Edgewood Farewell October 1, 2017

During the brief few years of His public ministry, Jesus spoke to people about a great many things, but one thing he seemed never to tire of describing was the kingdom, the reign of God. And in the today’s Gospel from the book of Matthew we hear one such description.

I love the way that the chapter opens with our Lord saying that the kingdom is as if a farmer should “scatter” seed upon the ground. I don’t know about you, but this is not the way I was taught to plant a garden. We get our lines and stakes out. We dig little holes at a regulation depth and a regulation distance apart.

But Jesus describes God as being like a farmer who scatters the seeds of the kingdom in an almost chaotic fashion. By the way our world measures most things, it’s inefficient, almost foolish. But in kingdom terms, it's a symbol of the sower’s gracious extravagance. It’s a sign that points to God’s great generosity, of God’s desire to have the kingdom grow and blossom EVERYWHERE!

In choosing this lesson, those who planned today’s service have chosen an image that is vividly descriptive of the ministry that has taken place here at Edgewood over the course of the past 73 years. It’s the story of God’s grace sown freely, extravagantly and generously. All of us gathered here today know that, because those seeds were planted within each one of us. But we are representative of but a small portion of the countless others who were similarly blessed and seeded.
And yet, in spite of the sower’s great extravagance, in another of his kingdom parables Jesus reminds us that there are seeds other than seeds of love being sown in this world. Both wheat and tares – wheat and weeds - stand together side by side; so close, in fact, that it sometimes isn’t possible to identify and rip the weeds out without also doing damage to the wheat. That is the reality of the world that we live within, wheat and tares together, sometimes indistinguishable.

As such, our experience of the kingdom is always imperfect. It’s always tainted and less than complete. Like a planted field, the kingdom is something which grows and develops on its own terms. Some ground is rocky, some is shallow, some is fertile. The terrain changes. Farmers come and go. Somehow, some of the seeds sprout and grows, but as Jesus says, we “know not how.”

This too is a not an easy thing for us to accept because we tend to want the yield to come to us on our terms and on our schedule. I can well understand and appreciate that the decision to discontinue this ministry is difficult to accept. For the corporation, board members, former staff members, campers, the community of Eden Mills. I know it’s been very difficult for me.

As I worked through the process of accepting this decision my thoughts reflected back over our 73 year history and recognized how God’s hand has been at work among us in so many ways! There is so much in our history, so many stories, for which to be thankful, even in moments such as this. How many lives touched! How many prayers offered or songs sung? How many practical jokes sprung? How many romances ignited? How many people inspired to a new or renewed Christian faith? How many seeds sown in the wider community as a result of seeds sown within this community? It really boggles the mind and humbles the spirit to consider it all, doesn’t it.

Regardless, time and circumstances have brought us to this very challenging and difficult point in time. Despite the very best efforts of so many people; the best efforts of so many of you, we have not been able to find a viable way forward and now need to bring this ministry to a gracious conclusion. Whether we like it or not, circumstances change. Contexts change. And that means that we will change; our ministries will change! Indeed they must, even if it means acknowledging the conclusion of a particular ministry. And there should be no shame in this. We are in the dying and rising business and we should expect to experience such necessary transitions in our institutional life together.

Although our church’s ministry in this location is about to cease, I believe with all my heart that the seeds that have been sown throughout the history of Edgewood’s ministry will continue to grow and bear fruit. This holy place, once a hunt camp, then a dance hall, a holiday camp and then a church camp – and who knows what it was in pre-settler days - will once again be re-purposed to become a source of new blessings in new ways. And the blessings that have been bestowed will continue to go forth and bring new blessings in the life of our church and of the world. For such is the nature of God’s economy. Nothing can change that. Nothing can take that away!

For 73 years, this place - this holy space – has been a cedar and twine, rocks and streams, bricks and mortar reminder that Christ is ever faithful – in all times and circumstances. It has been entrusted to us, but not forever. For 73 years we have been able to exercise careful and faithful stewardship of those resources, but now that time has passed. It is time for those accumulated assets and blessings to be shared, for the seeds of this ministry to be sown anew, freely and generously, following the example of the happy farmer of today’s gospel lesson. And that is what we shall do.

Today, on this bittersweet day, we need to remember that the same God whose Spirit called this ministry into being is still preserving and sustaining our spiritual life. And while circumstances in this part of God’s creation have changed more than a little over the past 73 years, the essential ministry that we have been called to fulfil remains as it has always been. The work of discipleship continues; using every asset that has been entrusted to us in the most faithful way possible. This is an ending but also an opportunity to claim a new beginning. It is an opportunity to honour the many blessings that we have received by continuing to be the blessing God has called and equipped us to be! May we be ever attentive to that call in all times and circumstances; even these. AMEN