May 23, 2021: Seed Time and Harvest – Overturning and Tilling the Soil
The Day of Pentecost
Seed Time and Harvest – Overturning and Tilling the Soil
No video this week.
Scriptures: Galatians 6:9 and Matthew 13:1-9 and 18-23
- Sunday, May 23, 2021: The Day of Pentecost
- A Time for Centering: “Holy Spirit, Light Divine,” Arr. by Gayden Sikes; Donna Grubbs, piano; Pauline Olsen, organ
- Hymn 64: “Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty,” by Reginald Heber; Bill Baughman, Ken Burres, Tom Dowdell, Dave Herr, Linda Jarvi, Patty Shoop, Ely Springer, Marilyn Toth, hymn leaders
- Hymn 393, “Spirit of the Living God,” by Daniel Iverson; Bill Baughman, Ken Burres, Tom Dowdell, Dave Herr, Linda Jarvi, Patty Shoop, Ely Springer, Marilyn Toth, hymn leaders
- Special Music: “Spirit Sing,” Words by M. Martin, Music by J. Martin; Bill Baughman, Ken Burres, Tom Dowdell, Dave Herr, Linda Jarvi, Patty Shoop, Ely Springer, Marilyn Toth, hymn leaders
- Scripture: Matthew 13:1-9 and 18-23; Gay Lynn Lillagore
- Sermon: “Seed Time and Harvest: Part Three, Overturning and Tilling the Soil,” Pastor Brad Beeman
- Hymn 2241: “The Spirit Sends Us Forth to Serve,” by Delores Dufner; Bill Baughman, Ken Burres, Tom Dowdell, Dave Herr, Linda Jarvi, Patty Shoop, Ely Springer, Marilyn Toth, hymn leaders
- “Come, Gracious Spirit,” Based on Hymn tune “Germany,” Arr. by Dennis Janzer; Pauline Olsen, organ
The sermon refers to a handout. The handout appears at the end of the sermon.
Planting is intentional. It is an action taken with an expectation of growth. Whether it’s a church like the Vineyard, the church I referenced last week, or a seed that gets placed in the ground, there is an expectation for something to happen; for growth, sprouting, blossoming, or in the case of Jesus, the production of fruit. So let’s take a step back and look again at what goes into planting. Unlike last week, I’ll be relating each piece to us; every aspect regarding why I’m utilizing this metaphor to our faith, our growth, and our spiritual health. To get there, I want to go back to Stephen Covey and his book, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.
One of those is that successful people always begin with the end in mind. In the planting we’ll be doing this morning in this vessel or planter, the end is to have a nice crop of either cilantro or parsley. We want to be able to pick it and use it. For us, and the reason I chose these two plants is that we can feed both our rabbits. But we’re not rabbits, and the end we have in mind is something completely different. So, what does that mean for us?
The end Jesus had in mind was “Fruit.” Fruit was the natural outgrowth of faith. Fruit was something that fed. It was often delicious. It was nutritious. It was necessary. And more often than not, it was shared. He uses vineyards a lot. In the case of the vineyards, the fruit was grapes, grown in clusters and on plants that were fully interconnected. A grape plant would be planted, then another, and then another. They would sprout out of the ground, would then grow, begin to spread, and eventually, would become large enough to sprout long branches. Those branches would continue to sprout vines that would attach to and then spread on wire or rope until they became interconnected to other vines and branches.
Every stalk would appear to be spreading its arms in such a way as to make one long, multi-stalked plant that could spread over great distances. Out of the branches would come more vines, and out of some of those vines would eventually grow clusters of grapes. When it came to vineyards, even in the days of Jesus, you could see row upon row of stalks, vines, and branches, all of which would be connected to each other, and find a connection to the earth. It was from the soil that each would find water and nutrients, and from the sun, energy, and from the gardener, pruning, health, and even protection.
Take a look at the pictures on the screens. That’s what I’m talking about. The interconnection between plants is seamless…seamless. Eventually one would count on another for the growth and health of the whole. That, friends, is the perfect explanation of what church is intended to be. Now let’s unwrap this a bit.
Think about it, we’re all individuals sitting here this morning. We aren’t connected physically like grapevines. So if we aren’t physically intertwined, then it is something unseen, even deeper that potentially connects us. It is something that creates that connection, and if we think about it, that “thing” has to be there first before anything else will bring us together. So, if we don’t see it on the outside, it has to be something potentially within us; something that can’t be seen with the naked eye; something deep and abiding and hopefully defining that draws us toward one another. Each of us individually may differ in the way we view or have experienced that which is within us. Our personalities, our experiences, our education, our age, our learning style, our senses, our background in faith, so many things contribute to define who we are. Yet, what isn’t different, at least as Christians, is that singular figure who ties it all together.
We believe in a power greater than ourselves. Our individual view of God may differ but some semblance of belief is still there, otherwise, we wouldn’t be sitting here or watching at home. A lot of us have trouble defining that belief, putting it into understandable words. I mean, how does anyone describe God? It’s why Jesus sought to define God with terms that those around him would understand, and actions that would help them understand even more. Jesus called him Father, and at one point, even Daddy (Abba). As a Jew, Jesus knew that throughout time his people had sought to have words that described not just what this figure was but what God does. Elohim, Abba, El Shaddai, YHWH to name but a few.
