Seventh Sunday of Easter
Seed Time and Harvest – Gathering What’s Needed
Scripture: Galatians 6: 9; John 15: 1 – 17; Ecclesiastes 3: 1 – 2
- May 16, 2021: Sixth Sunday of Easter
- A Time for Centering: “How Wondrous and Great,” Arr. by Darwin Wolford; Terry Reitz, organ; Pauline Olsen, piano
- Hymn 154, “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” by Edward Perronet; Hymn Leaders: Bill Baughman, Ken Burres, Tom Dowdell, Dave Herr, Linda Jarvi, Patty Shoop, Ely Springer, Marilyn Toth
- Hymn 189, “Fairest Lord Jesus,” by Joseph August Seiss; Hymn Leaders: Bill Baughman, Ken Burres, Tom Dowdell, Dave Herr, Linda Jarvi, Patty Shoop, Ely Springer, Marilyn Toth
- Scripture: John 15:1-17 and Ecclesiastes 3:1-2; Margaret Cox
- Sermon: “Seed Time and Harvest: Part Two, Gathering What’s Needed,” Pastor Brad Beeman
- Hymn 157, “Jesus Shall Reign,” by Isaac Watts; Hymn Leaders: Bill Baughman, Ken Burres, Tom Dowdell, Dave Herr, Linda Jarvi, Patty Shoop, Ely Springer, Marilyn Toth
- “Improvisations on ‘Duke Street,” by John Hatton; Terry Reitz, organ
I stand before you, gardening tools in hand, soil ready, with seeds that are to be planted, and other elements that will be required for the healthy growth of what I’m planting. Notice I said, required. Required means they are not an option. Required means beyond necessary. It means that without these elements the potential growth of what’s being planted will be diminished, even harmed. In other words, the potential growth won’t happen without all of the key elements coming together in an appropriately orderly fashion. So, before you are at least some, if not most, of the elements required to create healthy growth.
Now, that said, there are things over which I’ll have little if any control. I can’t control sunlight or clouds. I can’t control rainfall or humidity. I can’t control freezing weather, wind, or storms. What I can control is mitigating my responses in ways that can continue to create growth in spite of those kinds of outside influences.
Okay, pastor, this seems odd, weird, even strange for a sermon or to be done in a church.
Dirt in worship…really? But is it so strange given who we seek to follow? Did you know that Jesus spent as much time talking about nature as he did almost anything else? His parables almost always referenced something outside: a vineyard, soil, seeds, birds, fields, storms, seas, and more. He saw faith as something deeply organic, and tied almost completely with God’s natural or nature-based creation.
As he talked of God’s order, he utilized all that, “naturally” surrounded him. It’s one of the reasons we know that almost all of his teachings were in Galilee, in the northern part of what is now Israel. You didn’t have to travel far, if at all, to see everything he was referencing, even today. So, given where we live, and given the time of year, and given what we’ve been through, I thought it appropriate to do the same. In addition, there is no doubt in my mind that Jesus also sought to utilize the senses of those with whom he traveled and those to whom he sought to teach. He utilized sight, sound, taste, hearing, and touch, as all played a part in his ministry. It needs to do the same for us.
One reason is that not all of us are audial learners. Some learn best by looking and seeing; others learn best by sound; even others, like me, with touch and movement. We’re called tactile-kinesthetic learners. Studies in interactive classroom management are taught that a teacher increased the potential of a student’s ability to learn by utilizing multiple learning styles; and found that a simple, even gentle touch to the shoulder while walking by a student increases by eighty percent that student’s ability to take in information.
Think about it. It’s one of the reasons this pandemic has caused so much harm; our inability to embrace or even shake hands with one another or to be touched. Every sense is designed to be a part of our being, our growth, our sense of self, of learning, and our sense of relationship. When we are offered opportunities to learn, when offered in love and with kindness and respect, our brains respond with positive attributes. When relationships are offered with anger, fear, hatred, or judgment, harm is caused, and our brains turn inward toward self-protection. Jesus taught us to love one another. It is in that love that we are most readily identified as his disciples. And it is seeing through Christ’s eyes what surrounds us that we more readily learn.
It’s why I will never understand those who claim to be Christian offering others with whom they may disagree the opposite of love or kindness. They obviously see Jesus in a completely different way than I. And friends, I have to say, they have to be reading a different Bible. We’ll get into that later on in this series, but as for me and my house, we will seek kindness first, always.
So, what we know is that kindness, appropriate touch, utilizing multiple senses all lead to the potential of growth. But here’s the deal, it’s all a choice. So, as we move ahead now, I thought it important to go back to some of the basic tenets of our faith. To do that I will be utilizing different senses and different learning styles to make some important points. All of them, at least for these next eight weeks, will be organic in nature. All of them.
