"Going Back To Our Roots"

by Jeanne Merrill

The following is a copy of the "sharing" delivered by my mother at a church service during June of 1997.

I'm going to begin my sharing by telling you another story about a grandparent. Last summer I told you about my great-grandfather Mills who was a lighthouse keeper on Goose Rock. Now I am going to tell you about Grandfather Falconer - my mother's father. Grampy's favorite hymn was Abide With Me which we just sang. I selected that hymn because Abide With Me is the title of the adult Sunday school lesson for today. Our lessons follow the lectionary and I decided for once to use the lectionary reading which is from John 15 today. Quite honestly, I never took the time to really listen and try to understand the words from Abide With Me. But as I prepared for today, I read the words several times and I hope I have a clearer understanding of why my grandfather so loved this hymn. The words seem to be an earnest plea to God for assurance that He will always abide or dwell with me. The words express the basic need for God's surrounding blanket of love and caring. I hear the words that tell us that no matter how sad, trying, and difficult that life is at times - God never changes. I hear words that say God's encompassing love is stronger, more powerful, and more important than glories that pass away - and surpasses pain, enemies, sickness and even death.

When my grandfather was 11 years old, he was sent from his home to find his own way in life - to find a job and to be self-sufficient. This seems horrifying to me but for those times and circumstances (his father was a poor pastor and there were several siblings to feed), I suppose this was not uncommon. He grew up in Granville, Prince Edward Island, Canada, and I suppose he was quite a young man, even at age 11. Somehow Grampy had the God-given strength and motivation to survive. He eventually became caretaker of Borestone Mountain above Monson, Maine, where he also maintained a fish hatchery and raised world famous foxes for a wealthy family. He and my grandmother had 5 children. Life was often difficult for the Falconer family. The roots of their Christianity was probably the one constant.

I often wonder why some people, given the most difficult and seemingly unhappy, unstable childhood, seem to thrive and become happy, contributing adults - while others become depressed and even destructive. There are many factors involved, of course, but for my grandfather I believe his deep rooted faith in a loving God, carried him through enormous challenges. Can you imagine saying goodbye to your 11 year old child or grandchild - telling him or her that you could not afford to care for them and then hoping and praying they could find a way to survive. Was this the original "tough love"? Grampy told me this story many times - I did not enjoy hearing it as his eyes would always fill with tears. But now I hope I better understand his story, his roots - he was not telling me in self-pity but in a way that he desperately wanted me to understand his roots - my roots.

"Roots" have several meanings. I sometimes joke about not being a Searsport native because we've only been here for 29 years. To really be considered a Searsport native, your roots must go back at least 3 generations. So maybe Karen and Ed's children's children's children will be natives, if they all remain in Searsport.

If you are a gardener you certainly understand roots. If the seeds you plant don't develop roots, you don't have a plant! I always marvel at the miracle of plant life which begins as a tiny seed - but these seeds need care and love. I have heard many people say they love to dig in the soil, they love planting, caring for and harvesting a garden. Many of you find fulfillment from flower and vegetable gardens. Many of you share your flowers - right on our alter. Many of you share your abundance of vegetables.

(John 15:1,4,5)
I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. ... Take care to live in me, and let me live in you. For a branch can't produce fruit when severed from the vine. Nor can you be fruitful apart from me. Yes I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in me and I in him shall produce a large crop of fruit. For apart from me you can't do a thing.

Being part of the vine that is Christ means we come from the very root of God. We are "rooted" in God. Apart from the vine, we can do nothing. Branches can bear fruit only if they "abide" in the vine. Jesus' disciples, as branches, could bear fruit only as they abide in Jesus the vine. We can bear fruit - do what God requires of us - only because we are from his root system - we are from his vine.

One week in the adult Sunday school class we discussed how our lives would have been lived differently if we didn't believe in the resurrected Christ - if we didn't have faith that God carries us and loves us unconditionally. For once we were all speechless. We know that without Christ we would not really live - we would just exist.

Christians are connected to Christ - as branches are connected to vines. God is the source of love. We come here every Sunday to replenish - renourish. As plants need water, nutrients and sun, we need the church, each other, and God's love - in an unending circle. If I ignore my plants, they wither and die. If we ignore our faith life, and I mean more than an hour Sunday mornings, our faith can wither and die. We gain strength from each other through God. As a Christian family we share each others happy times and we share the difficult times. Over and over we have seen the results of multiple prayers and petitions. People who refuse God's sustaining love have already condemned themselves.

Because God loves us, he calls us to respond to others in loving actions. Because we feel His love, we are open to ask for guidance - that can lead to boldness to love one another.

