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Sermon for July 12th

    Jul 12, 2020

    Passage: Matthew 13:1-23

    Preacher: Rob Donehue

    Detail:

    Sermon for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost (Year A - 2020)
    July 12th, 2020
    St. Anne’s, Conway, SC (Online)
    HEII

     

    Genesis 25:19-34 Romans 8:1-11 Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

    Last year, July 1st came and went without me noting the importance of the date, and once again, this year July 1st slipped by without me paying attention to it. But, even though it’s a bit after-the-fact, I do want to pause for a moment to acknowledge that it has now been four years since I officially began my ministry with you all at Saint Anne’s. That’s four amazing years of good work with you all. So I wanted to begin this morning by saying thank you to everyone at Saint Anne’s for making the past four years such a rewarding time. There are more great memories and highlights than I have time for, but there is one highlight in particular that I think it’s appropriate to mention this morning because it ties into the Gospel lesson. It will probably not surprise you to hear that the highlight I’m thinking of is the purchase of a space for our church to call home. That achievement, for me, represents a major milestone in our life together. But I do not see it as merely the end product of our years of effort. Instead, I see it as a beginning. The founding of Saint Anne’s back in 2012 represented the planting of a seed. And for nearly eight years, the people of Saint Anne’s have lived in the hope that that seed would sprout. And when we closed on 2104 Main Street back in March, I think the sprout came up out of the ground. And now we live in hope that that little sprout will take root deep in the soil of Conway so that it can grow up and yield abundant fruit. That is why I think that a fitting motto for the next chapter in our life as a church could be “Taking root in Love.” We have reached a time when all of our hard work is truly beginning to show that Saint Anne’s has real permanence. And I will add here, that even in the midst of all the uncertainties that are currently swirling around us, we can still celebrate that we are taking root in love. And if we remain committed to nurturing the vine, so to speak, then no matter what difficulties we may face, this church will continue to be an anchor and a refuge for those yearning to hear the goods news. So again, thank you. Thank you for wanting me and my family to be a part of this adventure. Thank you for an astoundingly good four years. And I dare to say, here’s to many more! 

    Now even though I’m switching gears slightly to the Gospel lesson for today, I’m going to be sticking somewhat close to home. This past spring marked the third spring that Davis and I have lived at our house in Conway. When we first moved to town, we had high hopes that we’d be able to get a small garden growing in our back yard. We built a little raised-bed garden and filled it with potting mix and fertilizer and dirt from the yard, and we planted some tomatoes and peppers. We also built a small compost box in the hope that we’d be able to use the compost in future gardening projects. That first year was a huge disappointment because even though we did our best to take care of our little plants, none of the plants ever looked particularly healthy, and not a single one of the plants survived long enough to produce any fruit. Undeterred, we tried again the following year. Again, none of the plants wound up looking all that sturdy. We did get one or two small yellow squash from what we’d planted, but then bugs and deer discovered the garden, and that was the end of attempt number two. It was very disappointing. At the end of last summer, we’d also kind of given up on regularly maintaining the compost bin, so for most of the fall and winter, it sat unturned. Then back in early March we decided to try the garden again; although, to be fair, we didn’t have too much expectation. I decided that it might be worth raking up the compost bin, and I brought over a couple of loads of compost and mixed the compost into to the dirt. Then the coronavirus hit, and we kind of forgot about the garden and didn’t plant anything. 

    But then something really amazing happened. Davis went out one morning and noticed that things were sprouting up from the garden. All over the place. It was hard to tell what the plants were, but we decided to cultivate them. And to make a long story short, we now have a bumper crop of butternut squash, cantaloupes, and tomatoes. Turns out the compost was doing far more than we imagined! 

    I use this illustration to remind us of a lesson that I think we all know: that sometimes in spite of our best efforts and intentions, things don’t work out the way we had planned. But also that sometimes because of our even clumsy efforts and intentions, things wind up working out well, even if it’s not exactly what we had planned for. 

    Look again at the parable of the sower. If you think about what the sower in the parable is doing, it seems as though the sower is not doing a great job. Instead of preparing the soil and only  planting seeds in the good soil, the sower is just haphazardly strewing seed all over the place, paying little attention to where the seed is falling. One of the lessons I draw from the parable is that the sower is not concerned so much about being in control of how or where the seed grows. The sower is only concerned about scattering the seed. 

    I think the parable is not meant primarily to make us worry about whether we are growing in good soil or rocky ground. It’s meant to draw our attention the fact that we are to be sowers. It’s meant to remind us that there’s no guarantee that if we scatter seed that things are going to work out perfectly like we might hope. Just because you want to share your faith with others, that does not mean that they are going to care. Or if they do seem to care, it doesn’t mean that they are going to care for long or that other things are not going to wind up being more important to them. None of that is within your control. Nor should it be. 

    The lesson of the parable is that if we are sowers of the word - if we are serious about doing justice, showing mercy, walking humbly, and sharing the message of God’s love, then we have to let go of the notion that we can control how our efforts will work out. Our job is to go on doing justice, showing mercy, walking humbly, and sharing the message of God’s love in the expectant hope that our efforts might, through God’s grace, bear fruit. 

    And even if it seems like what we’ve sown only winds up in the compost heap, God can still make good on it. 

    Our task is to be sowers. I think especially now, in our time and in our own community, our task is to sow the seeds of love and compassion and care for others; and, I would add, we need to sow in ourselves the seeds of self-reflection, so that our care and concern for others may come from a place of genuine love. Those are the seeds that we need to sow. Even if we’ve never sown those kinds of seeds before. Even if we go about it in a clumsy and halting way. And even if our efforts cause some to think we’re wasting our time. 

    Yes, we all need to be sowers. Because the alternative is to ignore Jesus’ parable about what the sower’s job is and instead to resign ourselves to the notion that seeds of righteousness can never grow among the thorns of greed; that seeds of mercy can never grow in bloodstained soil; that seeds of justice can never grow up to replace trees that once bore strange fruit. And if we’re resigned to those notions, then we’ll never be sowers. 

    But if that alternative sounds bad to you, then I encourage you this day: be a sower. Say and do things that help to spread the seed of kindness and justice and compassion. Say and do things that help to spread the seed of God’s love for every individual you meet, no matter who it is and no matter where you are. Be a sower. 

     

     

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