My sermon from 7/15, preached at Trinity, Arlington. The text is Matthew 13:1-9 & 18-23. There’s audio of this sermon, and the last two!! Read or listen and let me know your thoughts!!!
I love the Tour de France. I watch it pretty religiously this time of year. They’re racing right now, but don’t worry, they’ll replay the stage later so I can still watch.
Currently, the Tour is going through some of the most beautiful wine country in the world. And the beautiful scenery got me thinking about this Scripture. This happens reasonably frequently for me – thinking about something in my modern world in relation to Scripture. But this thinking is well timed because as you might have noticed from the Gospel today, planting and growing is at the forefront this week.
What you plant, and where you plant it, is super important in planting. Jesus talks a bit about where you plant in this Gospel. And when he told this parable, there were bound to be quite a few farmers mixed in with the crowd. What farmers will tell you is that there is more to farming than just where you plant.
You have to know your soil, and properly care for that soil. You have to know what kinds of seeds will work in what soil. The geography of the region is important.
Just look at France.
France produces some of the best wines in the world, red, white, and sparkling. The grape growers study their soil, and know which type of grape grows best in which type of soil, and in which region. And those farmers are careful to tend and nourish their plants and that soil.
Soil is super important to Jesus in this Gospel. It is crucially important that the seeds of faith be planted in good soil.
What Jesus leaves out, is what goes into helping those seeds grow into mature plants and trees of faith. Seedlings are great, but it takes a lot of work to yield 30, 60, or 100 fold!
I think there is an unpleasant tendency in some to think that Jesus has handled everything for Christians. That because Jesus planted the seeds of God that are within us, we’re good. And that we don’t have to do anything else.
But that’s just not true.
We read the words on the page, and forget that those words were spoken to people. And that many of the people who heard those words found what Christ called them to do in order to grow into a mature relationship with God, they found what Christ said so hard they left. Including Disciples.
The young church in Rome, the group that Paul is writing to in the Epistle today, they were getting an absolute tongue lashing from Paul because they were not growing in their faith. The Romans thought they were doing it right, really right. But they hadn’t changed much in their daily lives. They hadn’t fully embodied what it means to live a Christian life. And Paul was laying into them for their hubris.
It takes effort to live into this Christian thing. It is what we do in our daily lives that nourish us, and help us to grow in our faith.
I’d like to take a moment here for each of us to pause. Take a deep breath. And think. Think about what nourishes each of us? What helps us each of us grow in our faith?
The seeds of faith are planted. They are there. And while it is important, and amazing, that each of us has this seed planted within us, it’s up to us to decide if, and how, we will nourish and grow in our faith.
For some, we’re nourished by experiencing the liturgy with others. Some are nourished by service, for the church and volunteer work with the community. Some are nourished by gardening, or spending time in nature. Meditation. Time with family. Checking in on an elderly neighbor. Engaging in conversation with an un-housed neighbor. Running. Watching your children sleep. Reading. Reading Scripture.
These are just a few examples of ways to nourish your faith.
I nourish my relationship with God by deep engagement with Scripture, and deeply theological talks with friends and colleagues. With volunteer work in my community. And by mindfulness, which in my case is long walks on the beach in front of my Mom’s house looking for sharks teeth.
There is no right answer to this. And each of our answers are likely to be different. And some might not have an answer. And that’s okay.
Just like different seeds and different soil, each of us are designed to grow and produce in different ways. I can’t answer for anyone other than myself what will allow the best chance of growth, nor what we will yield.
But I know for certain that the seed is in each of us.
There are some whose faith looks flashy and pretty, who tend to tell people who aren’t just like them that they aren’t loved by God, or aren’t worthy of God’s love. Those are the people whose seeds fell on the rocky soil. Their seeds started up quickly, but didn’t last. And under any pressure, any type of adverse circumstances, their faith crumbles.
I stand before you and say that God loves you. Regardless of your nationality, race, gender, immigration status, who you love, if you love, where you live, what you look like, your hair color, your skin color, if you are covered in tattoos, if you have a disability, if you didn’t finish high school or if you have a PhD. God loves you. And has planted a seed within you.
There are others who will stand before you and say that because Christ died we can live however we want. That it’s just words that matter now because the price of our sin has been paid, and now God wants us to be happy and have nice things, even if they’re outside our means. These are the fruits of the seeds planted within the thorns.
I stand before you and say that God cares about how we live, not the things we accumulate. The value of our lives is in how we nurture and grow in our faith, how we love and care for others. How we show others that we are Christians. We can have nice things, there’s nothing wrong with that. What God cares about is how we show our love of God, and how we show others that love as well.
I will also stand here and tell you that God loves each of us, and wants all of our seeds to thrive, even if our seeds fell on the path, into rocky land, or within the thorns. It’s never too late to start caring for our seeds, wherever they and we are.
I started today talking about the Tour de France. While I quickly raced to start talking about soil, I don’t want it to seem as though this is unrelated to what we’ve talked about today. Because taking a bit of time during the first three weeks of July to watch the Tour is one of the ways that I care for myself.
Caring for yourself. Loving yourself. Nourishing yourself. I cannot over state how important that is. Because it is. How can you love your neighbor as yourself if you don’t love yourself?
Take care about how you care for the seed of faith within you. Nourish yourself. And remember that you’re growing in your relationship with God, and caring for a gift that God has entrusted you with.
Know what helps you grow. And take a few minutes this week to do those things. Do so intentionally. Practice. Practice until it’s just part of what you do every day. Then look at how much more deeply the roots of your faith have gone. And marvel at how much fruit you are yielding.