Each Monday, the Lamoni Heartland USA Diversity Team will publish a Lenten Reading.
When I first prepared a Lenten Calendar and distributed it door-to-door in the neighborhood around my congregation, I had no idea if it would reach anyone in a meaningful way. The calendars drew attention to ideas for Lenten practices each day in a cycle of prayer, fasting and generosity.
One day as I was in the Pastor’s Study preparing a sermon, I heard a knock on the church door. It was an elderly neighbor, Dolores, and she came over to say thank you to me for reaching out with the calendar and letter that I had left at her door. She was truly thankful that we had made the effort to be neighborly.
But then I could see she was upset as she began to tell me her history with our congregation. Her yard backed up to the side of our church yard. She had harbored a 20-year grudge against our congregation. A large tree on our property hung ominously over her property and shed massive amounts of leaves in her yard. Because she couldn’t care for her yard herself, she suffered expense removing leaves every year. At least two previous pastors had told her they would not remove the tree.
I faced a real dilemma. The thought of removing a healthy tree just went against every instinct I had for sacredness of creation. At the same time, it was clear that this woman’s attitude towards this tree could not allow her to be at peace with our congregation. I presented the decision to the congregation and we all agreed to act sacrificially towards our neighbor.
I prayed about it and a further answer emerged: I would plant six apple trees! I knew that if we planted these trees in a different part of the church yard they would not bother anyone and could indeed be a blessing for the congregation and neighborhood providing apples for years to come and they would more than make up for the one tree removed.
We could have focused on our differences but chose not to. I am male, she is female. She is Catholic, I am Community of Christ. She is older, I am younger. I had a position of authority, she did not. Instead of focusing on our differences, we chose to live peaceably. We found unity in diversity.
Our neighbor Dolores became a blessing to me as I learned more about prayer, fasting and generosity than I could have imagined.
Glenn Johnson, February 15, 2021