Faith's Grapevines

Faith Grapes 2 webThe spirit of the grapevines is moving from generation to generation. Last weekend, Jim Covey shared his love and knowledge of our grapevines in the memory garden with Alex. Alex showed an interest in the grapes when he realized that the jelly that he loved was actually coming from these vines. He even learned how to make the jelly from Jim and Mary during Craft Night last fall. This sparked the need to know what it took to get from the vine to the grape to the jar.

If you are like me, you walk by the vines and never really think much about them. I decided it was time to get a little history and wanted to share it with you. Here is what Jim had to say.
 
The grapevines were planted when the Memory Garden was established in the mid-1990s, as best I can remember. The garden’s founders wanted an entry feature and decided that an arbor with grapevines would be interesting. The arbor was built and a Concord grapevine (red grapes) was planted on the west side and Niagara grapevine (white grapes) on the east.
 
The founders were aware that I had grapevines at home and approached me to determine what kind of maintenance would be required. When I explained the process, they asked me if I would accept the job of maintaining the vines. With that job came the responsibility to decide what to do with the grapes when they ripened.
 
The first few years the young vines produced a small harvest of grapes from which we could make enough jelly to give a jar to each staff member with a few left over. As the vines matured they produced as much as 40 pounds of grapes from which we could make up to nine batches of jelly (four and a half gallons). We continued to provide a jar to each member of our expanding staff and decided to sell the additional jelly with the proceeds going to the Food Pantry. For the last few years we have been able to send the Food Pantry $100 to $120 annually.
 
I have been asked if we could make wine from the grapes. Yes, we could, but the wine would of very poor quality and would take a lot of extra work. It would be a very sweet wine with a taste similar to grape wine from the Amana Colonies (except theirs is better). The taste of Concord grape wine is described as “foxy”, whatever that is.
The annual cycle of maintenance is:
  • In late winter prune the dormant vines to remove most of the previous year’s growth.
  • In early June, tie new growth to the arbor for better appearance.
  • In mid-July, again tie new growth to the arbor.
  • In early August spray the vines to protect against damage by Japanese beetles.
  • In late August the vines are wrapped with bird-netting to protect the ripening grapes.
  • Grapes are harvested in early September.
Jim’s labor of love is a true gift to Faith. It is a blessing to watch the interest of this vine grow in my son. Stop and take notice of the beauty that is living outside our doors.
Miranda Kurtt

Perverts

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

It’s not what you think.

Galatians 1:1-12

In the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Galatian churches, Paul launches into an angry attack against “some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.”

While the word has taken on a certain connotation in the past century or so, “pervert” literally means to “turn away.” For much of history, this word had the sense of turning away from or inverting a religious truth. In this case, Paul argues that the perverts are turning away from the gospel and causing others to do the same.

While Paul has proclaimed that the gospel sets us free from the law, his opponents argue that certain laws still apply. Their perversion is turning, twisting, redirecting the gospel so that it still fits with a certain status quo (in this case the practice of circumcision). And rather than boldly living in to the brand new reality made possible through the gospel of Christ, the people have been readily giving in to the pressure to conform.

This problem is not a historical artifact. It is a real and on-going struggle for Christians. The temptation to pervert the gospel is all around us.

Too many times, we ourselves are the perverts.

The gospel says: God’s love is a gift freely given to you.
And we say: But there must be something you have to do or must say to get this love.

The gospel says: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
And we say: Still, we have to draw the line somewhere. There have to be some sins worse than others, some sinners not worthy of God’s love.

The gospel says: There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
And we say: Maybe in the life to come, but not here, not now. People need to know their place.

The gospel says: It is no longer I who lives, but Christ who lives in me.
And we say: As long as Christ doesn’t change me too much, or ask me to do anything that makes me feel uncomfortable.

Paul’s words still speak to Christians of today.

And today, as much as ever, we may need the vitriol and venom in his letter to catch our attention—turning us away from all those perversions that distract—and back to the gospel of Christ.

Pastor Sarah

As of Fire

fire1 3Wild. Destructive. Beyond our control. This is no Spirit of Gentleness.

Acts 2:1-21

When the Holy Spirit shows up in Acts,
it sounds “like the rush of a violent wind,”
it appears “as of fire” dancing on heads,
it causes those gathered to all at the same time “speak in other languages,”
and it draws a large, diverse, amazed, perplexed, questioning, even sneering crowd in from the streets.

