Persistence”

Worship Script 1


 Worship Script (1 of 4)

The Garden of Persistence

 

OPENING WORDS

by Alice Berry

 Children of the earth and sky, we are nurtured, sustained, given warmth and light from above and below.
Supported by earth's strong, firm crust, we build our homes, till the fields, plant our gardens and orchards.
When we turn from self and seek to be aware, we will find holy light in human faces, in blossom, birdsong, and sky.
Then earth is truly our home, and we are one with all earth's creatures,
Parents of earth's children yet to be.

  

HYMN #61 Lo, the Earth Awakens Again

 

FIRST READING
“Garden Prayer” by David Horst

Early in the morning, before the children are awake and while the grass is still dewy, I like to walk in my garden. It’s “my” garden only because it shares the same small plot of land my family and I inhabit. The garden does not really belong to me; I belong to it—at least for the short time I’m here. Today I’m still in my slippers and have my first cup of coffee in hand.

Much of what grows had been planted two or three homeowners ago, some I’ve planted since our arrival; but, if they belong to anyone or anything, the plants and flowering trees I come to see and smell — viburnum, dogwood, magnolia, and crab apple— belong to the sun and rain and soil. These living things are a beauty not of my making, though surely made of my desire.

At the moment, the rose bushes are in full burst of red and perfume. The hydrangeas are sure to open their moppy heads as soon as the sun falls upon them. The weedy looking globe thistles are turning lovely blue and spiky. The foxglove, however, rules the garden. Its central stalk is five-feet high and heavy with pink, scoop-shaped blossoms with charming freckles inside. I am awed by the abundance.

I’d intended to walk the garden simply to observe and wonder. Ah, but there’s a weed that must be pulled, a stray stem the needs to be pruned, a blossom drooping and fading that should be snipped. So I set down my coffee cup on the back porch, grab a small pail, and go to work. I end up with muddy hands, wet slippers, and a pail full of weeds and trimmings. Why can’t I simply observe and wonder? Won’t the beauty of my small garden world survive without me?

I step back to the porch to retrieve my coffee, now cold, stamp the dew off my slippers, and take one look back at the garden before I return into the house. The garden is no more beautiful now than when I first arrived. My weed pulling, pruning, and snipping haven’t really improved the garden nor made that much of a difference as far as I know.

It’s like prayer: The words I speak don’t really change anything, but I know they change me.

 
SECOND READING
Excerpt from In Praise of Weeds, by Peter Friedreichs


What, then, makes a weed?  Is a weed a weed just because we call it that?  Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Saint Ralph” to we Unitarian Universalists, once said that a weed is simply a plant whose virtues we haven’t yet discovered.  But I don’t think that’s quite right.  Long ago we discovered the virtues of the dandelion and the loosestrife, yet they are a public menace.  And the pachysandra, with no particular virtue other than its persistence in growing low and slow in shady areas, is spared this label.  In his book Second Nature, author and gardener Michael Pollan describes the strict hierarchy of plants, where the top spaces are occupied by what he calls the “hypercivilized hybrids” like roses, and the bottom tier is infested with the weeds, which he calls “the plant world’s proletariat, furiously reproducing and threatening to usurp the position of their more refined horticultural betters.”  Weediness, he tells us, is determined by several factors, including how highly hybridized a plant is (the more refined and cultured, the better), the ease or difficulty of growing it (the hearty and easily adaptable larkspur is more “weedy” than, say, a fragile, delicate orchid), and, finally, its color.   (White, of course, is at the top.)  Pollan goes on to tell us that there are two primary schools of thought when it comes to weeds.  The first holds that “a weed is any plant in the wrong place” and the other defines a weed to be “any aggressive plant that competes successfully against cultivated plants.”  “The metaphysical problem of weeds,” he writes, “is not unlike the metaphysical problem of evil:  Is it an abiding property of the universe, or an invention of humanity?”[3]  The purple loosestrife that I enjoyed driving up and down Route 95 for years was, to my eye, a joy.  But then my friend told me that it was a terribly invasive weed, and my perception of the plant was forever changed.  Was the loosestrife a weed before we made it so?

 

HYMN #207 Earth Was Given as a GardenNay, Do Not Grieve

 

STORY FOR ALL AGES
Excerpt from Growing Green by Janeen K Grohsmeyer from Tapestry of Faith

The people in this congregation have Garden days. Everybody gets shovels and rakes. They take the compost, that good brown dirt, and they mix it in with the dirt that's already there.

In the spring, they plant seeds—tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, all kinds of good things to eat. Some flowers, too.

All through the summer on Sundays, some of the kids in the RE classes go out and water the plants. Some kids pull out weeds. Some mix in more compost. Parents and teachers help, too. There's always a lot to do in a garden.

But sometimes, it's nice to just sit and look at a garden. A lot of people do that. They watch the birds that come. They watch the butterflies. They touch the plants and sniff their flowers and listen to the humming of the bees.

Gardens are good places to be.

Especially when the food is ready to eat. You can pull a little red tomato off its green stem and pop it right into your mouth. You can eat a strawberry that's still warm from the sun. You can split open pea pods and eat the tiny green peas, one by one by one.

Yes, gardens are good places to be.

But not everyone has a garden. Not everyone has enough food to eat. So, the people in this congregation decided to share what they had grown. Some days, they pick the tomatoes and the cucumbers and the peas. They put them in bags and they take them to a food pantry, a place where anybody who's hungry can get something to eat. Sometimes the grownups and the older kids stay and help to cook food there. They make sandwiches and soup.