Think of people who have changed your life - who have offered you fruits from the vine - fruits that have carried you and helped you grow as a loving and caring Christian. Sometimes meaningless acts have great impact on our lives. A card, a phone call, a hug, a sympathetic ear, someone assuring you that you'll be O.K., can turn around our sad, pessimistic feelings. These gestures may or may not change an outcome, but they help adjust our attitudes in dealing with the situation.

Sometimes in the adult Sunday school class we share how guilty we feel because we see so much pain and unhappiness and we feel we don't do enough for enough people. But any act of kindness impacts lives - doing a little is better than doing nothing. Feeding a few birds in the winter is better than feeding none - those birds sure think so. One meal sent to a neighbor is importnat to that neighbor. And, when circumstances change, that neighbor will be more apt to help another neighbor. People who have truely needed our food cupboard have later returned two-fold to help others.

I feel so sad and guilty when I watch the Save the Children commercials on T.V. Sometimes I switch the channels. I wonder what possible difference could it make to save one child when there are thousands - probably millions - who have need. Our Sunday School sponsors one child in Montana. Could it matter, really? Well, it matters to that child. It may seem like a drop in the ocean but the ocean would be less without that drop.

I have an 88 year old friend named Mary who is in a nursing home. Her only son passed away 3 years ago. She usually feels alone and neglected. Her health is poor and because she is on constant oxygen, plugged into the wall, she rarely can leave her room. As she was agonizing over her situation one day, she said, "What good am I? Why is God keeping me around?" Then she answered her own question. "Well, i do pray for all these people." I told her that was her very important job for her life right now, to pray for others. She might be the only person doing that.

(From Mother Teresa: A Simple Faith)
There is only one love and this is the love of God. Once we love God deeply enough we will love our neighbor to the same extant because, as we grow in our love for God, we grow to respect all that He has created and to recognize and appreciate all the gifts He has given us. Then naturally we want to take care of all of them.

God made the world for the delight of human beings - if only we could see His goodness everywhere, His concern for us, His awareness of our needs: the phone call we've waited for, the ride we are offered, the letter in the mail, just the little things He does for us throughout the day. As we remember and notice His love for us, we just begin to fall in love with Him because he is so busy with us - you just can't resist Him. I believe there's no such thing as luck in life, it's God's love, it's His.

When you know how much God is in love with you then you can only live your life radiating that love. I always say that love starts at home: family first, and then your own town or city. It is easy to love people who are far away but it is not always easy to love those who live with us or right next to us. I do not agree with the big way of doing things - love needs to start with an individual. To get to love a person, you must contact that person, become close. Everyone needs love. All must know that they're wanted and that they are important to God.

Jesus said, "Love one another as I have loved you," He also said, "Whatever you did to the least of my brethren, you did to me," so we love Him in the poor. He said, "I was hungry and you fed me . . . I was naked and you clothed me."

As Methodists, we are a branch from the vine of Christ - the Congregational and Full Gospel Churches are other branches.

We Methodists are all part of what is called a Connectional System. Sue Bryant descibes it well when she told of being in the hospital in Portland and the Methodist pastor in that area came by to help her and assure her of people caring and praying for her. I have first hand knowledge of prayers starting in Searsport for a deatly ill relative. Those prayers extended through New England and as far away as Florida. The Methodust connection has been enormously helpful to Allen as he is going through the candidacy process to become a Methodist pastor. Our choir will take part in a connectional choir festival this evening in Waldoboro. If any of us relocate, it is reassuring to know we can find another welcoming Methodist Church. We are all branches of the methodist vine - the vine originating from Christ - all Christians are branches off the vines and roots of Christ.

The connectional system guarantees us a pastor when our pastor leaves. The connectional system has found Allen a summer position in the United Methodist Church in Patton, and the system guarantees him a church when he graduates from Boston University and is ordained. As Methodists, we are connected to the vine that is Christ.

Christian love has been rightly called the greatest thing in the world. It binds us to God and to others. The nature of God's love is to share - the opposite of withhold. (I used to hear my father-in-law say that the road to hell was paved with good intentions.) God's love shows no partiality. It doesn't mean that we like all people equally - it does mean that we want the best for all people. What God requires of us needs to be a privilege - not a chore - not an act out of feeling guilty. Sometimes we need to prune our branches - remove the parts of our lives which tear down, not bear fruit. Bitterness is destructive and growth is arrested. We can bear more and more fruit from the vine of Christ. It's not how much we do, but how much love we put into doing. We must constantly go back to our roots.

In closing, I have one more reading from Mother Teresa: A Simple Faith.

We have a sign on the wall of the children's home in Calcutta that reads:








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This talk was given by Jeanne Merrill at the Searsport United Methodist Church in Searsport Maine.

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