Sermon:Proper 10 Year A*
July 12, 2020
The Rev. Eileen Weglarz
Genesis 25:19-34; Psalm 119:105-112; Romans 8:1-11; Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
The following poem was written by an unknown lover of nature:
The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
I'm closer to God in a garden,
Than anywhere else on earth.
In today’s gospel Jesus tells a story that will especially appeal to all of us who are nature lovers and gardeners. We call it the Parable of the Sower, though Jesus interpreted it as an allegory of the soils.
When we plant a garden, we plow the ground, make straight little furrows, and carefully place each seed in a prime spot for germination. Not so with the farmer in this story. He broadcasts seed everywhere, on hardened roads, on rocky ground, in the midst of weeds and thistles, as well as on good ground hoping some might take root and grow. Such is the nature of God's grace—no restrictions. So, of course, the question for each of us is, “What kind of soil am I?”
In Verse 4 we read, “Some seed fell along the path and the birds came and ate it up. "
Let’s face it, SOME PEOPLE ARE HARD-HEARTED recipients of the seed.
Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles recorded a song back in the day entitled “Hard-Hearted Hannah, the Vamp of Savannah," the meanest gal in town. One wonders what had happened to Hannah that made her so hard. You see hard-heartedness comes from hurt, hate, abuse, abandonment, neglect, narrow-mindedness. I wonder what happens to the Hannahs of the world that make them so hard.
Sunday after Sunday we pray for the Lord to “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. " Sometimes it is difficult to forgive. People not only set foot on our property, they trespass on our personhood, trample our being, and run over our feelings, leaving us hard-hearted and beaten-down. People become hardhearted because life is hard. When Jesus pulls this story out of nature itself, the big crowd of people who were listening surely could identify.
Sometimes we become hard-hearted out of stubbornness, prejudice and an unteachable spirit. There are none so blind as those who refuse to see. A single page out of the great preacher John Wesley's journal goes something like this:
May 5, a. m. —preached at St. Ann's—they asked me not to come back.
May 5, p. m. —preached at St. John's—deacons said, “Get out and stay out. "
May 12—preached at St. Jude's—can't go back there either.
May 19—preached on the street—got kicked off the street.
May 26—preached in a meadow, chased out of a meadow when a bull was turned loose during the service.
Why waste seed on such hard ground? It's a question I was pondering when I noticed yet another bunch of grass peeking through the cracks in the cement just behind the garage. Thankfully, the grace of God is as relentless as that weedy patch of grass.
Verse 5 and 6: “Some seed fell on rocky places. It sprang up quickly. But when the sun came up the plants were scorched because they had no root. "
Let’s face it, SOME PEOPLE ARE SHALLOW-HEARTED recipients of the seed.
A few weeks ago when we hadn’t had much rain, I was walking around the Rectory, noticing how dry things were and how some of the plants were stressed. I noticed how some small bushes are planted in a few areas where the soil is kind of rocky. It's almost impossible for the bushes to develop a good root system and thrive even when I water them.
Jesus said there are some people like that. They look good on the surface, but they have no roots. They are a mile wide and an inch deep. As long as things are going great, they are fine, but let a drought hit or a heartbreak or a pain strike, and they go to pieces and turn away from God. They are people who make every party but never attend a Sunday worship service.
I'm sure we have all noticed over the years that some people are overly kind on the outside, but extremely critical under the surface. Many of our lives are littered with things we begin, but never finish. We are great starters, but the real question of the faith is how well are you going to finish, not just how you are going to begin?
Hear the words of Paul as he appeals to the Ephesians: “Let us be fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive in Christ. No prolonged infancies among us, please. We'll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for imposters. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth, and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. "
A few questions for us today are:
Are you rooted and grounded in Jesus?
Are you plowing deep into the Word of God and Jesus’s teachings?
Are you striving for Christlikeness in all that you do?
Verse 7:“Other seed fell among the thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. ” Jesus says in Verse 22, “These are the people who let the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke them, making them unfruitful. "
Let’s face it, SOME PEOPLE ARE HALF-HEARTED recipients of the seed.
William Wordsworth wrote at the beginning of the 19th Century, “The world is too much with us…. Getting and spending we lay waste to our powers, little we see in nature that is ours. We have given our hearts away. " Is it any less so at the beginning of the 21st Century?
I know we love to wear the word “busy" as a badge. We talk about how busy we are all the time. I ran into an article in which the highly regarded modern-day preacher Martin Marty says “the word busy suggests a spiritual disease. A real bore is someone who, when you remark that he is busy, details how busy he is, believing the world can't get along without him. " How busy are you? Are things crowding in and taking up time, which is not that important in the long run?
Dr. George McCauslin was one of the greatest YMCA directors. But in his efforts to turn the declining Pittsburgh YMCA around, he burned out and found himself on the verge of a nervous breakdown. That's when McCauslin, on the advice of his therapist, took a walk in the woods, sat down on a stump, and wrote this letter to God.
