Last week at a clergy luncheon, I was approached by the Rev. Canon Connie Ng Lam. Connie is new to our diocese, and is the Canon for Asiamerican Ministries at St. Paul’s Cathedral. The cathedral has a flourishing Chinese American congregation, and Connie told me that she had distributed the Advent calendar that I design each year to the congregation. As I looked at her copy, I was surprised and delighted – all of the scripture citations and devotional suggestions had been translated into Chinese.
In the twenty years that my friend Merry Watters and I have been producing this calendar, we continue to be amazed at how it finds its way to places we never would have expected. We make an effort each year to produce it, but once we send it out into the world, it seems to take on a life of its own. The fruit of our efforts is the result of much more than our efforts. And for that we are grateful.
This Sunday, I am inviting to you to join in a conversation after church about our parish’s mission and ministry in the larger community. I know that Advent is already a busy time. I know that the very last thing we may want to be doing two weeks before Christmas is to explore what new challenges or tasks we may be called to undertake. And yet they are not challenges or tasks. When we consider Christ’s call to us to serve others, it is to hear an invitation to participate in something that is about much more than our own efforts.
Though it is not a regular part of our Advent readings from the Hebrew scriptures, in this season I am particularly fond of these words from the prophet Isaiah:
For as the rain and snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10,11)
The word goes out. And the way in which that word manifests itself is always the result of much more than our efforts. I invite you to join me on Sunday to consider what seeds God may be planting in the good soil of this parish, so that the word will indeed accomplish all that God intends.