Third Weekend After Pentecost (B/RCL)
June 13-14, 2015
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Manasquan, NJ
Associate in Ministry Carol Kasabach served as Director of the Lutheran Office of Governmental Ministry here in New Jersey for 14 years. She preached here at Holy Trinity either right before or right after her retirement. She told us she’d worked on more initiatives to improve the lives of the poor, she’d labored over more reforms, she’d lobbied for more bills combating hunger and homelessness than she could count or recall. Over 14 years she could claim 2 victories. She said that was pretty good.
I don’t know if Carol has a mustard seed necklace like this one that JJ lent me, but she deserves one, because she trusts that great things grow from tiny beginnings. She knows that the Kingdom comes by ‘nths of an inch, not by leaps and bounds. Carol is a woman of great faith, energy, tenacity, and patience. That’s a good set of qualities for any disciple!
The parable of the mustard seed is a great Gospel for this weekend of Pastor Arnie and Mary Ellen’s Farewell and Godspeed. In Jesus’ time the mustard seed was a metaphor for the tiniest thing possible. Jesus used it to teach that no effort is too small, no beginning too insignificant, for God to use it and grow the Kingdom.
The agricultural theme made me think of another passage, from St. John’s Gospel:
“…the saying holds true, ‘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.” (John 4:38)
Pastors may be especially aware that we reap the ministry benefits of our predecessors’ hard work, and that others will harvest fruit from seeds we grew and nurtured.
The seeds Pastor Arnie has sown here include the Holy Trinity Memorial Garden, including columbaria, which he and Barb Vogel, with support from the rest of the Board, nurtured from conception to birth and now through infancy. It is such a comfort for families to process from the sanctuary to the columbarium or garden itself, to lay their loved one’s remains to rest. Sacred, silent visits are then made, at later dates, early and late, with proximity enhancing peace, and faith fostered by faith family.
Pastor Arnie also initiated and led the monthly Gathering of Men and Table Talk discussion group. He investigated and processed assistance requests from neighbors we haven’t met yet, coordinating with our Ministerium colleagues from other churches. Arnie also prepared the schedule of monthly worship services at Brandywine and Sunrise Assisted Living, led by members of the Ministerium, and led many of those services himself. He also extended the ministry of our congregation by serving on Ocean Medical Center’s Board of Ethics. The greatest time commitment and labor of love, however, has been regularly, faithfully visiting our homebound and hospitalized church friends.
Many, many seeds have been sown by Pastor Arnie. He has seen the fruition of some of them. Other seeds have not yet germinated, but shall in the future. Only God knows. As a wise person once said, “Anyone can count the seeds in an apple. Only God can count the apples in a seed.”
In the past, numerous other pastors sowed seeds in this corner of God’s garden, including Pastor Wuchter who served here for 34 years and Pastor Scholl who served for 10. A person’s impact can’t always be gauged by the volume of time spent here, though; Pastor Tim Swanson assisted Pastor Wuchter for just a couple years, but the members of his youth group, who now have children in our youth groups, some of whom have even graduated from college, still remember him, and still connect with and support each other after all those years.
This weekend’s lesson from 2 Corinthians (5:6a, 7), says this:
So we are always confident… for we walk by faith, not by sight.
The thing about seeds is that their growth is invisible, beneath the soil. And their growth is very, very gradual, imperceptible really. That’s why faith, trust, is required. It’s unusual to see immediate results from our ministry starts. And sometimes what we start we are unable to finish. Ultimately only the Holy Spirit can inspire beginnings or bring anything to a successful completion. The work will continue until our Lord comes again, in glory, when the Kingdom will arrive in its fullness.
Meanwhile we bloom where we’re planted… or transplanted. The Lord has more work for us to do here, and new work for Arnie and Mary Ellen to do in Pennsylvania. After their departure, the Holy Spirit will continue to nurture the seeds they have sown here. Where they are headed, they very well may reap what others have sown, in addition to planting new seeds.
One side of the sign on the front lawn says, “Thank you, Farewell & Godspeed, Pastor Arnie and Mary Ellen.” When I looked out the parsonage window yesterday, after it was initially changed, it actually said, “Farewell & Godseed.” I’m thinking there was a message in the misspelling J. May God bless all the “Godseed” sown here and in the world, by Holy Trinity pastors, past and present, and by the holy people of God who serve and have served in this place, for almost 100 years. Amen
Pastor Mary Virginia Farnham