Sunday, July 12, 2020

6th Sunday after Pentecost

Let’s start with three deep breaths and relax….

Opening Reflection
Psalm 119:105-112 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

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.

let us begin today’s worship


L: We are like seeds on the wind,
set free by the Sower.
P: The hand of God saves us
from the rocky pathways
and the thorny ground.
L: In Christ we find good soil.
P: The Holy Spirit nourishes us as we grow.
L: Come! Let us worship the Sower,
Who plants us in fields of life.

For the Healing of the Nations #576

(All candles lit.)

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23(NRSV)
   The Parable of the Sower
13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6 But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 Let anyone with ears listen!”
The Parable of the Sower Explained
18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 When 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. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet 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.[a] 22 As 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. 23 But 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.”

The word of God for the people of God!

Sermon           The parable of the Soil

“Let anyone with ears listen!” Pay attention! Listen up! No matter how it is said Jesus is saying this first part of today’s Gospel is for everyone. Everyone…even those who need help or alternative ways of understanding the message!

If I were to say anyone with ears listen…how many hearts would I harden? In this blessed age we now know there are many paths to comprehension that do not involve hearing.  There are many different ways to come to an understanding besides talking at someone…

There are many paths to encountering God.

The reading today is often called the parable of the sower or the sower and the seed.  Funny thing is, at least to me, the sower tosses the seed where ever it may land.  The seed, we assume, is all the same seed. So what makes the difference.

The Soil!

Professor emeritus Holly Hearon puts it this way;
“As every gardener knows, it’s all about the soil. Without good soil, worked with compost, seeds cannot flourish.
So it is, also, in the parable of the sower.
  • The seed that lands where the soil has become hardened from being repeatedly walked on simply sits on the surface, waiting to become food for the birds.
  • The seed that falls on rocky soil has difficulty taking root because the soil inhibits the growth of roots, necessary for plants to access the nutrients in the soil.
  • The seed that falls on ground covered in thorns must compete with already well-established, invasive plants and stands little chance.
  • But the seed that falls on the soil that has been prepared, turned over and loosened until it is fine, replenished with nutrients from the decaying matter of leaves, thrives.
So, while the parable of the sower appears to be about the seed, I suggest (because I am a gardener) that it is really about the soil. This means that the parable is really about us—those who hear the "word of the kingdom" (or "kindom" for those who seek less kyriarchal language). We are the soil.”[1]

Oops she threw in a big word but not to distract but to emphasize. kyriarchy- “A system of "ruling and oppression" in which many people may interact and act as oppressor or oppressed.”[2] In other words we use kindom as opposed to kingdom because kingdom Is imperialistic language which is not what Gods’ heaven on earth dream is about.

So the parable is about soil, about us…what kind of soil are we… The explanation of the parable, shifts the listener because Jesus is speaking directly to the disciples, to Jesus’ followers. That would include us here and now.

The reason for the explanation of the parable is to; “take the mystery of hearing the Gospel out of the arena of speculation and to make it an existential issue. ( i.e., that is  to make it a part of our very existence) As hearers, the disciples are not allowed the luxury of arm chair quarterbacking, of deliberating over someone else’s positive or negative response as to who gets the credit or the blame. The text bluntly asks: how do you hear? What type of soil are you? Does your hearing lead to understanding?”[3]

“Soil, like human beings, is shaped by its environment. So, if soil is walked on over and over again, beaten down so that it becomes packed hard, it is no longer fit for the planting of seeds. We see this in the human community too. People who have been walked on over, and over, and over again, often develop a hardened exterior to protect themselves. Rocky soil, says Jesus, describes those who lack the staying power to deal with—well, rocky ground. When the going gets rough, they go into retreat. The soil filled with thorns easily translates into our overcrowded lives; there is no room in an already overplanted plot for anything more, even with double-digging the beds.

And the good soil? It would be nice if it were as simple as buying a bag of ‘good soil’ at the gardening center. A gardener will tell you, however, that good soil takes years to cultivate. It must be fed, nurtured by the remains of plants that have come and gone. It must be worked and reworked so that it becomes supple, but not worked so hard that its structure is broken down. And it must be replenished, as seeds grow and draw on its nutrients. Good soil can develop in nature, as years of leaves fall and dissolve into the earth. Good soil can also be the work of gardeners, who tend the soil as carefully as they tend the plants.”[4]

There is a thought process that is shared by many that would suggest we must blame the world around us.  That there are people that, because of what they have experienced, will never grow in Christ.  It also sounds like maybe we shouldn’t even try.  Preach the word , walk away and let the seed take its course. But really, aren’t we called to do more than that?