Here’s what I mean. I had the privilege of serving for five years in a church literally surrounded by vineyards. Some were related to wine grapes while others were growing Concords for grape juice. There were no less than twenty-five wineries within a fifteen-mile radius of the church – Washington Cellars, Covey Run, Oak Tree, Columbia Crest to name a few – and grapes are grown for dozens of others including Chateau Ste Michelle. Concords were grown for Welch’s. Now, as you look at the same area, there are not less than forty or fifty wineries. Why? Because the climate, soil, sunshine, seasons, drainage are all perfect for that growth. I remember when someone drew a line for me across a globe, from the Yakima Valley to the wine regions of France, the line did not deviate. To some extent, the same can be said of the region of Galilee although it is a bit farther south. The region was perfect for the growth of grapes. Why? The combination of what makes the regions of France, Central California, and Central Washington perfect. It is an unusual combination of elements all coming together to create something unique and special.
Now, beyond all of that, there is something about how grapes grow that drew Jesus to them. He saw it as the perfect combination of elements all coming together to create something unique, healthy, and special. Let’s look at some of that, particularly as we examine both the scriptures out of John and Ecclesiastes.
First, there is a required order and required elements to all things organic. Within that order are certain elements that either enhance or detract from potential growth. In the case of grapes, there are first the ancient or aged vines from which all vines come. It no longer looks like a vine. It often looks like a stump. They are often very large, seem to have a multitude of individual vines growing within them, still produce leaves and even grapes, although they don’t produce them in the same way given their age. If you’ve seen the movie, “A Walk in the Clouds” you know exactly what I’m talking about. After a major fire that destroyed all of the vines in a massive vineyard, where the vineyardist finally took hope was that even a devastating fire couldn’t destroy the roots of the ancestral plant. It withstood it all. Out of it could come the next set of plants; small shoots that would come from the roots, which would then be planted and ultimately grow into the vineyard. Jesus is saying the same for us. No matter what life may throw at you, if we stay true to our roots, we can regrow and become healthy again, no matter what.
Look at the verses again. “I am the vine, and you are the branches. God is the gardener (vineyardist).”Jesus then goes into the whole idea of pruning, producing, staying connected, and being fed and filled in that connection. To live, to bear fruit, to grow means that connection has to be strong. Without it we die…maybe not physically, but certainly spiritually. It’s here that Paul takes it to the next level. How do we know we’re growing appropriately in that connection…see The Fruit of the Spirit – the outcome of staying connected will always be love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, generosity, compassion, and self-control. That’s the fruit produced in us when appropriate faith is built organically. So, how’s it going for you so far? It certainly wasn’t always a part of my life. Once in a while I still struggle with keeping that connection, but Paul gives us that evaluative tool. But let me go back about forty years to the place where I first heard about all of this. It is appropriate.
I haven’t shared that I used to be a part of a church that wasn’t really a denomination. As I look back on my life, it was that church that created more growth in me than any other. It was that church that helped define my understanding of faith, faith priorities, and how it all works “together for good for those who love the Lord.” It was called “The Vineyard.” Here I met Cherry Boone O’Neil and her husband Daniel. They had started this small church in Shelton. They lived in Bellevue at the time but felt called to start this little church. Every Sunday night I would head over to worship. What separated it from all of the other churches I’ve attended or served before ministry and as a pastor, was that it was based on its name. There was nothing more important than staying connected with Christ.
Every Sunday Dan would share that it was in that connection that everything else was defined. There was a love that tied everyone together. Prayer lay at the root of the relationships. Even as Cherry was going through some intense personal trials, prayer and love lay at the root of the relationships. Our response to the community was a natural outgrowth of the love, the relationships, and the prayer – and in that time and in that community, being engaged in the community was essential.
Cherry and I touched base later as I was doing my consulting work and she and Dan were working on Mercy Corp International. That little church and what they did both within and outside their doors continues to be an influence on me and how I view ministry. The closest church I’ve ever seen to what they sought to do is here, at Trinity. And it continues to be what makes me so intent on being a part of it.
So, here we begin, with a few elements that will be a part of worship for these next eight weeks. They are organic and examples of just how what Jesus taught works, even today.
And as I place these elements together, please think of the required elements when it comes to our relationship with Christ, with each other, and in this community.
First, there is a container or vessel where the elements can come together, where the miracle of growth can begin, and things can take root and deepen and spread. Within that vessel is the soil that will allow for growth. From there certain elements are added to enhance the possibility of growth. They can be nutrients, mulch, fertilizer, and more. Into that soil, now prepared, seeds are planted. And then, once planted we add water and sunlight, love, and a place where even greater opportunities for growth can happen. Now think about the teachings of Jesus, teachings around soil, and plants, flowers, and birds, vineyards, and required connection to the gardener and the true vine. Each element I just placed in this vessel represents elements we need to have to grow faith. But specifics around that will come next week.
For now, let us pray…