June 23rd Sunday Service Message: Gathering the Harvest

Claim your good - It's time to gather the harvest with Rev. Joanne.

"Gathering the Harvest"

In his essay Experience, Ralph Waldo Emerson tells us “To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom.”  This is a poetic way of saying that in life, it’s not the destination, but the journey.

This week Rev. Joanne concludes her eight part “Tending Our Garden” series of talks with “Gathering the Harvest.”  As Emerson said, it is wisdom to find meaning and joy in the very journey of life without always focusing on whatever goal or outcome we are seeking.  While this is certainly true, it is equally true that it is folly not to have an idea of what a desired outcome looks like.  Without some idea of where we are headed in life we risk wandering aimlessly and losing our way.

When a farmer plants their seeds and tends their field, they do so not just to find joy in the process, although all the better if they do.  There is a serious goal of providing food for the continuation of life.  Rev. Joanne reminds us that not all crops have the same needs for care or time to ripen.  Radishes are available for harvest about a month after planting.  It takes 10 years or more for a pecan tree to yield its fruit.  So too it is with our journeys in life that some seeds that we plant are available for harvest immediately and some may take many years before they are ready.

Three years ago, Unity Spiritual Center conducted a weekend long brainstorming event called Project SOAR where we set our vision and intentions on how to positively transform our community.  Some of the seeds from that event were implemented immediately, such as ten minutes of quiet time before services on Sundays.  Other seeds took longer to harvest, such as fundraising for repaving and expanding our parking lot.  This is also true in our individual lives.  For some things we can set an intention and harvest it immediately, such as being present and actively listening to everyone we interact with (read: put away your phone!).  Other intentions take much longer, such as earning a university degree.

As much as we may want to hasten the process, there are many things in life that require a certain amount of time to come to fruition.  As Rev. Joanne taught us throughout this series of talks, to successfully raise a crop requires five things:  a good seed, fertile soil, light for photosynthesis, water, time.  I am an amateur musician.  I understand the value of regular practice.  Anyone who has played an instrument for any length of time will tell you that it is much better to practice 30 minutes every day rather than 3-1/2 hours once per week.  When tending a garden we need to provide enough water for growth.  But it is far better to water the garden daily than to neglect it and flood the plants once a month.  The vegetables or flowers will have withered and died well before then.  This is also true with our spiritual practices.  While weekend intensives or weeklong retreats are fantastic and help provide us with valuable tools for growth, they should be a supplement to our daily practices and not a replacement for them.  Without regular practice our spirituality can also wither.

Scripture:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:22-23

Discerning what fruit will be born from the Spirit, as the Apostle Paul said, requires some measure of effort.  Remembering to approach life from a place of love, joy, peace, kindness and goodness is not automatic.  It requires forbearance, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  As with any practice, the more we do something the better we will become at that thing.  Approaching the goals we set for ourselves as Paul suggests will allow us to better determine if the seed we’ve planted is a radish or pecan and have a much better idea how long our harvest will take.

Paul’s advice also applies to handling adversity.  We have all faced challenges in life such as the pain from grief, betrayal, personal health difficulties or a reverse in finances.  Rev. Joanne reminds us that none of us are exempt from these things “no matter how much we know God.”  Knowing God doesn’t exempt us from the challenges, but it most definitely bolsters us in dealing with these inevitable occurrences. 

We have now come full circle in our “Tending Our Garden” series.  It is now time to take care with the harvest.  Attentive care all through the growth process can be for naught if we are not mindful of how we receive the bounty of our efforts.  A farmer uses different tools for each separate task throughout the process.  So too must we use the correct tools available to us for gathering our good.

Spiritual Practice:

Pay attention to what is being demonstrated in your life this week.  As you consider this week’s scripture, are these fruits of the Spirit showing up?  If not, what is one step you can take to bring yourself into alignment with demonstrating them in your life?

As I consider what is being demonstrated in my life this week, and in general, I will make a conscious effort to be grateful for everything, and to recognize every challenge, whether self-created or not, as an opportunity to develop my sense of interconnectedness with the world.  What fruit of the Spirit will you harvest this week?

Greg Skuderin