Professor Elisabeth Johnson walks the same path of questioning I find myself walking…

“Jesus' clear explanation of what each element in the parable represents would seem to leave little work for the preacher. But the interpretation also raises some troubling questions. For instance, who qualifies as "good soil"? Since soil cannot change itself, is there any hope for the hardened, rocky, and thorny soil? Are these destined to be unproductive forever?
One can find examples of each kind of response to the word in Matthew's Gospel. There are many in Matthew's story who "hear the word of the kingdom and do not understand" (3:19), including the religious leaders who are antagonistic to Jesus' ministry from the beginning. The crowds respond positively to Jesus, especially to his miracles of healing (9:8; 15:31; 21:8-9), yet turn against Jesus at the end and demand his crucifixion (27:15-23), leaving us to wonder whether they ever truly understood.

The disciples themselves might be included among those who fall away ‘when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word’ (3:21; cf. 26:56b, 69-75). And the rich young man unable to part with his possessions (19:16-22) provides a stunning example of ‘one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing’ (3:22).

What about the good soil? Who are those ‘who hear the word and understand it, who indeed bear fruit’ and yield an abundant harvest (13:23)? In Matthew's story it seems they are the least likely ones. Jesus tells the chief priests and elders, ‘the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you’ (21:31-32). In the parable of the sheep and the goats, the righteous bear fruit by serving the ‘least of these,’ and even they are surprised to find that they have been serving Jesus (25:34-40).

What about the disciples? Will they ever bear fruit? After telling several more parables, Jesus asks them, ‘Have you understood all this?’ They confidently answer, ‘Yes’ (13:51). Yet subsequent events will reveal how little they truly understand (16:21-23; 20:20-28) and how quickly they will desert Jesus to save their own skins (26:56b, 69-75).”[5]

Yikes is all hope lost? The pastor asks rhetorically!

We all have a responsibility to tend to ourselves and tend to those around us. We are called to be gardeners not just sowers. If we tend to those we reach out too. If we nurture and feed and care for seeds sown, even in the most rocky of soils, it can thrive.

“if we are honest with ourselves, we can probably find evidence of several kinds of soil in our lives and in our congregations on any given day. It is noteworthy that Jesus does not use the parable to exhort hearers to ‘be good soil,’ as though we could make that happen. If there is any hope for the unproductive soil, it is that the sower keeps sowing generously, extravagantly, even in the least promising places. Jesus' investment in his disciples shows that he simply will not give up on them, in spite of their many failings. We trust that he will not give up on us either, but will keep working on whatever is hardened, rocky, or thorny within and among us. We trust in his promise to be with us to the end of the age.”[6]

We hear the lament in the psalm , the lament of our humanity, the lament of our soil. God’s own word lights the way on which we should traverse and we know it and yet, so often, we are “afflicted” as the psalmist states.  The psalmist also recognizes we are responsible for ourselves. “I hold my life in my hand” yet we must incline our hearts to “perform your statutes.”

Can you hear why this psalm is associated with this days readings?

We have been given a gift of free will.  That is accompanied by a world of free will that , at times, molds us and shapes us, if we allow it too. Yet if we keep our faith.  If we practice to keeps Gods love and law on our hearts…there is a light for our journey here.

The challenge then comes if we allow our hearts and minds to soften and hear the loving words of welcome, hospitality, care for the marginalize and the least among us.  If we truly hear, comprehend, understand, then our own soil is enriched.

“Those included within the circle of followers are face to face with their own quality of hearing. There is no place for smugness. Rather than judging the reactions of others, the disciples are forced to examine their own responsiveness to the gospel and whether or not they have exhibited the staying power that eventuates in a fruitful harvest.”[7]

“As those entrusted with Jesus' mission today, we might consider the implications of this parable for how we engage in mission. Too often we play it safe, sowing the word only where we are confident it will be well received, and only where those who receive it are likely to become contributing members of our congregations. In the name of stewardship, we hold tightly to our resources, wanting to make sure that nothing is wasted. We stifle creativity and energy for mission, resisting new ideas for fear they might not work -- as though mistakes or failure were to be avoided at all costs.

Jesus' approach to mission is quite at odds with our play-it-safe instincts. He gives us freedom to take risks for the sake of the gospel. He endorses extravagant generosity in sowing the word, even in perilous places. Though we may wonder about the wisdom or efficiency of his methods, Jesus promises that the end result will be a bumper crop.”[8]

A bumper crop!  Now that is an interesting aspect of this parable.  Though we may have to question of just how we hear the gospel, while we must ask what kind of soil are we?