And if there's any food left over, any apple cores or carrot tops or celery leaves, they bring those plant pieces back to their garden and put them in the compost bin. There, the plant pieces will turn into good brown dirt, and the compost will help the garden grow again.

And so the circle of life goes on, around and around, and in the green sanctuary that is the Earth, people work together and help make things new.

MEDITATION
As the Rain Washes the Earth by Maureen Killoran

As the rain has washed our land this season, may we enter this morning with hearts washed clean of complaints or bitterness. May we begin this morning by intentionally relaxing the tensions we carry, the strains of those things we cannot abandon, the responsibilities of our lives.

As the sun has warmed our land this season, may we allow the warmth of this community to heal our broken places . . . may the fog be lifted so we can see each other clearly. May we rejoice in the blessing of companions who, if we will open ourselves just a little, will truly greet us with compassion and care.

As the earth, nourished by rain, brings forth flowers to surround us with beauty, may we too allow our spirits to bloom even as we acknowledge the complexities of our days.

 

CANDLES OF JOY AND CONCERN

Those who are so moved are now invited to come forward to light a candle, expressing a joy or concern in their lives.  As you do, you may briefly share what it is.  We ask that people coming forward speak for no more than a sentence or two, and speak from the heart about issues in their lives, rather than political issues, which we can take up at coffee hour or in the parking lot.

 

SERMON

The Persistence of Love, by Meg Riley, senior minister, Church of the Larger Fellowship

As another gardening season begins to come to a close, I offer gratitude for all of the lessons that I learn from my garden. From time spent with these little green friends I learn a great deal of what I know about beauty, joy, abundance, resilience and persistence.

When I think about persistence in the garden, the first image that arises is earthworms. Everywhere I dig, in every area where there is soil, there are also dozens of squirmy, dirt-covered worms. I greet their presence the way I might receive a rainbow, as a positive sign that all is well! Worms tell me that the soil is alive, and nourishing all that grows in it.
Earthworms crawl around and dig thousands of tiny tunnels with the diameter of their body, allowing air and water to move through the soil. They eat organic matter, bring it all the way through themselves, and release it in castings that enrich the soil. The worms are my tiny co-creators, though I only see them when I dig or when it rains and they need to come up for breath. Still, for me they are a profound symbol of persistence. Day after day, season after season, they are doing their part to create lush, beautiful soil.

Another part of the garden that has taught me about persistence—if not in such a good way—is horseradish. In my garden, horseradish is the trickster figure I contend with year after year. When I first started gardening, a botanist up the street handed off a small plant to me. Did he warn me that if I planted horseradish, I could never change my mind about it? No, he did not. He cheerfully passed it off as if it was a normal plant.

Ever since then I have attempted to remove it from where I chose to plant the thing—an unfortunate place in the middle of my bed of strawberries and rhubarb. Friends have come over to help. We have dug and dug and we used to feel victorious after we pulled up every shred of it we could see. After our sessions, the yard would look like we had buried a body. Now, I am no longer delusional about my ability to remove this plant. I know that those long white roots will spread underground anywhere they have to go in order to keep growing. I will find horseradish in my lily bed, in my peony bed, anywhere that I have not dug up and searched. 

It’s worth remembering that what persists in life is not always up to us.

Still another lesson from the garden is that there are some pests that will persist unless I stop them, and others that can be ignored because their season will end. This helps me to decide which battles are worth fighting. Those shiny little beetles known as Japanese beetles, for instance—they will eventually go away if I ignore them, admittedly turning a significant number of leaves on my flowers to lace before they do. They have a season. This doesn’t stop me from walking around with a bucket of soapy water scooping them off of my favorite flowers, but it does calm me down about worrying they will destroy everything if I am not vigilant.
On the other hand, aphids aren’t going to stop spreading until I spray them with something to halt them. It’s good to know which problems must be addressed and which can simply be lived through, and to make choices accordingly.

And then there are weeds. I must say something about weeds. No amount of mulch, landscape fabric, or anything else I’ve tried can match the persistence of the thousands of weeds which spring up year after year. Here’s where my own persistence becomes a factor in the garden. If I don’t keep going out on a frequent basis and wrestling down the growth of weeds, all of my planning and cultivating will soon be lost in a tangled briar of unwanted plants.


This is one reason I gave up maintaining a community garden plot to which I had to commute. I need to be out in the garden daily, keeping up with things, persistently installing my own point of view about who lives and who dies among the plants. If I drop it for a week, there will be a high price to pay. This is a fact—the plants grow persistently and I have to show my own persistence if I want to have a say in which ones grow, and how. If I want to shape the world there is simply going to have to be some effort involved.


Others may think this daily attention sounds like drudgery, and content themselves with a potted tomato plant or two. For me, the most persistent and enduring fact about the garden is that I am deeply joyful, and spiritually grounded, when dirt and worms and even horseradish and weeds are my companions, when my own will to shape how life shows up is just one of the forces at work in co-creating a lush little piece of earth.


As the harvest comes to completion, and I contemplate once again facing the northern season of frozen soil and dormancy, my love for the ecosystem I know best persists. And, to my mind, there is no finer form of persistence than the persistence of love.

 

HYMN #298 Wake, Now, My Senses

 

BENEDICTION
We All Emerge, Eric Williams

 We all emerge from
Dwell within
Are transformed by
And called back to Love.

May your mind be humbled before this Mystery.
May your heart grow hopeful by it.
May you be sustained by this Love always.