Servants No Longer

Servants No Longer

Fruit that Will Last

Servants No Longer

Fruit that Will Last

I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends... You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last... - John 15


Dear friends-

It's Graduation Day at Sterling College. No one played "Pomp and Circumstance", because pomp just isn't the thing at Sterling. Yes, there are rituals, as every institution finds ways to create; these endure because they speak to the spirit of the place and its people. Bagpipes played as graduates and speakers processed across the spring-lovely field. Banners behind the podium, created in the style of Bread and Puppet, proclaimed, "Ah", "Simple", "Listen", "Shine", "Hallelujah", and "Good." These banners have graced the backdrop of graduation since the college awarded its first Bachelor of Arts degrees fifteen years ago.



This is a group of souls who have been well instructed in the art of bearing fruit, fruit that will last. The ceremony, the people and the place itself serve both to honor and to challenge the fabric of life in community - its soil-based traditions and its aspirations, within the school itself and in the wider world of which it knows itself blessedly to be a part.

We can never be quite sure what kind of "fruit that will last" Jesus was speaking of as he spoke to his friends, the disciples, beginning to prepare them for the end of their time together in the way they had come to know and cherish. He spoke to them often of servanthood - of the vitality of living life centered on the needs of sister and brother. Jesus spoke often of fruit and grain, of wine and bread; his metaphors reflected the lives of a community that was never far from the soil. He knew these fruits and foods to be central to the sacredness of life. But he also seems to have had another kind of "fruit that will last" in mind.

Perhaps it had something to do with that holy time when servanthood becomes friendship. When we break free of the bonds that the very word servanthood seems to call to mind. (How many graduations have you been to where the main point of the big speech was something like "Be your own master"?)

Beyond that new moment of freedom lies the time when, as servants to each other, we are no longer subservient, but friends in service to each other.

I think the people who gathered to honor the graduates of Sterling College caught a glimpse of that sacred word and world today. All around the gathering were the signs of spring, of new life, of tasks completed and others opening like glorious buds before us.

In how big a Creation can we be servants and friends to each other? Today, as I admired years of hard work and imagined new beginnings with that gathered group, it seemed that there was no limit to the fruit that friendship and servanthood - curiously and wondrously married together - could embrace.

We imagine such things together when we worship. Exactly what - or who - we worship is a matter to explore, but if it is holy and gentle, if it transcends our self-focus, and if it lifts us in new hope, then our unnamable God rejoices. We worship at 10 AM; with good fortune and open hearts it doesn't end when we leave the sanctuary an hour later for the immense sanctuary on the other side of the door.

Sabbath blessings-
AFP