“The kin(g)dom of heaven, says Matthew, belongs to the poor in spirit and the persecuted (Matthew 5:3,10), it is governed by humility (18:3; 19:140) and demonstrated in righteousness (5:10, 19-20; 6:33), which is to do the will of God (7:21). As we ponder the parable of the sower, this invites us to reflect on a number of questions:
  • What does it mean to be good soil, prepared to receive the word of the kingdom?
  • How do we assess what kind of shape our soil is in?
  • What would we need to do for the seed to be able to take root in our bodies and souls?
  • How will we know if this is happening?
  • And how might we nurture good soil in those around us?
While we set about cultivating good soil, we are not without hope.”[9] 
“there is nevertheless assurance about the ultimate outcome of sowing the word. The final scene is a picture not of the birds’ snatching away the seed sown on the path nor of the rootless plants on the rocky ground wilting in the blistering heat, nor of the spindly stalks crowded out by the weeds, but of a full and bountiful harvest.”[10]  According to Walter Bruggeman “historians suggest that a seven-to-ten-fold harvest would have been considered average. Here the talk is of a thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and even a hundredfold harvest… To the original disciples, who were so few among so many and Mathew’s community, dwarfed by its surroundings, the final scene engenders great confidence in God’s purposes. Though the numbers are small, the opposition painful, and the rejections many , the remarkable size of the harvest is a reminder of God’s blessings, the assurance of a grand and glorious conclusion.”[11]

So we are called to keep sowing the Word of God. Even if in these times it’s just a catchy phrase on a sign in front of our community house. Keep practicing our faith and cultivating our own souls as we reach out to others.  The work on ourselves is not easy.  The work we do to reach out and serve others, at times, feels impossible. Yet it is possible as we are reaching people from far outside our small community here.  We are reaching our own neighbors and community with food and a smile and a wave. And so… We keep to the path, We keep up the work, for in the end we will be rewarded not just for ourselves, but the world.


A call to prayer

Pandemic by Lynn Ungar

What if you thought of it
as the Jews consider the Sabbath—
the most sacred of times?
Cease from travel.
Cease from buying and selling.
Give up, just for now,
on trying to make the world
different than it is.
Sing. Pray. Touch only those
to whom you commit your life.
Center down.

And when your body has become still,
reach out with your heart.
Know that we are connected
in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.
(You could hardly deny it now.)
Know that our lives
are in one another’s hands.
(Surely, that has come clear.)
Do not reach out your hands.
Reach out your heart.
Reach out your words.
Reach out all the tendrils
of compassion that move, invisibly,
where we cannot touch.

Promise this world your love–
for better or for worse,
in sickness and in health,
so long as we all shall live.

–Lynn Ungar 3/11/20[12]

In God we dwell secure.
God is a lamp to our feet
And a light to our path.
Come, let us offer our prayers and petitions
To the one who brings joy to our hearts and healing to our wounds.

Please write your joys and concerns in the comment section and I will lift them up after this hymn

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet. #184 (Celebration Hymnal)

Let us pray the prayer Jesus taught us

Our Creator, who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kin-dom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For Thine is the kin-dom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen

Invitation to the Offering

Like a field is ready for harvest, our lives bear the marks of God’s love and care.
May we, who bear the fruit of God’s labor,
Rejoice as people who have been blessed with a bounty not of our making.
With love and thanksgiving, let us bring our offerings to those in need.

Offering Prayer

Master Gardener, as you have sown our lives in a rich and fertile soil,
May we bear much fruit through our giving.
With these offerings, may your realm be brought to earth, as we plant hope in the fields of life.
Bless our gifts and our ministry, that the world may reap a harvest of generosity and love. Amen.

The office is open for regular hours
We are accepting donations for the kidz cupboard and the food pantry

I am available for one on one virtual visits or phone calls if you need any prayer we will be together again one day, but until then remember you are the hands and the feet of our lord in this world and in this world of no physical contact we can still smile, wave, chat, check in

In the Bulb There is a Flower #433

Benediction/sending forth
Lord, we have listened to your word for us this day. You have planted us in the fertile ground of your  Church. Let us continue to express our gratitude for the love that grows within our fellowship by offering our love and care to the world around us. Go forth with Joy to serve God. AMEN.

Just a note Bible study is on summer leave…

[3] Brueggemann, Walter, and Charles B. Cousar. Texts for Preaching: a Lectionary Commentary, Based on the NRSV. Westminster John Knox Press, 1998.

[6] Ditto
[7] Brueggemann, Walter, and Charles B. Cousar. Texts for Preaching: a Lectionary Commentary, Based on the NRSV. Westminster John Knox Press, 1998.

[10] Brueggemann, Walter, and Charles B. Cousar. Texts for Preaching: a Lectionary Commentary, Based on the NRSV. Westminster John Knox Press, 1998.

[11] Ditto

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