“Dear God, today I hereby resign as general manager of the universe. Love, George. "As McCauslin likes to tell the story, “And wonder of wonders, God accepted my resignation. "
Life is filled with critical choices not always between good and bad, but between the good and the best. We are all faced with more options than we have time to fulfill. One of the challenges of the Christian life is to know how to set priorities. Wise are those who know the difference between better and best.
Life is also filled with choices between grains and weeds. An old Native American tale is told about a chief who was teaching a group of young braves about the struggle within. “It's like two dogs fighting," said the chief. “One dog wants to do right. The other dog wants to do wrong. They growl at each other all the time. " “Which is going to win?" inquires a young brave. “The one you feed," replies the chief.
Verse 8 says, “Still other seed fell on good soil where it produced a crop, a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown. "
Let’s face it, SOME OF US ARE WHOLE-HEARTED recipients of the seed.
In the bulb there is a flower, in the seed an apple tree.
In cocoons a hidden treasure, butterflies will soon be free.
In the cold and snow of winter there's a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
Who could imagine that a small pellet tinier than your fingernail has within it the growing powers to become a giant oak, or a beautiful rose, or a fresh tomato? The way of God blows my mind. It is more than I can comprehend.
Max Lucado writes, “The best thing we can do is to become good soil. Confession is the act of inviting God to walk the acreage of our hearts. There is a rock of greed over there, Father; I can't budge it and that tree of guilt near the fence, its roots are long and deep. And may I show you some dry soil, too crusty for seed? God's seeds grow better if the soil of the heart is cleared. "
So let our prayer be, “Plow me and till me and loosen up the hard places of my life that I may be receptive to the seed of your work and become capable of bearing much fruit. ”
Jesus said to his disciples, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish the work. You say four months more and then the harvest. I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are already ripe for harvest" (John 4:35).
So let us have ears that hear and hearts that understand and a will to embrace what the Lord wants us to hear and see and do. After all, the world has never been in greater need than right now, with international tensions, political tension in our own country, a pandemic that keeps getting worse, with so many deaths it’s hard to keep up with the statistics, joblessness and business failures everywhere, strife over race relations. The list goes on . . . The seeds from God’s profligate love and grace are being sown over all of us. I pray that Christ Church will continue to be a witness in this community to the love and grace of God.
Over the six years I have been your priest you have amazed me with your generosity and ability to respond to need, whether it be volunteering for community suppers or for the New to You Shop, or giving to the food pantry, or donating money to send our teenagers to camp, or marching in protest marches, or participating in the Pride Parade, or opening our doors to share our space to 16 12-Step group meetings a week!
All of it--seed that fell on good soil!
Right now in the midst of shut-downs everywhere Christ Church was blessed in being able to offer our excellent commercial kitchen to participate with the Columbia County Recovery Kitchen program that puts out up to 300 meals four days a week. Head Chef Jamie Parry is here with us this morning. Jamie, please stand let people recognize you. Seed that fell on good soil!
And to all of you who have been faithful over the years to serve on the Altar Guild, as lectors, greeters, choir members, lay Eucharistic ministers, Vestry, those who help with administrative, financial, and office responsibilities, coffee hour and banquet hosts, those who decorate the church for special occasions, the faithful Monday morning counters. Seed that fell on good soil!
You have been loving, supportive and generous to me personally with kind notes, cards, emails and phone calls, especially as I wind down my ministry among you. I have a treasure trove of Christmas gifts. Every time I see one of them I am reminded of God’s love poured out through you and your generosity of spirit. Seed that fell on good soil!
And to all of you, some I have never met, who are our Facebook congregation, I say, “Thank you for being part of the Christ Church family! Whether you know it or not, you encourage us.” One Sunday I was ranting about the injustices in our world, and one person wrote, “You rock, Mother Eileen.” Well, today I say to all of you on Facebook, “You rock, Facebook Brothers and Sisters! ”
Christ Church Family, the time that is before you can be a time of expectation, hope, and excitement, as your Vestry begins the search for a new Rector. Support them with your faithful daily prayers. Phillip will be giving you a report on what is happening in this regard.
I told Vestry yesterday in our last meeting together, that if ever there was a Vestry in this church that could be wise and fruitful in this process and do the job right, and lead Christ Church through this process, it is this Vestry. You have in your elected leaders an abundance of talent and giftedness and commitment. Be thankful! Be supportive! Not critical or impatient or finding fault. They are intelligent and committed, and I might add a bit trepidacious, but that, too, is good. Humility is a virtue that keeps us seeking God’s wisdom and power.
Friends, you are good soil! You have everything you need. You will forever be in my heart and mind and daily prayers. I look forward to hearing the news of a wonderful new Rector. And I pray that you will be loving and supportive of your new priest.
Trust the process, trust your leaders, and most of all trust in God’s profligate love and grace, generously scattered over Christ Church and her members. Much love and appreciation to all of you, my dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ! Amen
*Sermon resource: Christian Globe Networks, Inc., Faith Breaks, by J. Howard Olds.