The Rev. Deacon Jennifer Webster
Sunday, July 16, 2017
All Saints' Church
Almighty God, Your Word is cast like seed upon the ground (Hymn 589)
Quite a fitting opening for today’s message! The Sermon is always being written.
The Parable of the Sower is one of my favorite Gospel narratives. It reminds me of growing up in the tropics and my experiences with sowing and reaping. As you may know, tropical climates provide endless, year round opportunities for sowing and reaping. This type of climate is “frost free with temperatures high enough to support year-round plant growth given sufficient moisture.” God makes the soil always ready! (so to speak).
Sometimes the need for sowing seeds is necessary to produce our food. Sometimes sowing seeds and planting flowers is simply for the heart-felt joy of working with nature to produce flowers and plants which we then can use to beautify our homes, our environment and to share with others; to help them enjoy one of nature’s most beautiful gifts. Again, sometimes sowing seeds just happens when one would toss seeds to the ground after enjoying its fruit, only to realize some time later that it did “fall on good ground” on seeing signs of new growth and new produce for reaping. The papaya is one such example. On occasion seeds also provide for youthful, carefree enjoyment when large seeds substitute for a ball normally used for any kind of ball game. The mango seed comes to mind when I think of this, and other fruit with native-sounding names. And quite vivid is the memory of seeds causing damage to someone’s property when the “seed-ball” did unintentionally go astray during the sport, and the sound of shattering glass windows causing us heartache!!!
I found out through sharing in these kinds of early experiences, even before the influence of formal education, that there is miraculous and life producing power inherent in seeds. God has made so many seeds, all kinds of seeds! I think fascination with seeds is common among us children. And I dare to believe that we, you and I, God’s children, never lose this fascination about seeds, sowing, reaping and much of nature. God implants this love of nature and creation within us!
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is using this Parable of the Sower to teach His followers about “the coming Kingdom of God.” Jesus also says in the Gospel according to Luke: the Kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21). From this comes the understanding that the Kingdom of God is within you and me as a faith seed. On hearing God’s Word this seed is nurtured. The seed of faith grows and grows eventually producing works that enable God’s Kingdom to come, to come to earth. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17)
One Bible commentary points to the idea that “the Kingdom of God comes first to us through introspection activated by faith”. With this belief and motivation you and I do the works to establish God’s Kingdom of righteousness here on earth.
But the process of growing our faith and being moved or motivated to do this work doesn’t come swiftly or easily. From the earliest beginnings of our faith journey, each time you and I hear God’s Word, the outcome, as in what we hear and understand and react to or intend to produce, the outcome can be compared to the falling of the seeds. Sometimes we receive God’s Word but fail to act in faith. The “Seed” hasn’t yet fallen on good soil. Our faith has not matured enough. God patiently sows again! Sometimes we receive God’s Word with joy and for a short while believe it. Soon doubt and life’s distractions come to steal our joy. And we feel that we’re back to where we started. The “Seed” hasn’t yet fallen on good ground. Our faith is still not mature enough. God patiently sows again! By faith we persist. The good news is our faith develops over time, like seeds develop over time. God keeps sowing His Word in us until our faith is mature enough to produce the good works for the Kingdom to come to earth. God wants an earth Kingdom of peace, and love, and prosperity and goodness for us. And I’m quite sure we do too.
Time does not permit, but if we had time to share testimonies, I sense we would hear stories that bear witness to the interpretation of today’s Parable; stories of persistent faith leading to the path of resilience; stories of persistent faith and its ability to overcome doubt; stories of persistent faith challenging the tendency to succumb to life’s difficulties. We may not have time to share, but our very presence here today is the living testimony. At the core of our being where God plants that tiny seed of faith, it’s already filled with properties for miraculous growth and life-producing power. God knows. And God keeps sowing sowing until some seeds, God’s Word, fall on good ground, an understanding heart, a spirit-filled mind. God is patient. God is loving. God has great expectations of us. God implants the seed of faith within us and by His Word, gives us the all we need to bring about His Kingdom. You and I do our part in keeping the faith by positioning ourselves to hear God’s Word. Our faith grows. Our understanding grows. Our ability to see, through the eyes of faith, grows. Eventually the soil of our mind becomes enriched, fertile, and ready as good ground for God’s Word to produce good works in each of us. We are seeds of faith individually and collectively. Together we are a community of faith, a collection of seeds.
I think of this Parable as it relates to All Saints, our church home. We are about to celebrate 150 years of God, the Sower, at work, within this parish and all around its community. I envision All Saints as one of God’s beautiful community gardens planted here in Park Slope. (For me) and I hope for you, it creates such beautiful imagery! I dare to believe, through the eyes of faith, that in the same manner, different sets of seeds did fall in different places over the years. Then I envision God, in His Great faithfulness sowing without ceasing; bringing All Saints to fruitfulness; sustaining All Saints by seeds of faith, people of faith.
Without questioning faith believed then and faith believes now; faith built then and by faith will continue to build now; faith bequeathed then (we are the beneficiaries) and will bequeath now, prayerfully and with God’s good intentions for the future. There’s a popular saying, the years behind us. God’s good before us! 150 years behind us; all of God’s good before us!
My childhood understanding of the miraculous and life-producing power inherent in seeds (from Creation) still serves me well. I believe the same miraculous and life producing power will continue to produce fruitful kingdom building works here on earth, in and through us: God’s Kingdom on earth that is one of peace, justice, equity, and unconditional love. May you and I continue to be encouraged even when the seeds do not fall where they should, knowing that God keeps sowing. May we continue to water the soil, our minds, with patience, hope, mutual understanding, hospitality and the likes to continue producing good fruit/good works for God’s glory and the greater good. It is most likely that we too will keep harvesting more and more seeds in our brothers and sisters who are still seeking, but are yet to “fall on good ground.” Are yet to find a church home where they can hear God’s Word, activate their faith, and produce good works for God’s Kingdom and the greater good for all of us. God’s reminds us in His Word: For as the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth; making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower, and bread to the eater; so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in doing the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10 & 11)Thus says the Lord! His intent is for the Kingdom to come to earth through you and me.
Dear Father, continue to encourage us by your Word; empower us to keep on growing our faith, so that Your Kindgom will indeed, and soon, come to be – on earth as it is in heaven. AMEN.