Yesterday, I arrived at Claggett Center early in the morning to participate in a Leadership Howard County retreat. This is a leadership program for those who live and/or work in Howard County. It is a 10-month leadership program where participants are assigned to different organizations within Howard County. There are 40 participants, and each participant is placed in a group. That group is then to work with their assigned organization to address some of the organization’s systemic issues. My group was assigned to Bridges to Housing Stability, an organization which is very familiar to us at Christ Church because we help support its mission.
Later in the evening, an activity was one of being grouped in pairs. The task was to spend four minutes getting to know each other - to introduce ourselves. After those few minutes, we rotated and began the process of introducing ourselves all over again. One of the partners in my group was someone named Janee. Although we were both in the same group in the morning session and had worked together on a previous project, we hadn't said much to each other up to this point.
The moment we started chatting, she told me that she Googled me in the morning and found out that I was the Rector of the church where she sings with the Columbia Pro Cantare. She really appreciated the fact that they could sing for the community with Christ Church as their base. She shared that her deepest sense of gratitude was knowing that Christ Church was available for the group.
She then asked me this interesting question: “What, in your ministry, gives you the most joy?”
I paused for a moment and then responded by telling her, “That which gives me the most joy is transforming the lives and circumstances of people. That which gives me the great joy is the opportunity to tend, nurture, comfort, and generate an enthusiastic faith in people. That which gives me the most joy is the smile that I bring to people. There are obviously dark, dark times but even in the darkest times, if I can sow a seed of hope which can grow a smile, not today but tomorrow, that gives me great joy.”
She looked at me and said, “I least expected that.”
The idea of the seed of hope reminded me of the Parable of the Mustard Seed. “It is the smallest of all seeds,” Jesus said. “But once it has grown fully, it's the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32) The smallest of all seeds generates homes for all kinds of birds. That seed eventually provides more than its size.
The idea of the seed also reminded me of the story of Shaq O'Neal, a basketball star. Whenever he goes to Walmart, he transforms the life of another person by sowing a seed of hope. He sows this seed by simply buying gifts for strangers. “Every day I leave my house, I got to bless somebody,” he once said. “I can’t keep all this.”
Your beloved Christ Church, with the blessings of your talents and treasures, also sows seeds of hope, We are helping transform lives, making meaning for countless people, nurturing faith, comforting and lifting spirits up, and tending to you, your family, and many others. This is the work that we do; it isn’t specifically measurable, but the impact is indeed felt beyond the four corners of our sanctuary.
This week, we begin our annual Stewardship season when we invite you, each parishioner, to prayerfully consider sowing seeds of hope within this Christ Church community of faith.
Our joy is that Columbia Pro Cantare can bless the wider community with their gift of music because you have been generous to Christ Church. The Boy Scouts can meet at Christ Church because of your generosity. The AA and MS Support Groups can meet at Christ Church because of your support. There is nothing that can happen at Christ Church without the blessings that you have received from God.
Christ Church can only do the work that God has given us to do because we can count on your generosity and kindness.
A tiny seed is a powerful engine, one which generates a miracle when we plant it, water it, and tend it. And so long as we tend it, that seed can indeed do marvelous work. Our task is to sow the seeds of hope.
Stewardship is a faithful act of giving, nurturing, and tending. It is only through this process that real transformation occurs for both the giver and the recipient.
And so, this Stewardship season, I invite you to sow seeds of hope at Christ Church. I have no doubt that even the smallest of all the seeds generates homes for all kinds of birds, and heaven knows there are more birds that count on your beloved Christ Church.
“What, in your ministry, gives you the most joy?” Janee asked. The hope that is made possible because of the kindness which abounds in this place.
I thank God for you, and for the seeds of hope we continually sow here together at Christ Church.
To pledge to Christ Church for 2024, please visit www.christchurchcolumbia.org/2024-pledge