What follows is the “From the Pastor” column, 2013 Fall Newsletter:
Committing (surrendering) ourselves and one another,
and our whole life to Christ, our God
The culture of the Scriptures was an agrarian one. Farming, no matter what other crafts were being utilized, was essential to a family and larger community’s existence. It was a communal work, the fruits of which were shared and celebrated by the larger community. The beginning of the Church Year (September 1st) has many hymns and prayers that focus on the cultivation of creation and its relationship to the Creator and humanity. One remembers the Garden in the Book of Genesis where the first human beings were made to be in an intimate partnership with God to cultivate the creation that He shares with them as a means of communion between Him and them and between one another. Male and female together show that partnership of being in the life-creating and life-cultivating process with the Lord. In working this creation in communion with the Lord, human beings grow into their destiny of becoming complete in their union with God and living “in the age to come.”
The main form of fertilizer was manure. I remember a scene from the HBO series on the second president, John Adams, how he was teaching his son the techniques of farming. When they came to a cart filled with manure, he put both hands into the stuff and told his son to do the same to get a real feel for what makes and feeds crops.
Orthodox Christians are familiar with the oft repeated phrase through worship:“let us commit/entrust (“parathometha”) ourselves and one another, and our whole life to Christ, our God.” The Greek word has the same root that Christ uses to commend (yield/offer up/surrender in service) His spirit to God in Luke 23: 46. It is the concept of surrendering ourselves and our will to God that is what defines a Christian (one who loves Christ). This is quite a challenge in a world that worships self-determination. Farming is not about passivity. Farmers do what they are responsible to do (very different than being “in control”), and then, similar to a pregnant woman, they surrender themselves to the process to let it take its course. But passive surrender is different. I believe it comes from the ego feeling that it must control people, circumstances, etc…and if not, then why bother? The pendulum swings back and forth so often between passivity and obsessive over-functioning. But reality is balanced in the middle. And often we have to get our hands into the manure in our own lives, personally and corporately, to work with the Lord to turn it into true fertilizer that causes growth. But like farming overall, it cannot be accomplished on an individualistic level.
Looking ahead at the coming year we see it is about all of us personally involved in working the field of the Church. Bible studies, catechisms, and workshop retreats on prayer are planned or are being planned. Saturday, September 21 will see our Seminar on Marriage, Re-marriage and Intimacy. Small group development will continue to relationally enhance our common communion in the Lord. Ministries to the homeless and those incarcerated will also continue. Funding for the new building looks like it will be given this coming spring (2014). In the meantime, architectural plans need to be confirmed as ready to be bid on. Fall is also a time to recommit ourselves to the stewardship of working for God’s Kingdom. All of our resources are from Him, that He shares with us. It is amazing how many excuses for why one cannot share never seems to hinder going on expensive vacations, purchasing “toys” and other hobbies that can be costly. Stewardship is not just sharing of finances, but the working partnership with the Lord that forms us into becoming full human persons. People outside of St Matthew’s (for whom we are extremely grateful), whose own parishes have yet (and fear) to be involved in the types of ministries, involvement in worship, we experience as our everyday life, have contributed to our parish to continue to move forward.
So as we look to this coming year with ways to surrender ourselves to the service and responsibilities, cultivating the gifts and tools we have been given to become Church (become the Body of Jesus on earth as in heaven), God Himself calls us to that which will grow us more into becoming Christ. And we can do this because of the God who surrendered (and surrenders) Himself to us in every Eucharist, in every breath and beat of the heart through His Son…”that whoever would entrust (surrender) himself to Him would not be destroyed, but have life in the age to come” (John 3: 16b).
A blessed Ecclesial Year to all!