Planting Seeds – The Presbyterian Perspective

It’s probably not something to worry about, but nonetheless, I think about it. there should be 200 candles on the cake? I probably should just be three big number candles (200).

First Presbyterian Church of Columbus, Indiana, where I serve as pastor, will celebrate its bicentennial in 2024, and planning has already begun to mark this milestone. I’m not really in charge of the cake, I can’t be trusted with some things. Still, I’m distracted by images of a cake. For someone’s birthday, cake can be a sweet way to acknowledge the time that has passed, the many memories, a life well lived. For the most part, I think those birthday celebrations are about looking back, which may be why some of us have such a hard time celebrating “big” birthdays with a zero at the end, which makes us feel as if we were entering a whole new world. decade. My dad had a way of making fun of us on a birthday, maybe even a “big” birthday. Potato I’d say, “Well, that was your first 50!”, or whatever the birthday is, “Now here comes your next 50!”

As the great anniversary of the church approaches, I hope we can think more about the “next 200” than the last 200 years of ministry. I imagine there may be some resistance to this notion. After all, we want to look back to celebrate: Look what we’ve accomplished! (Ahem: what God has achieved through us). Of course, it is the good and the right thing. But as people of faith, this could also be an opportunity to look to a future we can’t see clearly and ask ourselves what God will do through us next.

There are aspects of looking back that might bring some anxiety, some worry, even as we celebrate past accomplishments: the congregation used to be very strong, but now the membership has dwindled, the world seems to care less what the congregation says or does! church! Those worries can lead us into a kind of scarcity trap, a feeling that our best years are behind us and that it’s all downhill from here. While we certainly need to keep our eyes open to the realities of ministry and culture, it would help us to consider them from the perspective of God’s abundance all around us. Our God is not a God of scarcity, but of boundless love and grace, a God whose “power working in us can do much more than we dare ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20, CEV). So even though we may remember or compare, we open ourselves to the ways in which God will accomplish God’s purposes in us and in our community.

A forward-thinking bicentennial celebration is all about seeds. If you’re lucky enough to have a fruit tree in your yard, you’ll realize that sweet fruit hangs from a tree that began years, perhaps even decades, before as a single seed planted in welcoming soil. So, it is with the ministry that we have today in the church. Whether in its prime or not, faithful members were led by God decades ago to create a way to share God’s love, starting a preschool, buying an organ or stained glass windows, building affordable housing, etc. God gave those faithful people the seed. They planted it and took care of it. Today we now enjoy the fruit, which blesses our community. What ministry seeds are we planting right now that can bear fruit after we are all gone? Fifty or a hundred years from now, someone will be celebrating another church anniversary and will be grateful for the seeds we plant and water today.

We will celebrate our bicentennial with gratitude for what has been and full of eager and faithful expectation for what God will bring, just as we approach Advent and Christmas each year.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *