Welcome to the Society of Saint John the Evangelist

A Home in Your Heart – Br. James Koester

Play

jamesk1Acts 16: 9-15
Psalm 67
Revelation 21: 10, 22 – 22: 5
John 14: 23 – 29

Over the last several weeks I have been busy building raised garden beds. If you have been to Emery House, you may have seen them, or even inspected them. In one I have spinach and beets, in another lettuce, radishes and carrots. In a couple of smaller ones I have planted potato onions, shallots and Egyptian Walking Onions (now isn’t that a great name!). Last week I transplanted the creeping oregano into one and one of the guests carefully transplanted most of the perennial onions into another.

Upstairs in the third floor TV room I have the beginnings of our melon, squash and pumpkin patch. There starting in pots are Blue Hubbard’s, Sarah’s Choice, Oka, New York Cheese, Chanterais, Winter Luxury, Connecticut Field and Long Island Pie pumpkins.

Down by the chapel are the tomato, basil, sage and pepper starts. Every so often I notice a guest stopping to inspect them and to read the labels. Brother John finds me doing the same thing and each time he does, he comes up close and whispers to me and the plants “grow” in an urgent command.

This last couple of years I have discovered, or more accurately, rediscovered something I had forgotten.  As a five year old, I wanted to be a farmer when I grew up. As I stand surveying the raised beds, or inspecting the plant starts I am aware of a deep sense of satisfaction coming over me as the dreams of that five year old unfold.

And I am also aware of something else. I am aware of the presence and mystery of God. What I am doing as I assemble raised beds and fill them with compost, may not be prayer in the technical sense, but it is prayerful, and I am aware of the presence of God. What I am doing as I plant or water or inspect my pumpkin or tomato starts, may not be prayer in the technical sense, but it is prayerful, and I am aware of the presence of God.

“Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered …, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”

This month hasn’t been a good month to be a chicken at Emery House. We lost some a few weeks ago to an owl and this past week more to a fox. Both times the owl or fox killed some and seriously wounded others. Brother John, Danielle and I found ourselves having to complete the job the owl or fox had begun. That particular task is not very easy and while it may not be prayer in the technical sense, it is prayerful, and I am aware of the presence of God.

“Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered …, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”

As I stand in the basement of Emery House, my hands and tools sticky from the honey that has covers them, I am mesmerized by the spinning of the extractor, listening to the honey fly out of the frames and pour out the spout into the pail. Its fun seeing the different colours the honey comes in. I can see the pale early season honey collected from the May dandelions and apple blossoms and the dark late season honey of the August asters and goldenrod. I have a collection of honey from the last five years and there is a subtle difference in both colour and taste depending when I harvested and what was available for the bees to eat, even though all the honey was produced in the same bee yard year after year. As I crank the handle of the extractor, or bottle the honey and apply the labels those tasks may not be prayer in the technical sense, but it is prayerful, and I am aware of the presence of God.

“Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered …, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”

One of the great privileges of my life is not so much standing at the altar presiding at the Eucharist, as I am doing today, but standing here at the sanctuary step administering communion. I love to feel the softness of the bread or to notice the shimmering light on the surface of the wine as I place it in your hands or lift the chalice to your lips. Over the years I have seen thousands of hands and they never cease to move me as they stretch forward to receive the Bread of Life or grasp the Cup of Salvation. Standing here placing soft bread into hands of every description may not be prayer in the technical sense, but it is prayerful, and I am aware of the presence of God.

“Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered …, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”

One of the great wonders for me is not who God is, but how God is known. And God is known, at least to me, not just in moments of rapturous prayer but in the ordinary moments of life and death.

I have come to know that God has made a home in my heart when I stand in the garden watching the pumpkins grow. I have come to know that God has made a home in my heart when I simply stand and gaze at onions and carrots and spinach as they poke their first leaves out through the soil. Where are you standing when you come to know that God has made a home in your heart?

I have come to know that God has made a home in my heart not just when I watch the antics of the chickens in the yard, but when I find myself completing the task begun by the fox or the owl. It is not much fun watching life end, even the life of a chicken, but even in those moments I have come to know that God has made a home in my heart. What task, no matter how unpleasant are you doing when you come to know that God has made a home in your heart?

