Kete Ora/Life Basket
for the 2021 Contemplative Winter Series:
Sunday 22nd August 2021, Port Hills Uniting
You need a candle to light, and a small china or glass dish with a selection of seeds in it. Because we are in lockdown just find seeds at hand in your pantry, or garden.
If you are taking a daily walk in your neighbourhood, you may also find seeds on your way such as kowhai pods.
Light A Candle – to create a sacred space for contemplation and quiet. Have a sense of being alone with God, but also "at-one-in-the-Spirit" with other members of the congregation.
Words of Gathering
We come into this sacred space bearing witness to God's abundance,
each one of us packed with potential for new life,
seeds to be sown in love,
to be scattered by the winds of the Spirit
for the flourishing of the whole earth.
Waiata/Hymn (reflect on the words and/or hum/sing them. Remembering those
who have gone before us, those who we have passed away in recent weeks,
and during this year. Remember them with gratitude. At the same time ponder
what new shoots of life you have glimpsed appearing amongst us. Regardless of
how small this might be, give thanks for this also).
Give Thanks for Life by Shirley Murray (Tune = Sine Nomine)
1. Give thanks for life,
the measure of our days,
mortal, we pass
through beauty that decays,
yet sing to God
our hope, our love, our praise.
2. Give thanks for those
who made their life a light
caught from the Christ-flame,
bursting through the night,
who touched the truth,
who burned for what is right.
3. And for our own,
our living and our dead,
thanks for the love
by which our life is fed,
a love not changed
by time or death or dread.
4. Give thanks for hope,
that like the wheat, the grain
that lies in darkness
does its life retain
to grow green again.
Time for exploring and contemplating seeds
Take time with the seeds you have gathered.
Name them. Feel them. Examine them.
You may even like to taste and eat one or two.
Give thanks for the beauty and nutritiousness of seeds.
Give thanks for the potential that lies in each one. Picture in your mind
each germinating, sprouting, and growing into the plants within them.
Picture what the fullness of life looks like for each plant and give thanks
for that life.
Give thanks for seeds
of every mind-boggling design,
creations of beauty and wonder,
for the plants that
with outrageous extravagance
produce them so prolifically.
Give thanks for seeds
capsules of nourishment
for hungry birds
through winter famine,
for animals of all descriptions,
for the teeming billions
Give thanks for seeds
scattered by nature's
– tui, korimako, blackbird –
from canopy to forest floor,
for the flourishing
of a new generation
of totara, kahikatea.
Give thanks for seeds
kernels of new thought,
pregnant with new possibility
carriers of new life
bearers of a new future.
With spring nearly sprung
may we prepare to sow and nurture
seeds of justice and love
in our families and communities
and to celebrate signs of
the kin-dom of God emerging amongst us.
Hold a seed in your hand. Let it tell you about something
in you that needs to be urged back to life (Joyce Rupp).
Poem: "The Kingdom of Heaven" by Alison Sharun
The kingdom of heaven slips between the cracks
in the meaning of words.
The languages of this world cannot contain it.
In the depths of the ocean of our desperation it lies,
a pearl of enormous wealth.
It fills the cavern of our need.
It soothes the pain that fills the corners of a prison cell.
It pours into the cup of suffering
passed around in an upstairs room.
It is the immensity of small acts of compassion.
It is the sea of living water
contained in a single tear of our contrition.
It is the split second between the welling up of joy
and the eruption of laughter.
It is dancing to our own beat.
It is the wide eyes of a child.
It is the filling of our lamps with expectation
for the bridegroom at the end of time.
It is the seed for our hope of life.
It is here.
It is now.
A Selection of Scripture Readings:
God spoke: "Earth, green up!
Grow all varieties
of seed-bearing plants,
Every sort of fruit-bearing tree."
And there it was.
Earth produced green seed-bearing plants,
And fruit-bearing trees of all sorts.
God saw that it was good.
It was evening, it was morning-
1 When the Lord restored the fortunes of[a] Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.[b]
2 Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
"The Lord has done great things for them."
3 The Lord has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.
4 Restore our fortunes,[c] Lord,
like streams in the Negev.
5 Those who sow with tears
will reap with songs of joy.
6 Those who go out weeping,
carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
carrying sheaves with them.
(New Living Translation)
For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
A time to plant and a time to harvest.
The Story of the Seeds
4-8 As they went from town to town, a lot of people joined in and travelled along.
He addressed them, using this story: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. Some of it fell on the road; it was tramped down, and the birds ate it. Other seed fell in the gravel; it sprouted but withered because it didn't have good roots. Other seed fell in the weeds; the weeds grew with it and strangled it. Other seed fell in rich earth and produced a bumper crop.
"Are you listening to this? Really listening?"
Reflection: "A Time to Sow"
The first Covid lockdown here in the south happened in autumn. You may have memories of mellow days ideal for gardening or wandering in the neighbourhood. I remember watching the trees slowly changing colour and releasing their leaves and harvesting vegetables from the late summer crop. Grapes were ripe on the vine. The days were drawing in.
This second lockdown is taking place at a completely different time of the year. We are in the tail end of winter and early signs of the emerging spring are everywhere. Already the starlings have been checking out our chimney. Down by the river I've seen a mother duck with four ducklings in tow. Yellow seems to be the colour of the moment. The jonquils are on the wane and the daffodils are beginning to flower. The early flowering kowhai is a profusion of colour. The lemons are increasingly looking, well, lemon! And all manner of fruiting trees are bursting into beautiful, fragrant blossom and humming with delirious bees.
