A Nurturing Community

A sermon by Pastor Michael Pahl on October 28, 2018, called “A Nurturing Community.” The sermon is the seventh in a series exploring our church vision and mission statements.

Here is a written excerpt from the introduction:

We have a deep need to experience nature, to connect with the earth. We are, after all, created not only “in the image of God”—that’s Genesis 1—but also “out of the earth”—that’s Genesis 2. Being close to the earth—experiencing soil and water and grass and trees and wind and sun and sky—is healing for us.

The Lord is our shepherd…
he makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul. (Ps 23:1-3)

One of the things that I find so restorative about this experience in nature, this experience of the earth, is the simple realization of how interconnected all things are.

It’s so easy to forget this. We can sit down for an evening meal—and be completely ignorant of the fact that the light over our table is actually water and wind, that the home in which we live is actually trees and rocks, and the foods which we eat were once themselves living things. The energy we get from eating grains and vegetables, meat and dairy, is the energy of living beings: an energy nourished by water and soil and air, an energy ultimately received from the sun.

It’s so easy for us to forget this. In our industrialized, technologized, manufactured and processed and often-virtual world, we can lose our intuitive sense of connection with the earth.

But when you spend any time in nature—ideally the wilder the better, but even a play park will do—you begin to realize afresh how interconnected everything is, including ourselves.

We’ve all learned this in school, right? Everything is part of an ecosystem—a complex, interdependent network of living organisms within their physical environment.

Down by the lake, even as I’m praying, the water is nourishing the grass and shrubs and trees. The trees are holding the soil, keeping erosion at bay. The soil is feeding the grass and shrubs. The grass and shrubs and trees are feeding the animals and birds. The grass and shrubs and trees and animals and birds live and then die, their bodies decomposing, and then re-composing the soil.

And on and on it goes, evening and morning, the trillionth day.

We know this interconnectedness, this interdependence, intuitively—even if we are often unaware of it in our conscious thinking. Ecosystems—intricate webs of mutual interdependence in particular environments—are a reality of life. They are, in fact, what life needs.

And that includes us.

All this ran through my mind this week as I thought about our church vision statement. That’s what we’ve been exploring this fall together in our worship services: our vision and mission as a church. We might be familiar with the short form of our vision and mission—“We are on a journey with Jesus toward greater peace, greater witness, and greater service”—but we might not be familiar with the full statements.

Here is our vision as Morden Mennonite Church; this is what we would like to see become reality:

We, as a Mennonite congregation in Morden, seek to express the reconciling and transforming love of God, through Jesus Christ, being guided by the Holy Spirit, to be a nurturing community of peace, witness, and service to one another and the world.

Did you catch the mention of “ecosystem”? No, of course the statement doesn’t use the word “ecosystem,” but it might as well: we are being guided by the Holy Spirit to be a “nurturing community.” We are, you might say, being re-created by God into a healthy ecosystem, a flourishing web of mutual interdependence within our particular environment, here in Morden.

A healthy ecosystem needs clean air and clean water and mineral-rich soil, a balanced diversity of bacteria and plants and animals. What does a “nurturing community” need? Pretty much the same stuff, really: an environment devoid of toxic attitudes and behaviours and rich with nourishing and edifying resources, populated by a diversity of people committed to mutual flourishing. Easy peasy, right?

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