Monday, July 21, 2014

God the Sower

Originally preached on July 13, 2014 at Btown Eucharist

Psalm 65
Romans 8:1-11
Matthew 13:1-9

"At about that same time Jesus left the house and sat on the beach. In no time at all a crowd gathered along the shoreline, forcing him to get into a boat. Using the boat as a pulpit, he addressed his congregation, telling stories.

“What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, the weeds strangled it. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.

Are you listening to this? Really listening?” (The Message)

In the Name of God, the one who scatters seeds of love across the entirety of the world as gifts for all people-kind, we seek to learn and grow. Amen.

Our Gospel reading today is likely familiar to many of you. You might have heard it multiple times in your childhood but there was likely an additional passage you always heard in combination with it. If you were to turn to this reading in Matthew and skip ahead a few verses you would hear an explanation of the parable Jesus gave. The Gospel of Matthew paints this as an explanation given by Jesus himself. However, many scholars now agree that this was added many years after Jesus no longer walked this earth. The passage attempts to describe this parable as a spiritual telling of those who accept the salvation message of Jesus (and the Church) and those who do not. A telling of those who receive the promise of God and therefore inherit eternal life and those who deny it, causing it to dry up, and therefore we can presume are no longer in God’s good graces. However, I believe, Jesus never gave that explanation. That was simply an attempt of the Matthean community trying to understand why some people accepted their message of the Christ and why others refused too. They had a hard time wrapping their heads around the idea that not everyone in the whole wide world would want to be a Christian like them. They also could not understand why some would convert only to later leave the faith. This parable of Jesus seemed to lend itself easily to their doctrinal and membership issues and so they made use of it.

I know it is traumatizing, week after week, I come up here and tell you a part of the Bible is based solely on a group of people wanting to enforce their ideals on others. But breathe deeply because we still have the authentic words of Jesus, which we heard just now in our Gospel passage. Jesus tells us a farmer planted seed…actually, the farmer scattered the seed. Some it fell on the road and birds ate it, some fell in gravel, some fell in weeds and it didn’t do to well. Finally, some fell on good earth and produced an incredible harvest! Jesus then says to us: “Are you listening to this? Really listening?”

If we allow ourselves to leave behind the explanations of heaven and hell, eternal security and damnation in this parable, we have to pause and ask ourselves, “Are we really listening and what is Jesus saying to us?” Well, Jesus is telling us a beautiful story about God’s love. Jesus was fond of telling stories to explain the love of God. God is the farmer and God spreads seeds of love, seeds of promise and seeds of hope. This may bring up another question, if we are bold enough to ask it. Why is the farmer, why is God, scattering seeds where God knows they will not take root, places where they will wither and die, places where there is no soil which God’s gifts can be cultivated in and bear fruit? The answer is simple: God does not choose who receives her love. God does not choose who is allowed to experience his goodness, grace and mercy. God simply pours it forth upon the entirety of the world. This might make God a bad farmer, but it makes God an amazing and generous lover of all people kind.

However, we know from the parable that not all easily receive this love. For some the love of God comes but they are so wounded by religion and life’s traumas that they are able to only experience it for a moment. Then they draw back up into themselves, fearful of further pain and trauma. For other’s they have been so “hardened,” so forced in a box by their families and communities, they are unable to even consider the possibility God loves them. And so when that seed comes they put their arms up and reflect it and it seems as if it is snatched away. Others experience the seeds of God’s love but then people around them seek to destroy it, as weeds choking out a beautiful flower. Life is not easy and oftentimes people are simply unable to know or experience God’s love even though it is scattered to each of them.

Now if we find ourselves beginning to judge the state of salvation of others or how God sees these wounded individuals who are unable to fully experience the love of God, we must turn to our Psalm of the day. There was a verse found in the Psalm that is truly life giving and full of hope and promise. You likely would have missed it, if we had not used it as our responsorial. It says: “We ALL arrive at your doorstep sooner or later, loaded with guilt, our sins too much for us, but you get rid of them once and for all.” Notice that tiny little three letter word hiding in there…ALL! We all will arrive at God’s doorstep sooner or later, we will arrive with our guilt, our pain, our wounds, our sins and our fear of love. Then God will get rid of ALL that ails us and granting healing. How I love that word, ALL! You see God is not the typical farmer that curses a field that doesn’t bear fruit.  God is not the farmer that looks at a failing stalk of corn and vengefully destroys it. Rather, God waits patiently knowing sooner or later everyone will arrive at the doorstep and in that beautiful and sacred moment, in this life or the next, all will be forgiven and all will finally be able to receive that perfect love. It is a love that casts out all negative emotions and experiences. Yes, we all will arrive at God’s doorstep.

We who consider ourselves to be a people of faith, a people who have experienced the love of God, are called to be cultivators, or growers, of the gifts of God. We are a people who have moved from death to life, as Paul explained in our Epistle reading, just as Jesus experienced. God truly lives within us! Therefore, we are called to be nurturers of the seeds of God. We are called to cultivate and to bear God’s fruits of love, peace, patience, kindness and goodness. We do this in order to cultivate those around us - that they too may receive God’s life. Many of those who, so far in life, have watched the seeds of God fall to the side, or take up root only temporarily, need the gifts of God that are within us. They need you and I to offer them a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, a gentle word or a hug. They need us to offer the hope that seems impossible. A hope they are not ready to receive from some invisible cosmic far-off force but they are willing and hungry and thirsty to receive it from a neighbor or a friend on the street. We rest in the knowledge that sooner or later all will arrive at God’s doorstep - this is promised. But as a people of faith we are called to bring forth the Kingdom, or if you will Queendom, of God in this world right now, in our time and in our communities.

Jesus asks us today: “Are you listening to this? Really listening?” What will you do with the seeds of God given to you? Will you cultivate them and then offer those gifts as God does…extravagantly without regard to where they fall? Jesus is not telling us today who will go to heaven and who will go to hell. Jesus is telling us to be aware of the pain and woundedness that surround us. To allow ourselves to become a light, to become the giving farmer, in the midst of it all and for all.

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