July 15, 2017 Matthew 13
Reverend Melissa Hall, St. James Episcopal Church
Parable of the Sower
Annually, in the United States we spend our money in interesting ways that says a lot about who we are as a people. So, let me begin this morning with some significant financial factoids.
· We spend $16 billion dollars on Chocolate
· Coffee: $11 billion
· We Eat Girl Scout Cookies: to the tune of $800 million
· we spend 500 million dollars on Twinkies
· We buy $500 million worth of Golf balls
· We get tattooed for $2.3 billion and then we remove them for $66 million
· And for our Pets, we spend $310 million for their Halloween Costumes
If you are thinking these numbers indicate we are frivolous with our money, let me add that we did tend to our children by spending $47 billion
dollars on child care
and we also spent $40 billion dollars on lawn care and maintenance.
It’s interesting to note that these last numbers suggest that our affection for our lawns and our children are running neck and neck for our attention. We do love our children and do we love gardens and orderly yards!!!
I think our preoccupation with our lawn happens because the yard and the gardens are often the first message that we send out into the world, as to who we are, what we have accomplished and what we hold as important. I defy you to drive through Montclair and find a yard with a living room couch on the porch and an old truck up on blocks. It is just not done here. Our yards are expected to be orderly neat, attractive, uniform, predictable and respectable.
The same is demanded of how we behave and how we live our lives. So, this morning lets ponder our national obsession with lawn maintenance in relationship to Jesus’ Parable of the Sower. If our lawns are any indication, we here in Montclair are the good soil Christians.
Jesus’ parable of the sower is about the abundance of the life-giving sustenance that God can provide us. To be the good seeds planted in the soil, we must listen closely to hear the word of God, and then understand that God calls us to love, compassion, forgiveness, and righteousness. The lesson tells us that like the seed being sown we can fall anywhere by chance, but it is up to us to determine what our lives bring forth, by what we plant in our hearts.
The three most important words spoken by Jesus in this parable are Listen! Hear! And Understand! Jesus tells the disciples to listen for God’s voice and truly hear what God is saying about God’s kingdom. And the parable doesn’t stop there.
We are all called to an action- the action of what is expected of us once we hear God’s voice and then making that understanding a reality.
Well, as the parable tells us almost anything can grow in fertile soil if it’s given the right things, water, fresh air, and nutrients. It’s that way for many of us too. We can flourish in the good soil that is tended by loving families, spiritual grounding, gainful employment, sound education, and a supportive and progressive community. It’s easy to be a good soil Christian when all the cards are stacked in your favor and you have had the advantage of fertile earth.
But I’d like to look at it from another viewpoint and make an argument for the weeds, or the thorns as Matthew calls them, and then consider the beauty of what those weeds can mean. First, who gets to decide what is a lowly weed and what is a worthwhile flower? From a distance a field of dandelions is really a wonder to behold, but its reputation as a weed puts a block on our heart to appreciate its innate yellow brilliance.
Weeds are extraordinary, persistent and resilient. How many of us have marveled at the ability of weeds to defy all odds and all our efforts to purge them from existence as they grow defiantly through the cracks in the sidewalk?
Dianne Benson, the Dorothy Parker of gardeners wrote this about the survival skills of weeds in her Gardening Book titled Dirt. She said, “They know, they just know where to grow, how to dupe you, and how to camouflage themselves among the perfectly respectable plants, they just know, and therefore, I've concluded weeds must have brains.”
That's giving more credit to weeds then I am willing to concede to, but they always are the hardiest of plants, surviving the aridness of the soil, the scorching heat of the pavement, the abuse of pounding feet and the violent and futile tugging of frustrated gardeners and homeowners. And yet they come back. The miracle of resurrection is not lost on me, when it comes to the weeds.
I wonder what makes those weeds endure, what force calls them out of the darkness to seek the life-giving rays of the sun. It makes me think that anyone put in good soil can grow and flourish, but it may be out of the weeds that God’s kingdom is really heard and made real. The thing is that there is no way to know who may call out to you from the weeds, or when you yourself will end up in the weed bed.
There is a story about a man asleep at home with his wife when there is a knock on the door. He rolls over and looks at his clock, and its half past three in the morning. "I'm not getting out of bed," he thinks, and rolls over. Then, a louder banging follows.
"Aren't you going to answer that?" asks his wife.
So, he drags himself out of bed and goes downstairs. He opens the door and there is a man standing at the door. It doesn't take the homeowner long to realize the man is drunk.
"Hi there," slurs the stranger. "Can you give me a push?"
"No, get lost! It's half past three! I was in bed!" screams the home owner as he slams the door. He angrily climbs the stairs and hears the man calling through the door,
“But I really need a push!”
He goes back up to bed and tells his wife what happened.
She remarks, "Dave, that wasn't very nice of you. Remember that night we broke down in the pouring rain on the way to pick the kids up from the baby sitter and you had to knock on that man's door to get us started again? What would have happened if he'd told us to get lost?"
"But the guy was drunk," says the husband.
"It doesn't matter," explains the wife. "He needs our help and it would be nice to help him."
So, the husband gets out of bed again, he gets dressed this time and goes downstairs. He opens the door but he can't see the stranger anywhere in the dark, so he shouts, "Hey, do you still want a push?"
He hears a voice cry out, "Yes, please! ."
"Where are you?" shouts the homeowner.
The stranger calls back, "I'm over here, on your swing."
Sometimes as Christians we are called to offer help even when we don’t want to, because it is inconvenient, or because there is no reward at the end for us, or because we think that person scrambling in the weeds isn’t respectable or worthy of our help! For that reason, I think the parable of the Sower gives weeds a bad name, but it does teach us that we don’t get to decide who is worthy of God’s grace. Who is the weed or the flower is not our place to decide, and in the end, it doesn’t much matter, because, my faith tells me that something good comes from ALL of God’s creation.
So, I can always appreciate a beautiful garden and a well-tended lawn, and I’m glad for you if your life and faith has been all fertile soil. But I am also grateful for my rocks and thorns and arid places. I’m glad for my life sometimes spent in the weeds, and that I may call you from my rocky soil, and trust that you will answer. And be assured that you may call me from that same place, and you will hear my voice calling back.
My hope is that together, with the faith of the others who support us, that that will be enough of a faith for when we step into the garden to meet our God. -- Amen