based on Jeremiah 20: 7-9 and John 1:1-5
On the last day of my trip to Ireland in June of this year, I sat at the back of the bus, and I wrote a song. The journey had been amazing, I was filled with gratitude for it – for the sight, the history, the mystery and for sharing the journey with some of my favourite people in the world – my mother, my daughter, and my beloved Jim. Our pilgrimage leaders were also dear friends – Gerald Hobbs and Lynne McNaughton. The flight home included a stop -over in Toronto, so we could spend time with my son. What’s not to love about that!
One of the quotes in our pilgrimage book struck a chord in my heart. It is from R. S. Thomas and reads: “The point of traveling is not to arrive but to return home laden with pollen you shall work up into honey the mind feeds on.” R. S. Thomas
So, I find myself after 27 years of ministry, in the tiny congregation of Sicamous United Church, – I’ve collected a lot of pollen over the years. I want to share a bit of that with you, and hopefully there will be an unexpected sweetness to it.
The first bit of pollen is this unlikely reading from the book of Jeremiah. This scripture is not often read. But I remember vividly the first time I really heard it. I was studying at the University of Victoria, worshiping at Cordova Bay United Church, and Rev. Claire Holmes was interim minister. He read this passage and preached on it, and it rocked my world. I was hanging on every word, because I recognized it – it was speaking to my life, it was why I had left my family up north to study for ministry. I understood the sense of being tricked into, enticed, or even seduced into it, as the Jerusalem Bible says. There is within my heart, in my being, a burning fire, sometimes I get weary from holding it in – but I can’t contain it. And so I am still at it, after all these years, and will be in some way that God only knows, for I cannot NOT respond to the fire of God’s Spirit.
Now… I didn’t know that part of my calling would include using a cash register of about the same vintage that I used as a summer student in the drug store back in the late 1970’s! But God is full of surprises. Word, Sacrament, and Pastoral Care – and Thrift Shop! As the Thursday afternoon cashier in the Thrift Shop, I make it my goal to connect with the volunteers and with every person who comes in, whether they purchase anything or not – to treat them with respect, to go the extra distance to make this a place of hospitality, a safe place to share their joys and sorrows. It is ministry, it is pollen, and it is a privilege.
It is a privilege to work with this little congregation of Sicamous United Church. A couple weeks ago, as I was driving out to work, I had the song, `Jesus Christ Superstar ‘playing in my head. You know, despite the highly successful Rock Opera Jesus Christ Superstar, which I still very much appreciate, the truth is Jesus was not a superstar. He was not successful in terms of his world, or the world we live in today. So, he seems like a pretty good model to follow actually.
Churches today are under tremendous pressure to be successful. And we can cause each other harm in our drive for perfection and success. But God is not about success. God is about faithfulness. God is about love and light. And thus the pollen in the second scripture reading of Jesus not being the Superstar of the world, but the Light of the world. The light that darkness can never put out. We don’t reflect this light perfectly, but I am heartened by the chorus of Leonard Cohen’s song, Anthem, which goes:
Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering,
There is a crack, a crack in everything – That’s how the light gets in.
This little congregation is not a superstar congregation. It doesn’t have as its goal Rock Star status. It knows that it is very small and it has, over the past few years, undergone a heart searching journey – a journey of pollen gathering to ask itself “What’s our ministry in this community.”
Its ministry is through the Thrift Shop. In the annual report for 2013, in addition to its Mission and Service offering, this congregation gave back to this community and beyond, through grants and scholarships, $11,478.00 and managed to pay a part time manager and minister. The congregation is blessed by the many volunteers who come faithfully, some from this congregation, some from other denominations, some from the wider community, and season residents from other parts of the country. All of them, generously giving of their time and talents. Each of them, the volunteers, the congregational members like little worker bees gathering pollen and spreading the honey of kindness and generosity.
Each of us – Presbytery members, friends, saints, sinners, searching souls, each of us, journeys out and we get lost and found, and we get our hearts broken and find unexpected joy, we offer who we are in the service of this God who will not put out the fire in our hearts, who shines through the cracks of our imperfection, – loving us perfectly, and turning the pollen of our lives into honey to feed a world hungering for sweet Divine Love. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Just before we close, I would like to express my gratitude to each one of you for taking the time and making the effort to be here today. So a heartfelt thank you:
To the congregation of Sicamous United church for your courage and vision and for calling me to minister with you.
To all who have ministered in this place before me – each one has given their gifts
To members of Presbytery who have traveled far and wide to offer your support to this ministry
To dear friends who have come to add their blessings
To colleagues and friends who are with us in spirit and have held us in prayer today.
To the Thrift Shop volunteers for the wonderful work you do and for making me feel so welcome
To the fabulous Black & Bluez Band – making music with them is such a joy
To my beloved Jim, who offers his ministry of music every week and keeps my heart so happy.