7/11/21 – Lost and Found in the Weeds

Posted on : Jul 9th, 2021 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Lost (and Found) in the Weeds:
by Rev. David Schoen

Lost in the weeds would be a good description of my garden which looks more like an unruly lawn. The impact of tilling the soil of the garden this spring seems to have evenly spread the grass roots and distributed the seeds of many plants I did not sow or want to grow.  Hidden in the unruly garden are the parsnip, arugula, kale, radicchio, and lettuce that I planted. It’s my job as a gardener to find and nurture them.

I have grown in my appreciation for the parable of the weeds Matthew 13:24-30 which follows the well-known parable of the Sower. In the parable of the weeds, a farmer planted seed but when the plants grew up, the weeds appeared as well. Ultimately, when asked what to do the farmer says, “Let both of them grow together until the harvest…(then) collect the weeds first… to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’

The parable is of some comfort. The gardening lesson for me is the importance of recognizing the plants I sowed and want to nurture in the midst of all the weeds. What is a ‘weed’ anyway, except ‘a plant in the wrong place’ or ‘undesirable in a particular situation’? Unless I know what the sprouts of the plants I want to nurture look like, I won’t be able to distinguish them from the weeds. So, gardening becomes a of process distinguishing and safeguarding those sprouts from the crush of the weeds.

That’s a good lesson for more than gardening, today. Knowing the values and growing the future that you want to nurture in your life and the world in the midst of unwanted ‘weeds’ is essential.

A weed that grew up around us during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic was the experience of languishing. A New York Times article, “There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing”  wrote  “Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021.”

The author suggested that focusing on goals, even small goals is a way of transcending languishing. “That means carving out daily time to focus on a challenge that matters to you — an interesting project, a worthwhile goal, a meaningful conversation. Sometimes it’s a small step toward rediscovering some of the energy and enthusiasm that you’ve missed during all these months.”

I know that for me, the garden has been a saving place and sanctuary during this time of COVID. A place where in the midst of challenges, I could focus on what I wanted to nurture and see those seeds grow.

Focusing on the things that matter and nurturing the seeds of the future you want to grow are not only important for individuals but for congregations as well. The pandemic disruption of what ‘normally’ happens in congregational life and worship compelled many congregations to ask the question “What really matters?”.  Congregations learned to sustain and nurture what really matters and is essential in the midst of the unwanted weed of Covid.  Rev. Christopher Xenakis’ recent blog on  “Lessons” speaks to how the pandemic created “a new context” in which “church cliques and trivialities are set aside for partnership and community contribution;  strangely, the church [came] to terms with genuine community in a time of social distancing”. This time of pandemic has focused many congregations on what matters and the ‘why’ of their church.

In Allentown, PA, a cluster of UCC congregations has been holding discussion on accessing and preparing for community mission and congregational life together.  Planting seeds of a collaborative and shared future looking above the weeds that divide and keep congregations focused only on their own future.

This time of being in exile from and not using church facilities for worship and meetings has also moved many congregations to question the ‘why’ of their church facilities and properties. Churches are sowing new seeds of welcome, outreach and mission with their property.

  • Everett United Church of Christis now rethinking their church space, not only planning a new facility but working with Housing Hope in Everett WA to create Senior Housing in their church. Several more churches are discussing building housing on open portions of their land for underserved populations: including veterans, LGBTQI persons, and people without housing.
  • Zion United Church of Christ in Henderson, KY is one of more than 44 churches in 2019 and 2020 that made the decision to share a living legacy as they closed their congregation’s ministry. Pam Johnson, chair of the church’s board of directors, wrote “Our church, along with many others, has struggled for several years with declining attendance and resources. This past year has accelerated those issues to the point that we are no longer able to continue. We struggled with the question of what we could do to ensure that this corner at First and Ingram streets would continue to be a sanctuary and haven for those in need of help and healing”. In closing, Zion is planting and nurturing future welcome and ministry of healing in their facility by gifting their property to the local Center for Addiction Recovery to provide space for expansion of their services, including the Women’s Addiction Recovery Manor, WARM in Henderson

Finding and nurturing the sprouts of those things that you want to see grow in the future is a lesson to be learned from a ‘weedy’ garden this year.  The ‘weeds’ of daily distractions, and the languishing lethargy of wearisome stress will always be growing around us and may at times seem to overwhelm everything else.  Recognizing and cultivating those sprouts that matter from the crush of the weeds is essential.

 

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