18 Jul Abundance
Abundance – July 16th, 2017
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
106 I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,
to observe your righteous ordinances.
107 I am severely afflicted;
give me life, O LORD, according to your word.
108 Accept my offerings of praise, O LORD,
and teach me your ordinances.
109 I hold my life in my hand continually,
but I do not forget your law.
110 The wicked have laid a snare for me,
but I do not stray from your precepts.
111 Your decrees are my heritage forever;
they are the joy of my heart.
112 I incline my heart to perform your statutes
forever, to the end.
Gospel Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9Let anyone with ears listen!”
Jesus is telling a story, and it starts out simply enough. It doesn’t have the same gravitas of, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”, “Call me Ishmael”, “All this happened, more or less.”
This story has a short opening:
- A sower went out to sow.
- A baker went out to bake.
- A singer went out to sing.
- A teacher to teach…A preacher to preach.
A worker is going to live out his/her identity. It’s a pretty simple premise, and it reminds us Jesus didn’t need 10 dollar words and lengthy metaphors to make his point. He talked about what was around him and his audience. They understood the characters.
There are few guarantees in life (I’m tempted to say “no”, but we’ll get to that later.)
- A baker might have problems with the yeast, the altitude, or the oven.
- A singers notes may fall flat, the acoustics might be bad, the audience…unresponsive.
- A preacher might not know the congregation or the Word. She might come to the text with an agenda to prove a personal point or scratch an individual itch. Instead of letting the Bible speak in new, fresh, creative, comforting, and challenging ways, the preacher might insist on taking the wheel.
All these people have a job to do – all are filled with some kind of hope – will I break even? Will there be a return on my investment of time, talent, or treasure? Will I have success?
A sower went out to sow with a handful of seeds, not knowing what the fickle future holds…There’s always the danger of disease, droughts, and dust bowls. There could be floods and famines, trauma and transition.
A sower went out to sow – his overflowing bag carries the future – endless possibilities and potential ruin mingled together in the same satchel. With so much on the line, we wouldn’t think less of him if he held on to each singular seed with the white knuckled grip of an old mixer clutching a bag of money.
But, that’s not what we see or what we see of what we get from the text, is it?
The sower seems as reckless as a child with a pocket full of quarters in a candy store or a sophomoric student on Twitter. There’s no holding back.
Of course, we know a full bag of seed does not guarantee an abundant harvest.
1 Kings 20:11 – “The king of Israel answered, ‘Tell him: One who puts on armour should not brag like one who takes it off.’”
It is one thing to plant, but it is something else entirely to reap, and this character is getting it everywhere… I imagine a wise grandparent (unsolicited) advice – reckless behavior leads to wrecked lives – slow and steady wins the race (tortoise and hare kind of stuff.) Measure twice and cut once. The sower pays no heed.
He gets it everywhere.
- Path – takes no root and snatched away.
- Shallow Soil – comes up quickly, but it has no deep root.
- Thorns – choke the plant.
He’s doesn’t appear to be a very good farmer, but there is still more seed to be cast.
“I love the recklessness of faith. First you leap, and then you grow wings.”
– William Sloane Coffin
It’s tempting to think the Sower is God, but we need to slow our roll a little bit with this. The God revealed in Scripture is a God of order. From creation, covenant, and even the cross… There’s a plan in all of it, and the seed is flying everywhere…the four corners of the field. Some seeds fall on the rich soil and the yield is unbelievable.
Abundant Hope leads to an Abundant Yield. The hardest thing about this (no matter if you are a farmer, a singer, or a preacher) – it’s not in your hands. It’s out of your control.
I don’t know how final Sundays are supposed to feel for a church (or really a pastor). I’ve had a few experiences with this, but I would never claim to/or hope to be an expert.
In the pastoral letter (some of you received), I mentioned the passage from Corinthians – good church folks are arguing amongst themselves. Some say they belong to Paul, Apollos, and others. Paul is having none of it, and he reminds the church, “One plants, another waters, but it is God who gives growth.”
This congregation at 6th and Pearl isn’t Dave’s church. It’s not your church…or even THE Presbyterian Church. It is and has always been Christ’s Church…a place where the sower spreads the seeds of “Good News” recklessly – abundantly – desiring nothing more than for it to take a deep root in you (all). He casts grace relentlessly…desiring everyone to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). He’s going to keep knocking at the door. He’s going to keep casting seed.
18“Hear then the parable of the sower. 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
- I know some folks won’t listen.
- I know some folks are filled with short term exuberance for the faith, but they lack depth when deeper problems arise.
- I know there are folks who want to grow and breathe deeply in this unique hope, but they are filled with worry, doubt, anxiety, and temptation.
Abundance comes not in hearing the Word of God – but in how we understand and respond to God’s Word. We worship a God of reckless generosity
May we see the open hands of
…the sower in the field….
…our Savior on the cross….
…our Lord in the world…
Hands may be closed in prayer, but then they need to be opened to each other… May your soil be deep, your hope rich, and your confidence high.
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.