I have a confession. I recently entered the 40 and up club and I'm still learning how to do a lot of things. In this season, I'm learning how to properly take care of all the plants in our home and in our yard. I have a spouse that loves to buy them but often forgets to water them. See previous sermons for her own admission :) I have conceded to this reality and have committed to being the caretaker of her botanical interests. In theory, it sounds so simple, but each kind of plant or shrub requires something different. Some need more shade. Others need to be watered more regularly. But hey, I'm learning as I go.
For instance, last summer I didn't prune our knock-out roses and the growth was very minimal. I knew I did something wrong. So this spring we were ready to dig up the roses and start over with a new look. However, we decided to give them one last chance before throwing them away. I did some research and learned that yearly pruning was essential for the growth of knock-out roses! (I don't know how I missed that the first time around.) I was nervous about cutting them down too short because the stems had grown so long. But I complied and am now happy with how they have bloomed. When I walk past them, I am reminded of Jesus' words to his disciple in John 2:15, "He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn't produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more."
While this is not a new metaphor, I think it portrays my journey of learning more about the LGBTQIA+ community. While I'm proud to say I'm part of a church that is open and inclusive, I find myself still learning and growing on how to live this out better every day.
This is growth for me. I can remember during the early stages of my ministry when I was not so understanding. I was ignorant. I was hurtful. However, I had a gay religion professor that was extremely supportive of me even in my ignorance. I had a best friend that came out as gay during our time in seminary. I had classmates, colleagues, fellow parents, neighbors, and family members that were a part of this community that reflected the image of God more than I ever could. Their love, patience, and brilliance slowly chipped away at my limited understanding of God's love. I've come to believe faith is not an admission of what we think we know, but the courage to express our own areas of growth. It's being willing to be pruned so that God can bear more fruit in our lives. It's being 40 and being open to growth and learning. As we celebrate Pride this month, my hope is that we find the time and space to reflect on how we might continue to grow our understanding and acceptance as individuals and as a congregation.
We will carry this theme to our sermon on Sunday as I will be preaching about Helping Other People's Education. This doesn't just include the learning we experience in formal settings, but the countless ways God continues to grow and stretch us whether it's in our gardens, in our homes, and especially as we seek to learn more about each other.
See you Sunday!
Until then...may the Lord bless you and keep you real good!
Rev. Dr. Jevon Caldwell-Gross