Pastor Robert Eckert
Courtland-Oakfield United Methodist Church
10295 Myers Lake Ave NE, Rockford
I might have missed one while scanning the lineups, but I think because of its location, Courtland-Oakfield UMC is the only church in the Rockford/Cedar Springs area whose pastor has the pleasure and privilege of being a contributor to the religious columns of both the Squire and the Post. There are more individuals who write for “From the Pulpit” (Post) than for “A Message for You” (Squire) and there are annual tweaks to each roster, so in the four and a half years that I’ve been serving Courtland-Oakfield the rotation has never resulted in my turn coming up in the same week for both papers until this week. Now I know a little bit of how it feels to be a syndicated columnist.
Give God credit for good comedic timing because this moment of having potential access to an audience twice as big as usual arrives smack dab in the middle of God teaching me to be grateful for any opportunity, no matter what size, to be a means of God’s grace.
I was describing to a friend only a few days ago what I had been experiencing for about three months as a disheartening feeling of increasing irrelevance and ineffectiveness. With compassion and wisdom she crashed my pity party suggesting I pray that God would remind me that my only responsibility is to plant seeds; whether or not they grow and bear fruit is in God’s hands. “Your sphere of influence might only reach a few people,” she said, “but each of them has a sphere of influence, too, so you never know how God is using you.”
It was only a couple hours later when the speaker making a presentation to a group of pastors of which I’m a part mentioned in his comments, “It can be frustrating for pastors when they plant seeds but never get to see if they grow or bear fruit.”
Call it coincidence if you like, but I certainly sat up and took notice. I went into that night’s Bible study, one of those settings where I’d been counting who wasn’t present instead of appreciating who was, with a new-found enthusiasm. “I get to plant seeds!” I repeated to myself. And that was enough.
That was enough to transform a growing burden of unmet, albeit self-imposed, expectations into a celebration of being invited by God, entrusted by God, empowered by God simply to represent as best as I am able God’s unconditional love, and leave it to God to do with that what God will.
The numbers don’t matter. How many and how much are not mine to measure. Even if it is only one person to whom I can communicate the slightest glimpse of the hope, healing, and hospitality God offers, I have done my part.
If you’re reading this, then maybe a seed is being planted that will germinate in you in the same way that a brief conversation with a friend and a general remark from a public speaker planted seeds in me that are beginning to sprout in welcome, meaningful, and productive ways.
May we all find comfort and satisfaction that God has placed us and places us in relationships with others where we and they can give and receive what is needed, when it is needed. What becomes of that is in God’s hands. Our task and our joy is to plant seeds.