A small, quiet gathering explodes into a cacophony of sounds and a disturbance of visions and an unruly riot of people.

It’s like a wildfire, spreading fast and furious, igniting and consuming all in its unpredictable path.

We may be recoil at this representation of the Holy Spirit when right now high winds and fire are devastating communities to our north. However, wildfire is not inherently bad. It consumes the withered and weak and dead to clear the way for new growth. Following a fire, sun light is able to reach new places and the ash nourishes the soil. Some seeds will only germinate after a fire. Fire is part of the natural cycle of death and rebirth.

However, Fire becomes a problem for us when it threatens the structures we have built, what we’ve established, the things we want to maintain. This problem is only compounded and complicated by the ways we have tried to hold back and dominate the world around us. Fire is a problem for us because it reveals the terrifying truth that we are not in control.

And so, on Pentecost we may wonder:

Will the church open itself to the power of the Holy Spirit, a power, “as of fire”?
Will the church allow the clearing away of old for sake of clearing a way to new life?
Will the church receive the illuminating truth that puts us human beings our place?

If the Holy Spirit has anything to do with it, it will be, regardless of whether the church is willing or not.

Pastor Sarah

Jesus Prays for Us

prayinghandsFriday, May 5, 2016

He’s said all he can. Now it’s in God’s hands.

John 17:20-26

Jesus isn’t speaking to us in this week’s gospel.

He’s talking to God.

But we get to listen in, along with the disciples who happen to still be sitting at the table of that last supper. Over the course of this dinner party, Jesus commanded his disciples to love one another, showed them what this love looks like, taught them why this love was important. His words try to capture everything he feels, everything he hopes, everything that will come, everything that is beyond comprehension.

It is just too much for words and Jesus knows it.

And whether they actually get it or not, the disciples finally declare:

Yes, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure of speech! Now we know that you know all things, and do not need to have anyone question you; by this we believe that we came from God. (16:29-30)

One can imagine Jesus just shaking his head, as he says, “Do you now believe?” And one more time reminds them how their belief will soon fail.

But now enough of this—there’s nothing more that can be said. It is time to put it in God’s hands. And so, Jesus begins to pray.

For all the followers who say they get it, then set off in the wrong direction—Jesus prays.

For all these disciples who reject and refuse those others, or even each other—Jesus

prays.

For all the believers who forget that their unity is for the sake of the world, not for their own sake—Jesus prays.

For the witnesses who testify to something other than God’s profound love for the world—Jesus prays.

For them in which God’s love does not abide—Jesus prays.

For us—Jesus prays.

Pastor Sarah

Words that Flow

Reflection smallApril 28, 2016

John 14:23-29

There’s a lot in these words from John and they are all part of a much larger discourse of Jesus. It can be a challenge to unpack such things and find some take away, something to focus on and to remember for a while. Perhaps a phrase or an idea gets our attention and we think about its meaning and discover a new word for the day. Last night was our last evening of confirmation class for the season and I thought about all the words we shared over the past months. And I wondered what would stay with the class going forward.    

I know that there have been words of faith shared with me throughout the years and some still find their way into my thoughts. Some were challenging, some were comforting and some were inspiring. They were words that came from mentors and teachers, friends and family – they always came from a place of care. On occasion I can find myself using an expression I heard from them. And the expression seems to be the perfect words needed at the time.

Some words linger and reemerge in timely fashion and we can count these words as words that are from the stream of a faithful witness throughout time.   And maybe in our moments of humility and wisdom we recognize that the words we keep and the words we share flow from that same stream that carries the renewing gift of the gospel.

Jesus reminded his disciples that they would find a good help from the Spirit with the words that matter. The teaching and understanding was not to be completely left to them. There is a learning that happens with the Spirit that gives shape to relationships and community. It is meant to be a joyful kind of thing that brings the needed energy to carry love into action.

On this weekend of Confirmation when promises of baptism are affirmed and celebrations of faith happen, we can be mindful of the Spirit that still moves among us and within us. We all can find a good encouragement to bring the words that will build up the faith, foster care and make for joy.

Pastor Randy

In Christ called to witness, by grace we will preach
the life giving gospel; God’s love we will teach.
By grace may our living give proof to our praise
in costly compassion reflecting Christ’s ways. – ELW 575