Isaiah 55:10-13, Romans 8:1-11, Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
P When I first began to read this Gospel text a few weeks ago knowing our plan to gather on the lawn for worship this day, I first feared that it would be the feeding of the many thousands, and thought how difficult it would be to preach that in a time when we need to maintain physical distance from one another. Instead, we find Jesus separating himself from the crowd, which is exactly what we are doing today.
My assistants are joining us again today to help us to share God’s love with people of all ages.
Munchie is a chipmunk, just in case you can’t tell with the addition of the mask, and Beaky is some kind of bird, though I’m not entirely sure of the variety.
M Something’s different!
B Yeah. Where’s the guy the sits all the way in the back corner.
P We told him to stay home today because he’s been in contact with a person who tested positive with the virus that’s going around.
M Will he be okay?
P We expect so, but we wanted to be extra careful, because so many of the people we love who gather here have to be extra careful. That’s why we wanted Matthew to stay home for now.
B Did you say, “Matthew”?
P Yes, why?
B Isn’t that the name of the guy who wrote the story?
M Yeah! I remember! You said, “Saint Matthew writes in the 13th chapter!”
P I did. And that Matthew shared a story that Jesus told that we call a parable.
B I didn’t hear anything about cows!
M I get it! I get it! A PAIR of BULLS!
P Funny! The word “parable” comes from the Greek and it means a story that is told about something simple to try to explain something that’s not so easy to understand.
B What does that have to do with cows?
P Nothing, really. The part that sounds like bulls actually means “to throw,” and the other part means, “beside,” so Jesus is throwing this story beside what he’s trying to explain.
M Like when Dad put the instructions beside the parts to read while putting together the playhouse?
B Your dad reads instructions?
M He does when it’s important!
P That way he can get it right the first time, right?
P So, did you like the story of the sower and the seeds?
B Yeah, but it seems pretty wasteful.
M Yeah, because why would you throw good seeds where they aren’t likely to grow?
B Well, duh! It’s good to feed the birds, too!
M That’s not the point!
P Both of you are right. It’s good to feed the birds, and feeding the birds wasn’t the point of the seeds that fell where it was easy for the birds to snatch them away before they could take root.
M The point is that the good soil was able to let the seeds grow really, really well!
P That’s certainly part of it.
M There’s more? But Jesus just talked about the seed in good soil bearing fruit…
B Jesus also talked about birds!
M And thorns and thistles and rocks!
P You’re both forgetting the very first part of the story.
P Jesus begins by saying a sower went out to sow, and we later find out that these seeds in the story relate to the word of God.
M Oh, yeah…
B Imagine if the word of God were kept only for Lutherans…
M Or only for United Statesians…
B Or only for Concordians!
M Or only for us here in this building…
P So, when we think of the seed as the word of God, is it wasteful to throw it out to those who aren’t likely to understand it right away?
B Sometimes it kinda seems like it.
M Yeah, because some people just go on being mean!
P But sometimes, the seed grows in the path,
B or among the thorns,
M and even in the rocks!
P And when the seed grows in those places, it changes the soil.
B Does that mean what I think it means?
M It means that even mean people can change when God’s word gets involved.
P Yes, Gods’ word can do miracles.
B So it doesn’t make much sense to keep it to ourselves.
P No, it doesn’t, does it?
M Let’s pray!
M Dear God, plant your word in the hearts of everyone, so the mean people will change…
B And so the good people will be even better.
P And I say, Amen.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen
I have to admit that I wasn’t feeling particularly generous when I got to the point of dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s in preparation for this part of today’s message. As most of you know, we had planned to be outside on the lawn this morning, with a very short service that was really very different from what we usually have. I’d had a short reflection on the first reading, which talks of creation bursting forth in song when we cannot sing together safely, and a different one on the second, planning to culminate things with our puppets assisting with the Gospel message. But all those were all based on being gathered outside, so it wasn’t possible to just keeping the same thing I had planned and move it inside. Plus, I like to sing, and I know at least some of you out there like to sing as well.
Still our hymns today are not long…
Then I thought a little more about today’s title, and realized that with all of you looking at that title, you might be thinking something totally different than what I intended. “Oh, no! She’s going to talk about Generosity?”
Relax. It’s not that kind of generosity, if you’re thinking about what I’m thinking about right now.
This generosity has only a tangential connection to money, if at all, because, let’s face it, it’s difficult if you’re living without a job right now, even though there are many other people in the same situation. It’s difficult, because unemployment has challenges beyond the financial. It’s difficult, because we struggle with purpose in today’s world. What’s the point, when what I usually do cannot be done?
So, today’s message is not about how we use our skills and resources. It’s not about our generosity. Instead, it’s about God’s generosity, as was introduced just a little bit with our puppets, Beaky and Munchie. God, as the sower in our story, seems to do things carelessly, rather than carefully placing the seeds into the soil at just the right depth at specific distances from one another in anticipation of the maximum harvest.
I few weeks ago, I planted some lettuce, some spinach, and some carrots. The package of each explains just how deep to place the seeds, and how far apart, and what the distance should be between rows. It actually turns out not to have mattered much, because the squirrels have been digging around in there quite happily, and my rows where they exist at all are even more crooked than I made them! I’m not sure the spinach will come up at all. I think I’ll need to replant! The radishes from a week later are doing well, and the tomatoes and peppers sure liked the recent rains.
I was not like the sower of the parable. I didn’t scatter seeds generously into places where they are not expected to grow.
God does. But that’s not quite right, either. The reality is that God scatters generosity out into places that WE don’t expect it to do anything at all, like the path, or the stones, or among the thorns. However, as we read the Isaiah text, we learn that God fully intends to get results. God sends the precipitation to accomplish all sorts of good stuff before it evaporates again into the atmosphere to create multiple kinds of precipitation once again. God, as the sower, fully intends some of that seed on the path to grow, some of that seed among the rocks to grow, and some of that seen crowded in amongst the thorns to grow.
In addition, God fully expects different kinds of response even within the good soil. Not every ear of corn will have exactly 800 kernels, even amongst the same variety. Not every tree produces the same number or size or variety of apples or other fruit. Not every seed even in the good soil even germinates, but God throws seed into the soil and waits as it maybe does something. And God continues to scatter seed. God continues to shower love upon us. God continues to celebrate what is produced, whether it is 100 fold, or sixty, or thirty.
God is working in you. God is generous toward you, and you are loved for who you are, no matter what.
God loves you. Bask in that love. Bask in the generosity God showers upon you, and let it feed you and those around you, because God is generous. In Jesus’ name. Amen