This journey that I have been on for the last five years, or rather 55 years, all began, or began again with a conversation over supper with my friend Annie. Annie was a beekeeper and had kept bees in Edmonton and Montreal and on Salt Spring Island where I came to know her. “James”, she said, “you HAVE to keep bees.” I did not know it then, but I know it now, that in that moment God was again preparing to make a home in my heart. Who do you know who has spoken a word of truth to you, and has acted as God’s real estate agent, so that God could make a home in your heart?

Hands are an odd thing to look at, much less regard as a revelation of God, but I often find myself reflecting on the mystery of God as I place soft break or sweet wine into your hands. In those moments as I look at your hands I come to know that God has made a home in my heart. What are you taking or giving, placing or receiving in hands when you come to know that God has made a home in your heart?

God makes a home in our hearts in as many different ways as there are people. For me God makes a home in my heart through gardens and seeds and asparagus beds. How does God make a home in your heart?

God makes a home in our hearts in as many different ways as there are people. For me God makes a home in my heart through chickens and geese and difficult tasks. How does God make a home in your heart?

God makes a home in our hearts in as many different ways as there are people. For me God makes a home in my heart through friends and bees and a word of truth spoken and received. How does God make a home in your heart?

God makes a home in our hearts in as many different ways as there are people. For me God makes a home in my heart through soft bread and shimmering wine and outstretched hands. How does God make a home in your heart?

One of the wonders for me is not so much who God is, but how God is known. Over the years I have come to know God through a variety of people and in a number of situations. Each time I have found God making a home in my heart I have found my heart enlarged or broken, broken open or broken apart. And each time that has happened I have come to know something new or even something old, about God and myself.

So what about you? How has God made a home in your heart? How has God enlarged or broken, broken open or broken apart your heart? How has God shown you something new or even something old about God or yourself?

Right now God is making a home in my heart though gardens and chickens, bees and bread. But what about you? What about you? How is God making a home in your heart?

“Lord, how is it that you will reveal yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered …, “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Support SSJE

Please support the Brothers work.

[Form]

6 Comments

  1. Ruth West on August 20, 2016 at 21:43

    This is a beautiful sermon, Br. James. ‘Tis somewhat a new approach to God’s abiding presence. I cannot work in my flower garden, but am still enjoying seeing others doing the work for me. I am remembering Br. Lawrence and the joy he felt in his work, knowing that God had made a home in his heart, regardless of where he was or what he was doing. Then I think of Corrie Ten Boom, who knew God was dwelling within, regardless of the horrible conditions in the prison. We are so blessed to be surrounded with green grass, lovely flowers, bees, butterflies, and prolific vegetables. May I always be receptive to the Father who loves me and comes to live in my heart and floods me with so many blessings!

  2. John R. Dawson on August 16, 2016 at 10:46

    An absolutely wonderful and beautiful message. For sure I will be reading, and contemplating, it many times Often, frequently, wholeheartedly. Thank you Brother!!

  3. Morgan Holmes on August 30, 2013 at 09:52

    Br James, it’s wonderful, through your words, to recall the happy glow that surrounded you as you worked in your garden the one time I’ve been able to visit Emery House. On that visit, you kindly invited me and another guest to pick raspberries, and I was touched that you included me in your green domain. I wish you well during your late-summer/autumn harvest!

  4. Pam on May 11, 2013 at 20:20

    I am a fellow gardener–flowers and herbs, but no vegetables save rhubarb. I’d like to share a beautiful thought I recently saw somewhere. I know you’ll love it. Here it is: In the garden my soul is sunshine. My garden is definitely one of the “thin” places where I can almost count on feeling touched by God. Yes, God often reveals himself to me in my garden.

  5. cyndi wigdahl on May 10, 2013 at 05:38

    Thank you, Br. James. God has come to me in God’s many generous gifts… and in the loss of some of those gifts… which become again new gifts. I sensed a kindredness in your message today.

  6. Bob on May 9, 2013 at 11:25

    James – Your sermon moved me to tears of joy and longing. We too are planting our church garden. God has very much made a home in the hearts of those who do it. Thank you. Margo
    Shouldn’t there be goats?

Leave a Comment