Sermon by The Reverend Christian Baron, Co-Rector, July 16, 2017, Pentecost 6, Proper 10, Year A, Matthew 13:1-9,18-23
“When anyone hears the word of the kingdom…”
In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Good morning. I have always been fascinated by things that are rotting. When I was young, maybe 8, I remember taking a plastic wheelbarrow out to the tiny street we lived on.
I was so excited because I and my friend Sasha found a rabbit that had been killed by a car. I was sad and mesmerized.
I scooped it up and brought it to my mom to show her… I mostly did it because I was interested in rot… in things that were rotting.
I also started playing football at age 8… the same age as when I found that rabbit… I went to the same school for 13 years, K-12, in the same building… in Allendale.
The school had an old gravel track. It wasn’t good for much except for collecting puddles and letting football players run laps.
The track circled the football field and on the northern side of the track, there were woods.
It was the closest place for the janitors at school to discard the grass clippings for the school.
Every time I’d run around the north side of that track I would hold my breath and run as fast as I could because I hated the smell of rotting grass. But I was still fascinated by the rotting. Why did it smell so bad?
I can still smell that smell.
Fast forward a few years, quite a few years, after Jodi and I were married and we bought our second house in Grand Rapids. It was on the west side.
Lots of crime… lots of poverty… lots of memories…
But as part of the house, we built as big of a garden as we could.
We got chickens… it was a big deal because, at that time, chickens were not allowed in the city… our first little experiment with civil disobedience.
So we had a garden and chickens… and decided to put the chicken waste to good use by building a compost pile.
I was fascinated.
The idea of turning my food waste and the chicken waste into new food was intriguing to me. Compost was such an exciting adventure. My good friend Jay bought me a book entitled, “Let it Rot.”
It is a good book.
It gives tips on helping compost to rot efficiently.
How to get compost to turn into good soil.
But the book is clear, that even if you do nothing… organic material will eventually rot and turn to soil.
I’m fascinated by things that rot.
I’m fascinated that the natural order does the work. That nothing is wasted… ever.
That, when a seed is introduced to the soil, that food grows out of the ground. It’s amazing.
This sermon illustration wasn’t one of those subtle stories that connect to the gospel, was it? It won’t take much work to connect the story to the gospel, will it? We are the soil. Jesus is the sower. The Kingdom of God is the seed. Pretty simple. I know there are a few master gardeners in our church. I’m sure there are plenty of amateur gardeners as well. Folks who know a lot more about soil and ph levels and what to add to the soil to keep things balanced…
There is definitely a lot to tap into scientifically.
A lot below the surface if you know what I mean. But, along with rotting happening naturally, growth happens naturally. It may not yield blue ribbon fruit at the Benzie county fair, but I am living proof that you can put some seeds in the garden and expect those seeds to grow.
And this seems important to me…
You and I can’t change our soil easily.
We are the very soil in this parable.
And soil is complex.
It is filled with little things moving and working and surviving and thriving.
And if we’re honest, we, as soil, don’t easily fit into the garden boxes that Matthew has set out for us.
Our soil is a combination of soil that’s on the path, rocky soil, thorny soil and good soil.
There is so much in your life and in mine that is out of our control.
So many aspects of who we are that can’t just change.
We can’t will ourselves into becoming good soil.
In many ways, we need to play the cards we are dealt.
When life gives us lemons, we need to try to make lemonade.
Who our parents were. Things that have happened to us… The geographical location and cultural setting that we were born into…
All of those things affect us all day every day.
For good and for bad.
Rocks have been placed and removed.
Thorns have grown up and been pruned back.
A path has been trampled on us and over us and later has been re-tilled.
That’s a garden, right?
Just like that book, “Let it rot,” most places on this planet will sustain life if left alone.
Life is not dependant on human hands to naturally grow… but in a garden, a vegetable garden, the goal is to harvest.
Things are done intentionally.
Plants are nursed and cared for.
Weeds are removed.
But in this parable, the sower isn’t very intentional about his planting. He isn’t very intentional about what the ground is like… what the soil is like.
It makes me wonder… is this sower just the worst gardener ever? Why is he so wasteful? I even wondered for a while if the sower just wasn’t very bright. Certainly not very responsible.
Or… maybe… if the seeds are Kingdom seeds… Maybe those seeds never run out.
Maybe, like with compost, there is never any waste.
Because in a closed system… like a bio-dome… like this planet earth, our island home…
like all of Creation… there is nothing wasted. Ever.
And so as the sower drops seeds.
As he throws seeds, as he deposits seeds in places that will potentially not yield fruit.
Places that the seed won’t even sprout.
He sows generously… he sows indiscriminately.
He sows liberally.
He sows abundantly.
He sows the Kingdom of God.
The truth of the kingdom…
kingdom seeds turn into plants which yield fruit…
or they turn into plants that other parts of creation can consume.
Or they are picked up by the birds which use them as food.
The Truth of the Kingdom of God never runs out and it is never wasted.
It is goodness itself.
So, if your soil is rocky… if you are rocky… that’s OK.
The Kingdom will still grow in you and out of you.
And if your soil is thorny… if you are thorny… that’s OK.
The Kingdom will grow in areas of you that are less thorny.
And when you are trampled upon and where the Kingdom seeds can’t germinate before the birds eat them… be happy that the birds will be fed… know that you will see fruit in others areas of your life.
Remember you are soil and remember you are good.
The Kingdom will spring forth from you and it will bear fruit because of the sower.
And together we will feed the world.