Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Garden of Weedin

Sermon for Pentecost 5, Proper 10A, preached on Sunday, July 13, 2014.

    Images from seed packets and the well kept plants of a nursery all invite us to believe it is possible to have an Eden on earth.  But the sign over our unkept garden says it all.  The Garden of Weedin.  Gardening seems so easy in theory.  Till the soil, plant the seed, add water, and wait.  It is not only skill; it is a gamble.  Rain may or may not come but weeds and insects always will.  If your crops come in, you may find you have many friends.  Until then, you have only enemies – weather, insects, and weeds.
    The same is true of our growth in faith as individuals and the growth of God’s Church.  It seems so easy – why wouldn't our lives as Christians be an easy path to growth?  Why wouldn’t the Church grow and people believe?  But obviously it is not easy. The broken ruins of our lives and the empty pews only prove what we have long suspected.  There is no fool proof formula to a fruitful Christian life and church growth.
    The enemies of the gardener are birds, deer, and insects who all think that the garden exists for them.  Though they do nothing to help grow it, they feel the perfect right to steal away its fruits.  Then there are the soil conditions.  Clay and rocks are hardly an ideal base to plant a fruitful garden.  But it is all we have.  And then there are the weeds.  Why do weeds grow so easily and crops not?  Ahhhh, it is a sinful world after all!
    The same enemies work against the seed of God's Word and the work of His Church to grow the Kingdom.  Don't be foolish!  The devil puts the birds, deer, and insects to shame.  He is the predator of God's good fruit, stealing that which he did not plant and harming that which is not his own.  We do not labor against a benign or weak enemy.  The devil is at work against the seed taking root and against the weak plant that has just born of the seed.
    Don't forget about the world.  The world foists upon us the weight of cares, doubts, and fears.  It tempers God's mercy with enough trials, troubles, and temptations to almost ensure we will not make it to the fruit bearing stage.  And do not forget about the cares of this life and the anxieties over food, money, shelter, job, pleasure, etc...  These steal our attention away from Christ and consume our energy so that we are left weak and helpless in the face of our enemies.
    The ways of God are mystery to us.  Even we know better than to sow the seed upon the rocky soil or the hardened soil of the path or soil that is shallow.  So is God foolish or is He generous?  He sows seed where no one expects it to grow.  He sows the seed of His Word upon all the wrong soil, amid all the enemies of His harvest, and in the face of all the conditions which will compete against the seed.  That ought to tell you something about the lavish grace of God!
    We stand at the garden of the Church and wonder why more does not grow.  God rejoices over one seed that bears the good fruit of faith.  We are filled with reasons why things are all wrong and meanwhile God is sowing seed and watering.  Could it be we are focused on all the wrong indicators of success?  God calls us to sow, to wait, and to trust.  But these are exactly what we do NOT want to do.  Impatient and doubting, we want action.  God calls us to trust.
    There are certainly enough know-it-alls to tell us what we are doing wrong, what we should have done, and how they are smarter and more skilled than we are.  This is true of growing a church as much as growing a garden.  Don't listen to them.  The garden of Eden is gone and we are left with the garden of weedin.  We face unpredictable results that certainly confound, confuse, frustrate and disappoint us.  But not the Lord.  He merely keeps on sowing.
    Every honest Pastor will admit to reading the junk mail that promises growth in ten easy steps or six steps to meeting budget.  We want to believe there is a shortcut.  God calls us to scatter the seed and trust Him for the results.  Pastors grow just as impatient with the slow pace of church growth as individual Christians grow frustrated over their slow pace to spiritual maturity.
    The key to growing faith and growing the Church is not simply sowing the seed but trusting in the promise of the Lord.  It is, after all, His garden.  He will keep His promise.  His Word will not return to Him empty but will accomplish the purpose for which He sends it.  Do not despair.  The Lord is in charge.  Do what He has given you to do and leave the rest to Him.  It is enough.  The Word of the Lord will not return empty but will accomplish God’s purpose in us... and through us.  Do you believe this?  That is the test question of daily life.
    Every Pastor fears the Sunday morning when nobody shows up.  We are not shaped by the power of fear.  We are shaped by trust.  The Word will not return empty.  God has promised this.  Every Christian fears faith that won’t stand the test of time.  The Word will not return to God empty.  Do you believe this?  That is the crunch of faith that meets life.
    Given the power of the devil, the weight of this world and its cares, and the resistence of our own sinful hearts, it is a miracle anyone shows up on Sunday morning and anyone makes it to eternal life.  It is all grace.  God’s are the seeds and God will bring the growth.  The seed sown in us will bring forth God’s intended fruit in our lives – that is what faith is.  The seed of the Word sown through us will bring forth God’s intended fruit for the growth of His kingdom – this is the big question of faith.  So go forth and sow the seed indifferent to the soil conditions, the enemies of the faith, and all the other reasons why it will not work.  God brings the growth.  So, dear friends, do not lose heart.  Sow the seed. Speak His Gospel. It will not fail – not for you or for the Church of Christ.  It will produce His results.  Amen!

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