Second Sunday after Pentecost
June 18, 2006
The Gospel: Mark 4:26-34
Sermon: "Seed and Sower"
The Rev. William D. Oldland
Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come." He also said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade." With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.
Seed and Sower
Second Sunday after Pentecost - June 18, 2006
South Island in Georgetown, SC is part of a wildlife refuge of the state. One of the practices of the island is to plant winter wheat and rye grass around the houses. These plantings are done for the deer. While they have tractors and plows, fertilizer spreaders and seed spreaders, some of the planting is done the old fashioned way. Some of the areas are too tight or root-filled for the tractors. So, they outfit a half-dozen workers with seed bags. They go across the shoulder with an opening at one end. Then they walk into these tight areas and start broad casting the seed. They reach into the bag and grab a handful of the seed and cast it out as they sweep their arm in front of them. The seed scatters into the newly plowed or hoed ground. When the work is done all of the ground around the houses has been planted. Everyone watches the ground to see the beginnings of the new shoots. The first sprout comes, then the stalk, and in time with good sun and rain, the seed. There is no watering by the workers. The watering and the sun is done strictly by God.
This story sounds a great deal like the reading this morning. The kingdom of God is like someone scattering seed and then God cares for it. Then when the harvest is ripe, the sickle is used to gather the grain. I would like to propose that we as Christians are both seeds and planters in the kingdom of God. I can already hear the question being asked, "How can we be both?"
First, let's take the seed. None of us is responsible for our own lives. Oh, we were born of our parents and they wanted children and all those things. But they didn't have any control over it being us. We are unique. We have certain looks. We have certain ways. We have abilities and gifts that are given to us in a peculiar mix. When we breathed in that first breath we began that remarkable journey called our lives. We have been nourished and we are growing into what we are, human. God has nourished us and ultimately we belong to God.
We might be uncomfortable with that thought. We like to believe that we are in control of our lives. We like to think we make our own decisions, but we don't. Lots of people make decisions that affect and influence our lives. The greatest one is God. After all who among us can make life happen by themselves. Who among us can add one more second to their personal life after that last breath is taken? There is something bigger than us.
Furthermore, that something, God, wants us to be all that we can. To that end we have been given our gifts and abilities to be the best we can. Using those gifts and abilities help us to grow and bloom and produce fruit. This fruit is the fruit of good works for God. All of this begins with us as seed; seed that is sown and nurtured by God.
We are also the sower. One of the greatest misconceptions we have is that faith is a private matter. No. Faith is not a private matter. While God plants seeds, God is not alone in this endeavor. Our gifts are to be used for the spread of God's kingdom. One of the gifts is our life. Everything about our life is a gift from God. Every breath we take, every move of our bodies is a gift. All of our abilities and talents are a gift. They are to be used to spread the Gospel. They are to be used to share the Good News of God in Christ.
Now, I know our culture says we shouldn't impose our beliefs on anyone. Our culture is hiding behind words. Yes, if we comer or trap somebody, then we are indeed imposing our belief on someone. If we stand on a street comer and tell someone that if they don't believe like we believe then they are going to Hell, then we have imposed our belief on them.
Yes, imposition is not seed planting. Imposition is coercion. The problem is we now see all aspects of sharing our gifts and abilities as imposing. We are hiding behind the word. If we hide behind the word, then we are not being faithful to our life in God.
Seed planting for us is telling the story. We have been given abilities and talents for the soul purposes of telling the story and our enjoyment. A musician makes beautiful music for everyone to enjoy. It should also remind them of the wonder and beauty of God. It is not that everything the musician plays is a hymn. It is the wonder and depth of the music. The sequences of the notes and the way in which it is played that reminds us of the depth and beauty of God. If someone greets people well, they make people feel safe and secure. In other words, they have the gift of hospitality. That gift is used to share the peace and love of God whether it is in a church, a business or a home.
We recently went to New York. I noticed two things. First of all, people on the street walked with a purpose. They did not glance much to the left or right. They did not talk to anyone passing by. Often they were alone or with one other person. As a couple of people they were pretty much involved with their own conversation. Yet, whenever I asked for directions, I was always treated hospitably. The person attempted to answer my question to the best of their ability. One guy almost missed his train. Another man was riding by and stopped simply because we looked lost. He was a New York tour guide. He was going home. He didn't even have to stop. He chose too. That's using a gift to help others.
While we were there, we also stopped at St. Paul's Episcopal Church. St. Paul's is less than half-a-block from Ground Zero. The church was protected from major damage due to the trees in the front graveyard. During the recovery efforts, St. Paul's opened its doors to the fife, police, rescue, and recovery squads. They prepared and fed between 2,500 and 3,000 meals a day. They opened the church as a sleeping and recovery area. The pews are marked with scratches and scuff marks of their boots and clothing. Members made cots for people for sleeping. Someone started a drive to get stuffed animals. Every person that came to the church to sleep was greeted with a hug, a meal, a cot, and a stuffed animal on their bed. Priests, therapist, massage therapists, and podiatrists gave of their times and talents to minister to the spiritual, mental and physical needs, of these workers. They didn't preach the Gospel at them with bullhorns. They didn't proclaim that the attack was God's vengeance on our society. They planted seeds of love and care, the love and care of God, by caring deeply and continually for these people.
Yes, we are seed planters. We have been called by God to share the love of God through our caring and compassionate words and actions. We have been commissioned by Christ to share God's love as Christ did. We are not to be imposers but compassionate, caring followers of Jesus who share the Gospel through our individual abilities.
Yes, we are both seed and sower in the kingdom of God. We are the seed that God planted and nurtures. We grow to share our abilities to tell others about the love of God we have experienced in Christ Jesus. Our sin would be not to use the abilities we have been given to share the incredible love of God. Our hope would be that as we use our abilities we cast light not on our selves, but point to the one who made us, loves and cares for us. I pray each of us will be faithful to God and grow into the fullness of God's kingdom as God made us. AMEN