Rev. Estelle Margarones
Isaiah 55:10-11 Matthew 13:1-9 & 18-23
There are some among us who are getting ready to make the annual trek to the garden nursery or the big box store to pick up annuals for planting in flower beds, window boxes and decorative patio pots. There may even be some among us who are already tending little seedlings near a sunny window.
The first time I planted something, I was about four years old, using a tiny little index finger to push a seed into the soil inside of a paper cup. Just far enough down, but not too far! Then, there was the waiting and the watering and the waiting. Weeks later, I was rewarded with golden marigolds.
We spoke last week about consciously considering our bodies as temples to God. That is, intentionally using our thoughts, speech, and action to glorify God. How you think, speak, and act matters. As you sow, so shall you reap.
In 1990, I lived just outside of Brighton. It wasn't far from Coolidge Corner in Brookline, so that's where I went one Saturday morning, for an eye appointment. I went to an eye glass store that had opticians on staff.
While I was waiting for my appointment, I observed an elderly man come in and ask for help. He'd lost his glasses and he wanted to replace them. He lived across the street and he was sure that he'd purchased his glasses at this store. I heard him give his name and address, but they couldn't find his record.
I heard the representative say that without his file, they couldn't help. What I observed is that they wouldn't help him.
After my appointment, I went home and burst into tears. I remember telling a friend, “I wish there was something I could have done.” My friend said, “You still can. Call him.” My friend and I decided that we would take that elderly gentleman to get his glasses replaced and that we'd pay for them if need be.
I found a place that would take the appointment later that same day and then I called the man from the store. I introduced myself as someone who had been in the store that day and offered to help him.
I guess my sincerity and his very real need prompted him to accept my offer to pick him up and take him to another eye doctor.
I remember that the eye doctor asked about “the program”. I didn't understand. He clarified that he wanted to know “what organization makes arrangements like this?” (What group has an investment in eye care?) When I told him that I just happened to witness an unmet need, he looked at me strangely. That look spoke volumes. (Who just gets involved in another's struggle? What would possess you to call a stranger and offer to help? Why would he trust us enough to get in the car with us? And how could we possibly consider paying for this man's visit and glasses?)
In the parable Jesus told, the sower goes out to sow. Heis being intentional about what he is doing. He has a plan to scatter seeds, broadly, in order to grow more of what he has.
He begins on a path and though he doesn't intentionally sow seeds on that path, some fall there. Might this mean that our actions, as unintentional as they may be, could have ramifications? Others do observe our behavior.
The seeds he drops along the path don't grow. They are useful to feed the birds. Could it be that the “established path” is not fertile ground for what this sower is sowing?
Jesus explains this as hearing the word and not understanding it, thus not being able to apply it.
There were also seeds that fell on rocky ground. It's not that they didn't grow, but because their roots weren't deep, they got burned by the sun. Is this rocky ground our culture today? We send quick emails and texts rather than make calls and have personal conversations. Is our communication all shallow or are our relationships strong and rooted?
Jesus explains this as hearing the word of God and understanding it and living a spiritual life...for a while...until it becomes hard to do. Maybe someone you know gave up something for Lent...and then it got hard to live without the coffee or credit card or that person was having a bad day and “needed” that candy bar.
Implicit in sowing the seeds that bear fruit in our lives is that seeds have potential, but they need attention. You need to deliberately cultivate what you want. A spiritual life requires attention. You take care of your body by exercising...and you need to keep your spiritual body in shape by staying connected to God so make time for spiritual practices everyday. If your body is a temple to God, that connection to God resides within.
If the plant had deep roots in good soil, it would have endured even though it was burned by the sun. When we occasionally get burned by something or someone in life, our sense of connection with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit helps us to survive and rebound. The more grounded we are, the faster we recover.
In the parable, there were also seeds that grew amid the thorns. It's not that they didn't grow, but that other things grew in that garden, too. Ideas are seeds and we plant them everyday, but when our thoughts are scattered and our focus is fleeting, we are cultivating a lot of things in that garden...and not all of it is beneficial to us. When we turn our attention to things like money, status, and power; we can crowd out or choke the tender shoots of a spiritual nature.
Jesus describes the seeds with the thorns in this way: it's like a person hearing the word of God, but that same person gets so caught up in worldly concerns that energy is diverted from the plant and it fails to grow.
Fortunately, we have the seeds that fell in good soil. They're the ones that brought forth grain. The crops were all different sizes, but all far more than the seed itself. These seeds (or ideas) came to fruition and produced something. The potential for growth was present in all the seeds, but only the ones planted in good soil yielded something that was beneficial to the sower and to others.
Jesus says that the seed that fell in good soil is the person who hears the word of God, understands it, and applies it to the realization of a large gain.
And so it is that as you sow, so shall you reap.
Ten years ago, I moved to California. My brother-in-law made the cross-country drive with me. He's a truck driver and he's used to driving all day. He's also very handy, so I felt that we got into any trouble along the way, he'd be able to get us back on our way. We drove about 14 hours a day. (Well, truth be told, he drove about 10 hours, I drove about 4.)
A couple of days into the trip, after a long day of driving, we stopped for dinner. Ben was showing me his special glasses. They were some sort of flexible metal, he explained, and when you twisted the sides, they didn't break. He bent the frames to illustrate his point...only instead of retaining their shape, they snapped. Right in half--over the bridge of the nose. He duct taped them together as best as he could.
The next day was Sunday and we went to several mall eye places, none of which could help us. Early Monday morning, we found an eye doctor and explained the situation. Rather than try to sell us frames; he went to a donation box, found a similar shaped frame, popped Ben's lenses in and sent us on our way...all at no charge. That optician's kindness helped us continue on our three thousand mile journey, safely, with peace of mind, and without an excessive unexpected expense.
Until I was moved to write this sermon, I never considered the possibility that I had reaped the benefit of the seeds of compassion and the seeds of kindness that were planted some 20 odd years ago in Brookline.
Now, imagine with me, that instead of a four year old planting seeds in paper cups, Jesus is the sower, planting the seeds of his ministry.
There were those on the established path who heard him, but didn't understand. There were those very influenced by the culture. They heard Jesus and understood his message. They wore their crosses for a little while and then they stopped. Instead of being deeply rooted in Christianity, they were rooted in current culture and they simply went on to follow fads.
People of God, we can be the good soil. When we are grounded in God, when our faith has deep roots, and when we hear, understand, and apply the word of God; our lives will bear a fruitful harvest of more compassion, kindness, peace, and love.
Finally, let us remember that Jesus said he would rise up and gather all people to him. Jesus, the Sower, will reap the final harvest. Blessed be and Amen.