10/10/2011 16:05

Blossoms of a Christian People

When my father died, the assisted living residence where my parents lived provided a hibiscus plant with bright orange blossoms for the funeral. Some months later, when my mother was stricken with her final illness, the hibiscus bloomed again. She moved it with her as she transferred among nursing homes and hospital rooms. My mother was, in fact, quite emphatic about making sure that this plant transferred each time that she had to change locations over the several months she was ill. Throughout her final illness, the plant kept on blooming. (It bloomed one more time the next year. One stem of the plant is still alive, and apparently in good health, but it hasn't bloomed again.)

My mother had always liked living plants around her house, inside and out, and this was not the first time that a blossoming plant had been a comfort for her following a death. Finding a connection to my father's memory through the blooming hibiscus was not out of character for her. It was special to her because it was a connection to my father. That plant, with its bright blossoms, was a living gift to my mother.

In the Moravian congregation where I have become a permanent visitor, there is another sort of living gift which the members give each other, a different kind of blossoming which helps to remind us of our connection with God. This gift is the gift of leadership in the congregation.

The distinctiveness of this particular group's gifts of leadership may be most visible in worship. There are many members of the congregation who regularly read the scriptures, others who will lead prayers or the childrens' message, some who will plan the worship service and present the sermon. On most Sundays, some of these people are helping to lead worship and sometimes all of worship is led by members of the congregation. Each task of leadership is like a blossom on the growing plant of the congregation.

Other forms of leadership are less immediately visible. I think of the work of the trustees, for example. Recently they've dealt with issues ranging from mowing the grass through the leaking roof and revamping interior lighting to the installation of a 20 kV solar energy system with confidence and competence. Many churches and other organizations enjoy similar leadership in at least some of these activities, although I think the number of such blossoms as a proportion of the congregation may be higher here.

Some of the blossoms of this congregation are deliberately hidden away. I think of the care members give to each other -- listening, visiting, praying, sharing. These are often labelled "pastoral" care, as if only a designated shepherd could provide such service. This is not an area I've been tasked to work (not for this place and time) so I often do not even know these services are blooming. When on occasion I learn of them, I am often surprised to learn who is providing this servant leadership. There are, I am convinced, many more such hidden blossoms than I would guess.

In these and other ways, the congregation with whom I most often gather is a living gift, a beautiful, growing, blossoming plant forming a living connection to Jesus, the Chief Elder of the Moravian Church.

My thoughts today bring to my mind a poem from 1984 I called The Rosebush. In part it says,

Pray your whole life out to God, thorns and all, but let your blossoms be at the very tips where the spirit may blow by and thouch them and their scent may mingle with the wind. ... For in every true beauty lies a perfect usefulness and in every true prayer a perfect love.

In actual reality our living is the only gift we have to offer.