The seasons of course remind us that we are part of the ecology of life. Gardening is such a joyous activity because through it we immerse ourselves in this cycle and the rhythms of the earth. Participating directly in the creative process we are aware of the sacred web of relationships we are part of and our sacred vocation as co-creators.
Because the scriptures were written in the pre-industrial era of human evolution, they have a strong orientation to the natural world. They come from an understanding of working with natural processes rather than working against them. Our industrial mindset is to manufacture or engineer things rather than work organically with what is there. We think we need to make things happen rather than to allow them to grow.
So, we need to listen with ecological ears rather than manufacturing ears to Jesus' parable of the sower of the seed. It is above all a celebration of our participation in the creative purposes of God. It is a celebration of the wondrous cycle of life and web of relationships we are part of.
The parable is set in this cycle and web. It is springtime. A farmer goes out to sow his seed.
It is time to start the cycle again. It is the right season!
Seeds are integral to the whole cycle of life. In a way each new cycle begins and ends with seeds.
But if the conditions are not optimal then the cycle becomes increasingly unlikely.
I love the simple description that the Science Learning Hub gives for plant life cycles. Let's briefly enjoy hearing the story again of the life of a plant and the role of a seed within it.
Believe me, science makes for good theology! So, refreshing our understanding of the science will deepen our understanding of what Jesus is teaching. It might also help us to appreciate and enjoy, even more, the miracle of spring emerging all around, and maybe in us.
When a seed comes to rest in conditions suited to its germination, it breaks open and the embryo inside starts to grow.
Roots grow down to anchor the plant in the ground. Roots also take up water and nutrients and store food.
A shoot grows skyward and develops into a stem that carries water and nutrients from the roots to the rest of the plant. The stem also supports leaves so they can collect sunlight. Leaves capture sunlight to make food for the plant through the process of photosynthesis.
When the plant matures and is ready to reproduce, it develops flowers. Flowers are special structures involved in sexual reproduction, which includes pollination and fertilisation.
After fertilisation, a combined cell grows into an embryo within a seed formed by the ovule.
Seeds are what a plant uses to spread new plants into new places. Each seed contains a tiny plant called an embryo which has root, stem, and leaf parts ready to grow into a new plant when the conditions are right.
If we put this simple botany lesson alongside Jesus' parable then as the church, we have much to ponder. Interestingly the word 'parable' means 'to throw alongside'. So, Jesus is throwing his story alongside the ecological and social order of things, alongside the realities we are immersed in and inviting us to see with new eyes and listen with new ears.
As I read this delightful parable, I hear a strong missiological message. It challenges the way we think about and do mission as Jesus' followers. It reminds us that we are not just to enjoy the fruit, but to sow the seed. We have a crucial seed-sowing task in the world.
Seed is anything that is life-giving. We are called to seed the kin-dom of God throughout the earth. It is about contributing to the emergence of God's newness into the world. The passage from the first creation story in Genesis phrased it beautifully with "Earth, Green Up!". As sowers of seed we are enabling our planet to be green again.
So, as faith communities seeking to embody the way of Jesus in the world where are we going out to sow? Where are we seeking to seed the kin-dom?
The farmer was scattering his seed on the land, the place he knew best, and his place of joy. Where is the place we know best? Where is our place of joy?
In the 1990's I immersed myself in the writings of Frederick Buechner. He gave up being a Presbyterian minister to become a full-time writer and teacher of literature and theology at Princeton.
He has a delightful way of describing vocation or calling as "the place where your deep gladness meets the world's need".
The farmer's place of "deep gladness" was the land he lived on and loved. The world's need was food. He lived and worked with the land to feed the hungry community he lived in. Because he knew this place, he knew the optimal conditions needed to sow. He could read the signs of what was happening around him to know when and where to sow.
As faith communities where does our deep gladness reside? What are the signs we are looking and listening for to know where and when the optimal conditions are present?
And what is the world's need that we are meeting?
One final question for us to ponder and explore and deeply listen to that might help us with that final question. What issue/need in the world right now burns in you the strongest?
A New Waiata/Hymn:
You Are the Seed (Cesareo Gabarain)
You are the seed that will grow a new sprout;
you're a star that will shine in the night;
you are the yeast and a small grain of salt,
a beacon to glow in the dark.
You are the dawn that will bring a new day;
you're the wheat that will bear golden grain;
you are a sting and a soft, gentle touch,
my witness wherever you go.
Go, my friends, go to the world,
proclaiming love to all,
messengers of my forgiving peace,
You are the flame that will lighten the dark,
sending sparkles of hope, faith and love;
you are the shepherds to lead the whole world
through valleys and pastures of peace.
You are the friends that I chose for myself,
the word that I want to proclaim,
you are the new kingdom built on a rock
where justice and truth always reign.
You are the life that will nurture the plant;
you're the waves in a turbulent sea;
yesterday's yeast is beginning to rise,
a new loaf of bread it will yield.
There is no place for a city to hide,
or a mountain can cover its might;
may your good deeds show a world in despair
a path that will lead all to God.
Karakia/Prayers for the Community of Life
Hold one of the seeds you have gathered in your hand.
In the silence what or who weighs heaviest on your heart.
Listen for how you could become a seed of hope and love in this situation.
How could you become a vessel of new life?
Open yourself to God's leading.
Words of Departure
Go now, scattering as good seed.
We go into the world seeking fertile ground
for where the kin-dom of God can grow.
Go with love and hope.
Let it be so!