Sixtieth Anniversary Sunday: “Seeds & Fruit”
Rev. Louis Timberlake
August 21, 2016
John 4:34-38 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36 The reaper is already receiving[a] wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
A few weeks ago, Kate and I took Felder to a pick-your-own blackberry farm, which is just an awesome experience with a one year old. I loved it, because it’s something I did as a kid. We’d go to the blueberry farm or the strawberry farm. We didn’t go to any blackberry farms, because we had plenty of blackberry bushes at our house. Of course, the ones at our house were covered in thorns. They were huge bushes with plenty of berries, but you had to work for them. You had to trade blood for berries. So, it blew my mind when we took Felder to the pick your own and they were thornless bushes. I didn’t even know that was a thing! I feel that this will one day be one of those stories about how my childhood was so much more difficult than his.
Anyways. What I love about pick your own fruit places is that you get to enjoy the rewards of someone else’s work. Someone else works hard to irrigate the plants, to fertilize them, and to do the pest control. And you get to walk in and just pick the fruit. You do just enough to make it feel rewarding. It’s certainly more difficult than going to the grocery store. But, someone else does the hard work. We reap what we do not sow.
As we thought about this Sunday, this day when we celebrate 60 years of mission and ministry through Christ Church, we thought that this passage from John was appropriate. “‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”
If you’re joining us at the lunch today, you’ll get to see a video of interviews that Mike Bailey, our Senior Pastor, did with a number of our living Charter Members. And, in those videos, I found two things incredibly powerful:
- For many of our Charter Members, starting Christ Church was a bold, risky adventure. They were a bunch of young adults learning how to be the church in a new way. They didn’t have all of the answers. They didn’t have decades upon decades of knowledge and life experience. But they had love, passion, and just enough faith to take a leap. It’s easy to be here now, to see this huge facility, to see the number of people connected to this church, to witness the significant impact it has in the community, and to forget that it all started with a little love, passion, and risk-taking.
- That they themselves reaped what they did not sow. If not for the incredible generosity of West Market Street UMC, Christ Church would not be here. Plain and simple. What church sends out a huge group of young adults and families--those groups that all churches are trying to draw in?! It’s incredible. And, on top of that, West Market Street gifted Christ Church this land. Some of the developers in the room might be able to tell you more about the value of this property. It’s significant. But, the members of West Market Street at the time, many of whom are now part of the Church Eternal, gave sacrificially, sowed sacrificially, knowing that someone else would reap the fruit. Because they cared about impacting new people and communities with the gospel of Jesus.
Love for Christ, faithful risk-taking, sacrificial generosity, a passion for the gospel–that is the foundation of this church. Sixty years ago, a group of people sowed seeds. Of time. Of passion. Of talents. Of resources. Seeds that God has nurtured.
Today, we celebrate the incredible fruit those seeds have yielded! Today, we’re releasing the Mission and Ministry Report for 2015, showing the breadth and depth of the fruit of Christ Church. Make sure you grab one of these in the Gathering Space or pull it up on our website. It is inspiring to see what God has done and is doing.
You know, significant impact takes time. Significant impact isn’t a one-generation activity. There’s a row of pictures in the office area of all of the pastors of Christ Church. I’m always humbled when I walk past those frames, looking at all of those that have come before and considering the impact that each of them had on this church and this community. I am blessed to enjoy the fruit of the seeds they sowed.
But, I think the most humbling thing about that row of pictures is the empty frames. After Mike’s picture, Virginia’s picture, Alice’s picture, Mark’s picture, and my picture is a series of empty frames. Just waiting for the inevitable, for our time at Christ Church to pass. And it is humbling to be reminded that we don’t just reap what others sowed. We don’t just enjoy the fruit. We are sowing what others will reap.
I’ve been fortunate to travel to a number of places in the world, but would really love to spend more time in Europe. There are a number of cities that I’d love to visit across Europe. One of them is Barcelona. In Barcelona, there is a Roman Catholic church called the Sagrada Familia. It is an absolutely gorgeous work of art, but it’s famous because it is incomplete. Construction started in 1882 and, over a hundred and thirty years later, it’s still incomplete. The architect, Antoni Gaudi, who died around ninety years ago, had a vision for this incredible church, one of the most beautiful in the world. And yet, by the time he died it was less than a quarter of the way done. But, others picked up where he left off, continuing with his plans. Today, it’s over halfway done, largely funded by tourism. The incredible thing about the Sagrada Familia is that, while they strive to remain faithful to Gaudi’s vision, it has also been shaped by the way that other architects and sculptors have interpreted that vision. And that itself is a part of his vision. Gaudi knew that he would not be around for it’s completion and expected others to build upon his work. He said, “I have decided to leave it only scheduled so that another generation will collaborate on the Temple, as is repeatedly seen in the history of cathedrals. The work of the Sagrada Família progresses slowly because the master of this work is in no great hurry.”
I firmly believe that the master of Christ Church is in no great hurry. God has done, is doing, and will continue to do great things through us. This church community was beautiful when it worshipped in Sternberger Elementary, when it worshipped in what is now the gym, when it began worshipping in the magnificent sanctuary, and when it spread to worship in new ways in the Fellowship Center. Over the past sixty years, multiple generations have built upon the work of their predecessors. The thing is, we’re young enough as a church that we are blessed to still have with us some of those that were a part of the initial vision. That vision that has continued to grow.
We are laying bricks, one by one, upon the bricks that have been laid before. And, it’s important that we lay those bricks well, because our bricks will support the bricks that will be laid in the years to come.
Today, I encourage you to take a look around. Where you see fruit, remember and imagine that seeds that were sown. Where you see significant mission and ministry, remember and imagine the bricks that were laid.
And then, let us ask ourselves, “What seeds are we sowing? What bricks are we laying? What are we doing now that will produce fruit in the years to come?” Where is God calling us to go and what is God calling us to do, as we remain true to that foundation. Love for Christ, faithful risk-taking, sacrificial generosity, and a passion for the gospel. Our master is a patient master and our master knows that Christ Church isn’t close to complete. So, as we celebrate this fruit, let’s keeping sowing seeds.
- Share an example fruit that you have witnessed in the mission and ministry of Christ Church.
- If you have been a part of Christ Church for a while, share an example of seeds that were sowed in past years. What is the fruit of those seeds?
- Share where you currently see seeds being sowed in and through Christ Church today.
- Share where you see opportunities for the people of Christ Church to sow seeds. Where might you be a part of this sowing?