Those who go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves.
- Psalm 26:6
Foundry is celebrating Homecoming! After many months of physical distance from one another and absence from our sanctuary, we are returning to in person Sunday worship with joy. Throughout the month of September, we will sing and pray with full-throated gratitude for the ways God has brought us through and continues to guide our steps into a whole new season of life together. We will consider how the always-relevant teachings from the epistle of James call us to act when together in community and we’ll call on God to help us. Join us for the celebration as we come home with shouts of joy!
“Come Home to Love”
A homily preached by Rev. Ginger E. Gaines-Cirelli with Foundry UMC, September 5, 2021, the fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost. “Homecoming!” series.
Texts: Psalm 126, James 2:8, 14-17
Today is a significant day in the history of Foundry United Methodist Church. It is a day we enter a truly new season of life, joining in-person worship here at the corner of 16th and P Street NW in Washington, DC with a robust online congregation gathered from near and far. Amidst the ongoing pandemics of COVID, systemic racism, environmental degradation, poverty, and violence, we have persevered over 18 months, physically distant, but spiritually connected. Together, we’ve suffered job loss and insecurity, virtual school, family stresses, a steady stream of marches and vigils demanding justice following the murder of George Floyd; we’ve suffered isolation, waves of grief, depression, languishing, an assault on our home, this capital city, denominational stalemate and churn, and political strife that seeps into everything at every level.
There may have been moments when we doubted this day would ever come, this day when, together, we reconnect to this sacred space and to the sacrament of Holy Communion whether we’re here in person or experiencing the sanctuary and sacrament from a remote location. And, like the Psalmist sings: this restoration is like a “dream.” Our mouths are filled with laughter and our tongues with shouts of joy! God has brought us through so much, has been life-giving water for us along the way, has set us down at this place of turning toward the new stretch of the journey ahead. Today we don’t rejoice because the work is done or because the journey will have no obstacles. We rejoice because we are restored to one another in the flesh and, I pray, restored to our shared task of being and becoming God’s dream for Foundry Church as we continue to lean into the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century and our third century as a congregation. Today we come home. We come home to love.
The image at the heart of our “Homecoming” theme is from Psalm 126, that of the farmer who goes out, weeping, but with lifegiving seed to sow and then returns home with the harvest—the “sheaves”—of grain. Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the Psalm acknowledges Israel’s joy over God’s restoration in the past and then says:
And now, God, do it again—
bring rains to our drought-stricken lives
So those who planted their crops in despair
will shout “Yes!” at the harvest,
So those who went off with heavy hearts
will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.
That last phrase, “come home laughing, with armloads of blessing” struck me. I wonder what blessings we’re coming home with from our time out in the wilderness. Perhaps you learned new things about yourself—your own strength, fears, capacities, or priorities. Perhaps we’ve have gained deeper compassion or awareness of the systemic struggles and injustices in our society. Maybe you’ve met God in new ways or had an experience of God’s mercy that has expanded your capacity for faith, hope, and love. What blessing are you bringing as we “come home?”
One of the things I’ve heard so often these many months is how much persons have yearned to be back in this space, to be re-engaged in the vital ministries we share. I have, over the years since becoming part of the Foundry family, tried to remind us not to take it for granted. Perhaps, we come home with a new appreciation for the power of our spiritual home at Foundry.
The Psalm is clear that God’s grace is at work in the whole process of restoration and sustenance. But the people “bear the seed for sowing.” We have to do something—as our epistle makes quite clear: “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?” God is always active, always providing what we need, but what do we do with what we’re given?
There’s a well-known story about this very thing: A preacher was driving down a country road when he came upon the most beautiful farm he’d ever seen. The house and buildings were well constructed and in perfect repair and paint. A garden around the house was filled with flowers and shrubs. Beautiful trees lined each side of the white gravel drive. The fields were carefully tilled, and a fine herd of fat dairy cattle grazed knee-deep in the pasture. The site was so arresting the preacher stopped to drink it all in.
It was then he noticed the farmer, on a tractor, hard at work, approaching the place where the preacher stood beside his car. When the farmer got closer, the preacher hailed her. The farmer stopped the tractor, idled down the engine, and then shouted a friendly “hello!” The preacher said to her, “Hey there, friend! God has certainly blessed you with a magnificent farm.” And then, there was a pause as the farmer shifted in the tractor seat to take a look at her pride and joy. She then looked at the preacher and said, “Yes, God certainly has, and we’re grateful. But you should have seen this place when God was managing it alone!”
As we begin this new stretch of the journey, what will we—what will YOU—do to create the community and future that is God’s dream for us? Faithfulness, justice, bounty, harvest, health, joy, doesn’t just happen, it’s not guaranteed, it doesn’t appear because we talk about it or say a prayer and then continue scrolling through our phones or T.V. channels. We have to respond to God’s grace and not squander God’s provision. We have to show up however we can, with whatever blessings we’re bringing, and do something. And whatever we do will reap…something. What we reap depends upon what we sow, what kind of seeds we plant. When, as Psalm 126 says, we “sow in tears”—when things in and around our lives are so painful and complicated—it is easy to plant seeds of despair, cynicism, disappointment, anger, impatience, and division. We can (intentionally or not) be like the one in Jesus’ parable Jesus who sows weeds among the wheat. (Mt 13:25).
But we are given grace by God to plant good seeds, even in hard times. Our epistle text reminds us what to plant: “You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” And in more recent years, there was a band of prophets called “Tears for Fears” who sang about Sowing the Seeds of Love… “I believe in love power…sowing the seeds of love, an end to need, and the politics of greed…with love.”
Today we come home to once again receive the love of God. But we also come home to share the love of God with others. We come home to love…
What seeds are you planting? Go out even in these continuing times of challenge and change bearing seeds of love and God will bless the harvest and will bring us home again and again, to be restored to one another and to change the world by love’s power, our mouths filled with laughter and our tongues with shouts of joy!