Each of these names sought to capture one side of this immense power; one element that could help those who believed gain a better and deeper understanding. In the case of the scripture last week, Jesus described God as the vine grower, vinedresser, or gardener. Why, because an aspect of what God does is to tend us, tend to us, do whatever is needed for us to make us better, healthier, fuller, or more filled but with a willingness on our part to allow God to take that on in us. And notice I said, for us, not to us. God doesn’t do things to us. God can make all things work together for good in our lives. So that’s the first piece of this.
So, question number one for each of us is to list four words that describe your understanding of God, or put in another way, what is God for you? Take a moment and write a few things down.
Now, back to the vineyard. Jesus named God the gardener, the one who takes the initial action to bring together the needed elements and plant the seeds that will grow. With that in mind, we move to number two: Jesus. In organic, biblical terms, it was God who planted Jesus here to live among us. Jesus was planted so that there could be much more significant connections to God. He is the vine of connection, the first vine, the ancient vine, the vine from which everything having to do with us grows. Jesus becomes that which connects the branches to the gardener. Jesus is what allows the gardener to do what the gardener needs to do to create health in the crop. Jesus helps define things like the soil, that which will allow us to grow. He talks about the seed and exactly what that seed is; that seed is his teaching, his connection, that which grows and creates something in us worth harvesting.
Jesus is that which allows for the flow of the nutrients from one branch to another, from the creator to the created. And friends, this isn’t something new. Every Native American tribe, every tribe of First People in Canada, almost every major religion somehow brings an understanding of the organic nature of creation, and describes how it works in, around, and for them. For us, it is represented here, on this chancel, in this altar and pulpit, and there, in the connections we have with one another. And that moves us to the next piece, the vineyard itself.
So, in your handout, take a moment to describe how you see Jesus. How do you experience him, understand him, view him in your faith? Take a moment.
The vineyard is that place where the connections naturally happen. It’s a place of growth, of learning, of pruning, of providing, even protecting as the fruit grows. It is that place where connections, realizations, and the other elements of the connection can find fullness. It is the church, this church. The church is the intended vessel that surrounds, holds in, allows, and equips that growth. It is the place where fruit can grow and be nurtured, and then moved to work outside the vineyard.
The church becomes the Vineyard as it allows God to do what God does, and the Spirit to do what it does, and Jesus to do what he does. It’s why I so loved the name of Dan and Cherry’s church in Shelton, and why I carry that with me even to today. So, here we are, a vineyard based in the life and teachings of that which connects us to God, to each other, and then to the community. But there is one more element that has to be named.
So, if the church is the vineyard, then why does Jesus seem to spend so much time criticizing that part of the metaphor for faith. It’s pretty easy. The church is a human institution. I talked at length about this in my letter this past week. The goal of the church should always be to live whole-heartedly for God; in all things as Jesus taught, and in all ways with others in our hearts and minds. But we don’t. We make mistakes. We hurt people. We cause harm. It’s why every week we say, “Forgive us our trespasses, the pain we’ve caused, the harm we’ve done, the mistakes we’ve made…and do it in the same way we forgive those who have caused pain, done harm, made mistakes to us.” “Oh, and help us avoid temptation…in all things bad.”
God created an equation that when done correctly creates growth. It is in the forgiveness given that we become that much more open to forgiveness received. We call it grace, and grace changes the equation. Our goal is to seek to do the best we can to live into the Fruit of the Spirit, but when we fail, and we will all fail, we know we can be forgiven. God is ready to forgive. Jesus is ready to forgive. The bigger questions are: Are we doing the best we can to intentionally live those nine Fruits? And, are we ready to be forgiven and ready to forgive? If not, the equation will need work. So, that’s your next set of questions. Take a moment to think about them.
There’s more but I want to do one more thing this morning. It will be done during the final hymn. So, finally, number five is to describe how you see the purpose of the church, this church. As much as you can, utilize the vineyard metaphor in your description.
Now, as we prepare to sing our final hymn I want to invite you to do something. It will involve getting up, if you can, or coming forward, so don’t get too comfortable. Given that, I want you to remember the lessons I’ve talked about today, so there is one more thing that will make it more tactile.
The soil is prepared. The water is available. I want to invite you to come to plant a seed, but as you do, I’m asking that you commit yourself to those nine elements. You know what they are, but let me close by saying them one more time. They are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, generosity, and self-control. So as we sing, the seeds are here, take one and plant it but take a moment to make that commitment. Together we’ll nurture these plants along, very much like we will seek to do the same for each other. Our final hymn is “The Spirit Sends Us Forth to Serve.”
Let’s sing it together, and while you do, come on up and plant a seed. Amen.
Four words that you would use to describe God or what is God for you?
How would you describe Jesus, experience Jesus, understand Jesus, or describe how he influences you in your life and faith?
- What are you doing that helps you intentionally live out those nine elements of the Fruit of the Spirit?
- On a scale of 1 – 10, how are you doing in your attempt? 10 would be living them out perfectly every day. Why that number?
How is your forgiveness equation going? Are there places that need work? If so, what are they and what are your intentions?
What is the purpose of the church, this church? How does it relate to a vineyard?