Get your overalls on. July 13, 2008
Imagine the scene…picturesque lake shore, clear skies, slight breeze, gentle waves. Jesus goes out for a stroll, a nice day for a walk along the beach, but why walk, why not just sit in the beauty of the surroundings.. gulls in the air calling, crabs scampering along the beach…. But it’s hard these days for Jesus to get any quite time by himself. Almost as soon as he goes out to sit on the beach crowds gather around him…such great crowds that he is compelled to address the crowd; but it’s too crowded so he has to get up on in the boat….
So he gets up on the boat, looks out and sees the ocean..and looks back and seas the ocean of people…waiting for something; hoping for something. So Jesus looks and sees a group of common folks. A group of farmers maybe. These are theologians..these are overly educated folks. These are people who live on earth and who live life day in and day out living off the land and fishing the sea. Farmers understand stories about sowing and reaping, the biggest concern is the weather…will it rain today or not. Will my crops come up.
How your crops doing this year.. Well, you know how it is...not much rain until a few weeks ago. These farmers don’t talk much…you’ve got to really get into their heads if you want to know what’s going on. It’s been tough…my kids are having a rough time in school, my wife isn’t doing well after the last kid was born. My animals have been acting up and it’s hard to find tm it’s been A sower…act this out
Who can remember what these images represent? What is happening here? We know that this means something….that Jesus interprets this some how…but how. What do these seeds represent? What does the path represent? What about the birds? Weren’t the birds what we were supposed to look at and relax, and now their snatching up seeds and I’m not sure it’s something we can not worry about. What does the rocky soil represent? What about the thorns that grow up with these fledgling plants that are just trying to catch some rays? And then there’s the good soil? The Good soil?
The good soil…that soil that is rich, and black, and full of potential for any seed that falls on it. Tell us about the good soil because we’re loosing our shirts. Tell us about this good soil, because we want to do well; we’re tired of our seed not performing like it should. If our seed doesn’t do well , we’re going to loose our farm, we’re going to loose everything. The good soil yielded 30 time, 60 times, 100 fold. 100 fold means that the cycle of poverty is broken. The real world transformed by a bumper crop. Do we remember what this story is about? Does it matter? Jesus begins the story by saying listen! He ends it by saying let the one who has ears. Listen (secret to aunt sally game).
It’s hard to remember. these stories. What’s the point of studying these stories. Listen Jesus says. I’m telling you a story and it’s going to be different from the ones you’re used to hearing. It’s different from the ones you see on TV that talks about your image and all of the things that you must buy if you want to really be someone. Listen, I’m telling a story, and it’s different from the ones you see in the news; fanatical stories told by frantic bobbing heads that bread fear and suspicion and “news” that sells, not news that is novel.
It’s a story about how to be human. It’s about following the story that Jesus tells, To turn around…to acknowledge that there is a different way to live life from the way the powers and all of the corruptive influences all around us that talk about wealth and greed and power and lust.
Listen. There are seed that are scattered everywhere….who can remember what happens next.
It was early April when I began to work the soil in my yard again. I wanted it to be ready from some seeds and seedlings that we would plant just after the last frost (may!). I would take a pick and dig down as deep as I could. I’d add some compose that I had been making since the previous year out of food scraps. I’d buy some of those colorful bags from the nursery that never really seem to be clear about what they are or what they do cotton spurs, cow patties…but they’ve got great names like Black Gold, and Ultimate food. I’d work that soil. I wanted it to be just right. I wanted it to be good.
Listen, Jesus said, The seed is “the word of the kingdom.” Ah yes, the word of the kingdom. This is the only time that we find this phrase in all of the bible. What does that mean? The word of the kingdom? Is it Jesus: in the beginning was the word and the world was with god and the word was god? Is it the message of the Torah (singing): Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Is it what Jesus came to do: bring about, preach about, shout about the kingdom of God: it is not like this kingdom, this world that we experience, but it is about justice, it is about economic systems which don’t function to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. It is about places where war is no more, the lamb lie down with the wolf. The kingdom of God, love, peace, justice, compassion, truth, joy, beauty, grace, The word of the kingdom… This seed was scattered everywhere by this sower, who seemed to not be so concerned about where the seed would fall, the seed would do what it would do.
As he pulled it out of his pockets, some would fall along the path. This word of the kingdom fell on hard hearts; the word is heard, but not understood, the seed didn’t have a chance. the bird came. The evil one and snatched it away (what happened after the seed was digested?). Is this hearer us?
Then there is the seed that falls on rocky soil with no root. It springs up, but withers… the one who hears but when trouble or persecution comes my way…forget it, I’m not into that word of the kingdom stuff anymore.
Is this hearer us? With joy we receive the good news! and grow in our faith…but how deep are our roots really. The other night I was playing in my soccer game and this guy kicked me, trying to keep me from scoring. The ref didn’t see too well, so he didn’t call that or anything really. So after this guy kicked me, I ran after him, Why did you do that man? Gerzain was there and really worried. about what could have happened. What was I thinking? Was I really going to get that upset in a soccer game that has such little meaning and is meant to be just for fun. Yeah the guy kicked me…but is this really that big a deal? Where were my roots? Was I going to react in violence that easily?
