Message from July 16, 2017

Following is the message from this past Sunday. The scripture focus was Matthew 13:1-9 and 18-23,  and Isaiah 55:10-13, though I backed up and started from verse 6. Also read was Romans 8:1-11, but I did not reference that one in the message. The title was, “Open to the Word.”

Our message from Matthew is one of Jesus’ parables and should be a fairly familiar one for us. I am sure we all remember the parable of the sower, but the truth is the point that Jesus makes is not about the sower, it is about the soil that receives the seed. The  story is really about how we as the hearers accept the words that Jesus offers. The point of the lesson today is if we are open to God’s words.

In the parable of the sower—the one who scatters the seeds—is Christ, or at the least someone working on behalf of Christ, perhaps his disciples, or maybe, hopefully even one of us in today’s world. The seed is the word of God, the gospel, the teachings of Jesus. The soil—and this is the variable part of the story/the soil—is the one to whom the word is spoken, and scary but here is probably where we can say, this is us.

In the first case, the seed doesn’t even have an opportunity to take hold. The word goes out to this person, but before it can even enter the mind of the listener something interferes, as the writing here says, the powers of evil causes a distraction and takes away the message. Perhaps this is the person who doesn’t even find an opportunity to become part of a faith community, the second seed, the one that falls on rocky soil sprouts, but because of the lack of roots, it withers and dies. According to the explanations of the parable, these are the people who hear the words of Jesus and get all excited about it, but they either don’t know how to nurture this new found joy. Or maybe they do find a church home, perhaps they even join a congregation of believers, but they just are not able to get that involved. There are just too many things that pull them away from any commitments of any kind and so they just are not able to follow Jesus as he would have them do. Either way, these two types of seeds, these two types of potential believers produce nothing.

If you are talking strictly seeds and growing, we have some peas that fit the bill of either of the first two situations this year. James thinks those that would be of the first type were likely pulled out by one of those pheasants that lives in the hay field across the dike between us and the creek. He probably snuck up over the dike for a snack, but was disturbed before he could get all of the seeds. He scratched them out, but didn’t have time to eat them all. Those that weren’t eaten up lay on the top of the soil and because they had a little moisture and a lot of heat they germinated, but they were not in the soil far enough to take root and grow. The bottom line is that there are no plants, and no peas from these seeds.

The cosmos acting as weeds in the vegetable garden.

The third type of seed falls on good soil, but for whatever reason all sorts of weeds grow up with it. I can really relate to that business this year with our garden and all of the extra volunteer plants. As you noticed coming through the door this morning and with what is on display up front here, we have been busy pulling out lots of extra cosmos and anyone who wants some are certainly welcome to take what they want. If someone wants some but doesn’t want them today, let’s talk and I can arrange something for you later because I have this feeling we will need to take out more this week. The cosmos and the other volunteer plants that we have like the pumpkin and the sunflowers are all pretty harmless. We might consider them weeds simply because they are in the wrong place, but the way weeds is used in the scripture lesson today the meaning is more of a noxious plant. We are to understand that this plant is not good for any reason at all.

In fact, according to the Tyndale commentary, the worst sort of weeds in the days of Jesus was a very poisonous plant that looked much like the wheat plants, but with a much stronger root. Let’s consider that in terms of the metaphor that this parable seems to be. If the actual weed is poison, the symbolic weed is a person who is poison, or a situation that is poisonous. The seed in this case is someone who hears the word, and it takes root in them, and they are growing and flourishing maybe even as part of a church congregation, but they are also surrounded tightly by bad influences. They are tangled up with people and situations that are “poisonous.” The explanation says that they are so much a part of the world that they cannot live their lives as Christ would have them live.

Now in essence that could be anyone of us. We are here, we are believers, we participate in our congregation, yet we are still part of the secular world. I think the hardest part for me in this area is that I leave here on Sunday mornings, or Wednesday evenings as the case may be, and I drive out of town. And I will be honest; sometimes I forget where I have just been and what I have been doing. And sometimes, I just plain act like these are two different lives, and they are not, and I need to stop thinking that way. Maybe if I would get off my lazy couch and contact the conference office about going into what they call discernment and taking steps towards full ordination, maybe then I will begin to see my life, as really being here as a permanent commitment and not just a temporary thing like others jobs I have had.

The final part of the seed story is about when the seed falls on the good soil and it sprouts and grows and is harvested with very good yields. This is the soil that I am thinking we all want to identify as being. We come here each week listening to the stories of Christ and the word that God has for us, we participate in the liturgy and the music and the prayers, we put our offerings in the collection plate hoping that it helps someone who is really in need and then we leave with the idea of facing another week of sharing what we know with those around us in whatever way we can. That is what the good soil is about in this story of the sower. We know that, and I feel pretty confident is saying that we all want to be that.

But maybe we want to ask if there is more than just the soil and the seeds. Is there more than just the word or the message being spoken to fall where it may fall? We know that sometimes growth and harvest is connected to the elements as much as to the soil. This year is our area we all know what farming in a drought it all about. Now more than ever it is important to keep vigil, to take steps of precaution, to use good practices that protect what is already growing be it crops or animals. I go outside into the garden and look at the parched soil, and it doesn’t matter how much water we pour on to it at 6 a.m., by 10:30 parts of it are powder dry. And some days I catch myself asking if there is a connection between the physical drought and a spiritual drought, like there was a connection in the parable. I don’t have that answer. But, I do not believe that God sends drought to punish us. You know that old statement of: well they get rain because they live right.

Jesus wants us to all be the good soil that accepts the seed/the word of God. Jesus wants us to grow amid a field of fellow believers and produce an abundant harvest. Maybe our question today should be: what is that harvest? Is it simply more members in our pews? Or maybe it is a continuation of being the ones who share Christ’s love with those around us whether they are right here in our community or someplace around the globe. Maybe our harvest is as simple as sharing a “cup of water,” in the form of a bag of school supplies, a tub of items for the home, a financial donation to someone in need, a quilt for a college student or a …. You fill in the blank, and let me know sometime what it is you would put there. Amen!!

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