June 13, 2021
Everyone Can Produce Fruit
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Everyone Can Produce Fruit
Sermon by Lisa Crismore
June 13, 2021 - John Knox Presbyterian Church
When I think of worship, I think about me getting filled or nourished. It is like a pit stop during the week that gives me the renewal to keep going. Even when I am leading, I am definitely on the receiving end when I listen to the organ or band play or hear the prayers of others or even read the liturgy.
Yet, Frederick Buechner and Deborah Anne Meister, both writers and theologians, both agree that to worship God means to serve God. In fact, Frederick Buechner breaks it down saying there are two ways to worship God. One way is to do things for God that you need to do – sing songs for God, create beautiful things for God, give things up for God, tell what’s on your mind and in your heart, in general rejoice in God. (Beyond Words – Daily Readings in the ABC’s of Faith - “Worship” by Frederick Buechner; Harper San Francisco – a division of Harper Collins Publisher; 2004; p. 414-415)
Perhaps, we should thank the Psalmist for the reminder that worship is about service and what is our purpose when we come into this space either online or in person. When it comes to serving God in this way, I have heard many of you say that you have been so thankful and have praised God that we at John Knox have been open to worshiping in person since last July. For those of you worshiping online, you are thankful and praise God because you can connect to the church and God in this way, which was a blessing that came out of the pandemic. Even though, we are not singing yet, we are grateful to hear Shayla play the organ or to hear the band play their instruments and song leaders.
It is a red letter day for us, especially those of us who are worshiping in person because we have been given a personal choice to either wear our masks or not wear our masks. There is tape still up reminding us of the social distancing that some may still need. There is freedom to have more of us gathering together, which is all cause for celebration and rejoicing in God.
But, I will say that the leadership of the church took this very seriously when making these decisions. I give thanks for their work and being clear at communicating why we are doing what we are doing. We want to make sure that we respected that not everyone may be ready to take off their masks or social distance. We are still asking how do we still protect the children, who cannot be vaccinated. We must realize that this is where we are today but this unknown virus, which continues to baffle even the most educated professionals may cause us to reverse some of these decisions for the safety of everyone.
When we think of all that we have gone through this past year and some months, we are more grateful to God for what we have in worship because we know so fresh in our minds what it is like to not have it. So when we gather on this Sabbath day may we not forget that it is about serving by giving thanks for the community that is bound together by the worship of God.
The song for the Sabbath day takes a turn in our reading today as we hear the general actions of worship on a Sunday switch to the individuals. Verses twelve through fifteen focus on how they flourish, stand tall and produce fruit. When we hear words like flourishing like a palm tree, growing tall like a cedar, and producing fruit, scripture gives us this visual of strong trees.
When you cut a tree down, you can see in the trunk of the tree that it has rings. There are light and dark rings as the tree marks nourishment that it has received in the seasons. Each dark ring marks one year of growth for the tree.
My father in-law is a wood worker, and he has quite a collect of pieces of wood in his garage. He has shown me that the rings and markings tell the story of the tree. You can tell by the marks if a tree has been hit by lightning, or if it had insects or worms that had eaten into it or the width of the rings will reflect flooding and drought. Through all these things, the tree flourished, it grew, and produced fruit, leaves, shade and seeds.
As the Psalmist makes this shift in the song on the Sabbath Day, we look to the second way that we worship God from Frederick Buechner. He instructs us that the other way to worship God is “to do things for God that God needs to have done” – run errands for God, carry messages for God, fight on God’s side, feed God’s lambs, and so on. (Beyond Words – Daily Readings in the ABC’s of Faith - “Worship” by Frederick Buechner; Harper San Francisco – a division of Harper Collins Publisher; 2004; p. 414-415)
When we think about this form of worship, it is no doubt that this is what we think of as service and mission. There is no doubt that we all have done our share of service. We can look around the sanctuary or hear the names of those who have joined us online and can remember times when these people have served in the church.
When do we stop serving? When do we stop feeding God’s lambs? When do we stop singing our song of worship as service to God? When it comes to the tree that is never too old to produce fruit, I stop and think about the saints of the church.
More recently, it was Margaret Wilson. When I came to John Knox she had just celebrated her eighty-first birthday. She was still as tall as a cedar and producing fruit. In other words, she was going strong! I will never forget her sitting out in the hallway cutting craft materials for the week of Vacation Bible School. There was one year her and Betty Baird offered to pick up the cakes for the Friday night pitch-in that had our logo printed on them. Reflecting back on it, Margaret had to have been eighty-seven at the time. I will be honest that I did question if we would get the right cake but they did a fine job!
Margaret knew the best place in Northern Indiana to get fresh blueberries. She would take orders from members and drive up to get them. Even when Margaret didn’t feel confident to drive long distance, she would take orders and organize a person to make a day of it to get this wonderful fruit. And when they got back, Margaret let everyone know that they were here!
On Ellie Gilliland’s one hundredth birthday party at the Harrison, our Prime Timer group had gathered earlier for a Halloween costume luncheon. Margaret had come with feathers in her hair and a native American Indian blanket tied and pinned on her. We had all dressed up but when we went to Ellie’s party most of us had taken our costumes off. As I was bringing up the rear when we entered I could see Margaret’s feathers bobbing up ahead of me and the blanket was still on her. When asked why she wore it, she said she had forgotten to take it off but she didn’t care. I believe Margaret was eighty-nine at the time.
Margaret used her gifts of teaching and tutored students for years until she could no longer hear them in our after-school tutoring program. She loved to work with children. She was precious!
She didn’t love to do crafts but loved the fellowship and serving. For years, she would get a ride from Pam Herman along with Margaret Von Hoven, to help make crafts at the church for the Presbyterian Women’s Craft Bazaar. She did this well into her nineties.
The Margaret Wilson Scholarship will be something that will live on well beyond Margaret’s life with the help of this congregation. This scholarship was set-up by Margaret’s family to celebrate her eightieth birthday. It allows students to fulfill their hopes and dreams to get an education post high school. To date, twenty-one students have received scholarships totaling $48, 250.00. This is because of Margaret’s belief in the importance of education.
Margaret Wilson and many other saints in the church have flourished and produced fruit. They have stayed green and full of sap as they have lived out their faith. There is no doubt that all this was because God was their rock!
I want a take a moment and pause as you think about those who you have seen live out their faith, which made an impact on your life. They have sang a song of the Sabbath day, flourishing like the palm tree, growing like the cedar and producing fruit still at an old age.
Thanks be to God to those who serve God through worship! Amen.