What about when people do us wrong? When we feel like somoen is trying to take advantage of us, or is treating us in a way that we don’t think we should be treated?
How do we react? Do we hate that person? Do we despise them and wish them ill?
Withering and fading away.
What about the seed that grows into a plant but around a bunch of thorns and weeds? The plant is trying to grow but is being pulled on and overshadowed by strong weeds that are all around.
These weeds and thorns: The cares of the world, the lure of wealth. The cares of the world: like what? The lure of wealth…Matthew 6: No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. This is so easy to Who do we live our lives for? Day in and day out who do we serve? What are the cares of this world: insurance, security? American Idol? I don’t now…what do you think? fame, success? popularity?
And finally we get to the good soil…this is what we’ve been waiting to hear about right? Imagine those farmers…the good soil, this ought to be my ticket out of my terrible predicament…the good soil, where my seed will produce so much!
What does the good soil look like? Where do we find this good soil? The good soil that has manure, organic waste, worms, Black Gold. It’s there…it’s ready for that seed. and that seed is sure gonna grow.
Dry farming in California…the grape plants don’t get watered, but for the rain that comes down out of the sky. Instead the roots grow…they grow deep. How deep? 30 feet sometimes, down deep to be near the water table, and this kind of plant yields the best crops. The roots can grow that far down cause it’s good soil.
So I look at this parable…and I think about that good soil. The soil where the word of the kingdom the light unto my path is received and can grow and you can find roots 30 feet deep in this soil. Is it here in my heart? Is it here in this congregation?
I was thinking about the importance of personal disciplines…spiritual practices in which we might work that soil that we have inside of us. Amend it…make it rich: Things like “Practicing gratitude: counting my blessings. If I'm starting to feel down about something I'll either write or speak out loud to a friend, or pray out loud... "I am so blessed, I am so grateful for trees, I am so grateful for colors, I am so grateful for good jokes, I am so grateful for my health, I am so blessed with community.... I've done this with friends where we go back and forth, I'm grateful for this, I'm grateful for that.
What about singing: Singing every day, especially in thanksgiving, I’m thankful for most everything…I’m thankful for most every moment. I’m so thankful for you. Lift your voice and maybe you’ll lift your spirits.
How about Daily Prayer: Thank you God, so much for bringing me into existence, I am so happy to be alive. Support me in my work, may I do a good job, my I serve others, May I support my family. May you help those in need, and help me to help others too. Thank you for all your gifts..." And there is study & meditation: Regular study of scriptures, which may come alone or in small groups. Maybe even at a church Sunday school: Learning for the Journey.
There is contemplation of God. Meditation: sitting quietly, calming the mind and intentionally opening the heart to Spirit who works and prays in us. The passage from Paul while confusing for me at least, makes clear that life in the Spirit, a spiritual life, means that the Spirit of God dwells within. Christ is in us, the spirit gives us life.
The word of the kingdom…the word the living word, dwelling within us… we create that space, that good soil for this word to grow roots deep within.
But this is not just about the individual experience. Jesus was looking out from that boat and saw a large crowd gathered and listening. These people knew one another, probably saw one another most every week. Galilee was not a big town. What kind of community was he envisioning? One in which there are snatching birds, scorching suns and rocky rocks. Are there thorns and weeds all around. He saw that…but he also envisioned a community that could be fertile ground…a place where children could grow and be cared for and nurtured, where there was peace and love that ruled every gathering. Where there was laughter and play.
The good soil…where human thriving didn’t consist in competition and outdoing, but in companionship and together doing.
We all know the importance of environment. Think about the environments where you spend most of your time: home, the office, or your place of work. Your social networks, your hang out places, your church. Where is that good soil?
I was with someone this week concerned about a loved one because he didn’t work in an environment that would encourage “kingdom” values…and she saw how it effected him.
I hear stories about guys who get out of prison and when they return to their environment where they had gotten into trouble, they ended up getting into trouble again more often than not. But if they could find a different place, a more positive environment…then they had a better chance of not going back to prison. We all know our environment plays a huge part into who we are and if we remember nothing else about this parable, can we remember this…we can have good soil here in this place, with the gift of the Holy Spirit. WE can be a place of love and joy and care and freedom, where people can come, where seeds can be planted and sown, where our children can grow in their faith…we can be this good soil. But we have to tend to the soil. We have to amend it and work it, and keep the weeds out.
And in this good soil those seeds that are doing so good may find some real support and a place to grow roots. Waldo and Sue in the hospital, knowing that they have the prayers and support of so many. Suzanne who is dealing with depression and pain, who had people praying with her on Thursday. We can be that good soil here (heart) and here.
And may those seeds that scatter everywhere in the wind, find a place where their roots can grow deep, here and in many places throughout our world. Context of the message: Jewish Christians wondering why other Jews didn’t get it Calvin looking around and wondering why some in the church got it and others were clueless.
What are some of the things we stand for that we would like for others to get. What about our faith? What if we share our faith and someone just doesn’t get it. Is this just about converting people? or is this about something else? What is the word of the kingdom?
What does that look like.