Collective Sermon: Sisters of St. Francis Church, Timpanogas Prison
Today our scripture is the central theme of “Bloom Where You are Planted: the Lenten theme books written by women and men in prison and published by the Prison Congregations of America based on the following scripture:
1 Corinthians 3:6-9 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. 9 For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.”
Honestly, don’t all of us have a tendency to ‘go it alone for all kinds of reasons?: ‘I feel like a hermit pulling in on myself.’ ‘It’s easier to do it by myself.’ ‘I don’t want to deal with all the discriminations and personalities and in-fighting.’ ‘I’m tired and I don’t have the energy it takes to work with others.’ ‘Can I really trust in this situation?’ ‘I don’t want to burden others.’ ‘I want it to look a certain way when it’s finished.’ ‘I don’t want to commit because then I’m accountable.’ ‘It hurts to be vulnerable.’ ‘If I pull her in, then so and so will get upset because they don’t like me working with her.’ (Get some feedback from the audience on why we go it alone?)
This scripture is so beautiful. It reminds us that we cannot take on the responsibilities of the world or our cell or our church or our partner on to ourselves. We only need to discern what God is calling us to do in the collective or on the way. What one small thing can we contribute to the common Good in God’s name. There is stardust in our bones. Only we can do this one small thing. We are God’s buildings, temples, present here, in this moment, to do our purpose. Yet, we are not overly-responsible for its growth. God will bring us sister and brother laborers. God will send us encouragement. And God really does want us to work together, collectively, passing off what we have done, to the great Harvest. God will see it through!
Reinhold Niebuhr, a Christian Theologian, writes some powerful words in alignment with our scripture today (also wrote the 12 step prayer):
“Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope.
Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith.
Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.
No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore, we must be saved by the final form of love which is forgiveness.”
Let us, not only seek out our call, but seek out how God is calling us to work collectively in the moment, however brief. Who is God sending to us? Who is God sending us to? How is God asking us to persist? For it will not be easy. In collective, wherever two or three are gathered, will be hurdles of ego, gossip, miscommunication, annoyance, jealousy, honest differences of opinion, time crunches, desire to be alone, rumors, beginning discordance, urge to be in control, tired irritations, chaos and confusions, jarring relationships, griefs, hateful chatter, burdens, hardness or as my friend calls them “crusties,” (ask the women to name some hurdles to working together). Yet, as many hurdles as there are to working together, we have God’s wisdom or tools for our toolbelt to meet each day:
Ephesians 6:11 (truth, righteousness, readiness - peace, faith)
Galatians 5:22-23 Fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control)
Prayer, Praise, Reading Scripture, Silence w/God, Songs, Worship, Meditation, Bible Studies, Strong Relationships
Readings by Women of St. Francis from “Bloom Where You Are Planted” 2018 Lenten Devotionals: