When a church plant dies…

peace lilyA few of us at Rainbow have been on a mission this Lent: Keep our Peace Lily plant alive. This plant was a gift given to the Bartel family in memory of Elaine. The Bartel family then gifted Rainbow with this little bit of peace. Of course, it’s hard to figure out what each plant needs in order to thrive. Are we giving this plant too much sunlight/water or too little? These are not things they teach in seminary. (Each day I ask this plant what it needs and so far I haven’t gotten a response. Where is Jesus when you need him because he seemed to be able to communicate with all living things. That IS something we were taught in seminary.)

My obsessive concern over this plant probably has something to do with the grief I’m feeling. We have had seven funerals/deaths here at Rainbow in the past year and a half. I’ve heard many people say that they are feeling spiritually dry, wishing for more Light.

In the scripture reading for this coming Sunday, Jesus talks about grains of wheat that fall to the ground and die and then bear much fruit. It’s hard to hear these words sometimes when you are in the midst of grief and loss.

Last Friday when I learned that Bernita Boyts had passed away, I took a walk through our church playground. I found myself wanting to find signs of life and I took several trips around the playground vowing to myself and perhaps God that I WAS NOT going to to leave that playground until I saw something blooming. Sure enough, on my third time around, I spotted this fragile flower which I’m told bloomed the very day Bernita died.

A flower for BernitaAnd then, a few days later I received this beautiful tribute from Bernita’s good friend and Rainbow member now living in Iowa, Anna Marie Peterson:

Bernita was a good friend.  She willingly shared her talents–one was a love of nature and knowing what to plant and where to plant. Soon after I purchased a house in 1983 at 4224 Bell St. in Kansas City, Missouri, Bernita had “ideas.”  One of her first ideas, after looking around the back yard was, “You need a tree!” A few weeks later Harold and Bernita appeared with a small oak tree, which had its growth start as a volunteer in Bernita’s flower bed.  After careful consideration the pin oak was replanted in a perfect backyard spot. Today the pin oak is one of the tallest trees on the block!  If you walk/drive by the 4224 Bell address, stop and look to the west.  Beyond the back of the house you’ll see the top of the tree I named “Friend Bernita.”  Through the years I experienced watching the tree grow and, although I’ve recently moved, I know Friend Bernita lives on for the health and enjoyment of birds and humanity. What a blessing she was for the world.

 Thinking about these words and their friendship “watered” my soul.

I will keep my eye on the Peace Lily and let’s all have an eye for one another in this time of grief and loss, offering one another friendship and light, gifts that live on and on.

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2 Responses to When a church plant dies…

  1. DebraSY says:

    If the lily plant struggles (or, er, dies), it seems to me that Jesus had a somewhat checkered history with fig trees. That’s just a thought.

  2. Leroy Seat says:

    Pastor Ruth, thanks for another good blog posting.

    My next blog article (to be posted 3/20) is going to be about Archbishop Oscar Romero. In his last homily, minutes before he was assassinated on March 24, 1980, he said,

    “We have just heard in the Lord’s Gospel that we must not love ourselves more than him, that we must not refrain from plunging into those risks history demands of us, and that those wanting to keep out of danger will lose their lives.

    “On the other hand, those who surrender to the service of others through the love of Christ will live like the grain of wheat that dies. It only apparently dies. If it were not to die, it would remain a solitary grain. The harvest comes because the grain of wheat dies.”

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