. But I also know that this sometimes gets me into difficult places and I need to just be in my heart... in silence, in prayer, in wonderment.
So, as Leslie Hunter suggested, we are sowing seeds here and now. The fruits of the Spirit of these seeds will become apparent in the next 20 years. But at the same time, there is a paradox at work, for we are the fruits of the Spirit of those who have gone before us; they sowed seeds that we are now harvesting. So, in a very real way we are both seeds and fruits of the Spirit. But we don't know what will happen down the road, and we have to trust that the love and hope, the compassion and grace that we have lived these past years will bear much fruit for those who come after and will enable this congregation to grow and flourish even as it will change and morph into something as yet unknown.
So, blessings on you. And thanks for the gifts that you share!
Posted by NUC Webminister