July 16, 2017, 6th Sunday after Pentecost YR A
July 16, 2017, 6th Sunday after Pentecost YR A The Rev. Anne Abdy Genesis 25:19-34; Psalm 119:105-112; Romans 8:1-11; Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
In the Gospel today, we have a farmer sowing his field with seeds. I imagine the different seeds reactions to being tossed off to the side by the farmer’s right hand as follows.
“Ouch! What was that about?” the seed said looking up at the farmer tossing his friends around the footpath. “Wait! Don’t leave me here! I’ll get eaten. Darn, here come the birds,” she says to the figure paying no attention to her. “No break for a simple seed,” the seed thought as it was gulped down by a crow following the farmer on his daily task for an easy dinner.
Another seed chimed in, “Hey, what ya doing? How would you like to be tossed aside! At least I can grow a little root in this hard ground,” the seed thought as she wiggled into the dry soil and began to sprout a root in the coolness of the evening light. Awaking the next morning, she thought to herself, “It is going to be a great day because I will grow a tall trunk and lots of little leaves. Plus, I will have a great root system to suck up all the water I want.” Little did she know that the harsh sun rays beating down upon her would cause her to whither and die.
“Whoa! Wait! NO! Don’t throw me in there! Not the thorns. Please, no! I will die a sure death there.” And the seed did as the thorns slowly advanced choking her to death.
“Oh, man, this is yummy soil!” said the seed landing in the fertile soil. “It tastes and feels so good as I wiggle down. I want to grow deep roots and big leaves,” the seed said aloud as it settled into the lush soil.
And then we have a pair of twins fighting over birthright in the Old Testament lesson. The first, the legitimate heir and owner of the birthright, the second, conspiring with his beloved mother to steal the birthright. Both can do no wrong in either parent’s eyes.
I imagine their interaction goes something like this as Esau approaches the hot fire with a pot of lentil stew cooking over it.
“Give me some stew, brother, for I am starved. I haven’t eaten all day while I have been hunting.”
“Nah, not until you give me your birthright. I will trade you some stew for it. ”
“What? My birthright?” and Esau ponders for quick second, answering Jacob saying, “Okay, what is the good of having a birthright if I die of starvation right here! Right now! Hand it over.!”
“Swear it! Swear it! Cross your heart and hope to die! Swear it and I will give you the stew.” In four simple sentences Esau traded away his rights as the firstborn.
Paul in the New Testament reading writes to the Roman Christians urging them to not focus on themselves with worries about persecution and living in a society with many pagan influences but instead to focus on God. In the letter he reminds these fledgling Christians that God sent his Son to die and suffer on the cross for the sins of the world. So when they obsess over the possibility of denouncing their faith upon death, or obsess on the deterioration of society but never do anything about it, then that is a problem. He encourages them to trust God’s action within them, and only then will they find that not only is God’s Spirit in them, but will find that this is a breathing and living God that will sustain them through trials and tribulations to freedom.
How do these three readings relate? There is pain. Pain that stops growth, the pain of betrayal of birthright, the perceived pain of persecution, and the pain of temptation. And all these scenarios present situations of crisis. Of times when difficult decisions need to be made. In situations when a crisis occurs, remember that the crisis is just a moment in time. Albeit, right now in our political climate, it has been a long moment of eight years as Congress is at a gridlock.
In crisis moments you have two options. The first is to not make the situation worse, and the second, is to engage in radical acceptance. Both situations require just sitting and riding each wave of emotion as they come. And as you sit with the uncomfortable feelings, maybe you will choose to dig deep within and ponder why? Why now? What is different in this moment versus a moment an hour ago, versus four days ago. When we pause and engage in that reflection, there comes a time when we are set free from the bonds of pain. For example, the physical pain of sciatica may never go away but it may become more tolerable as we breath through the pain like a women with labor pains.
As we sit with the pain, we grow. We learn things about ourselves. The Rev. Robert Horine, wrote a collection of short stories about his ministry. In one story, he writes about a young boy named Scott born on Veteran’s Day. He is always in the town’s parade on his birthday as his father is the town’s only WWII veteran. For many years this boy thought the parade was for him. Robert Horine writes, “Sometimes it takes quite a while and a jolting experience or two before we find out where we stand in the order of things. Where we think we are, or where we’d like to be, is usually at the center of creation, with all things made, if not by us, at least for us. . . .[When] trying to make our lives “mine” we lose all.”
Sometimes we have to let God do the work and let those sprouts bubble to the top and burst through the grains of soil just like the seeds did that were scattered in the fertile soil, and yes, even those seeds scattered in the hard soil. And also the seeds the birds ate. Those bird droppings probably allowed for new growth elsewhere. Those seeds lived too. And so, as believers and because Christ is in us and we are in him, we are all called to be sowers of the faith. As my preaching professor put it, ““We are not soil, called to be fertile, we are sowers, called to sow with abandon. When applying this “key” to the mustard seed and the seed growing automatically, we imagine ourselves having the expansive potential of the mustard grain, and often growing in spite of ourselves.” Our reach as Christians should reach beyond ourselves.
A simple example is the prayer that I said last week for Jeb Harper and eloquently reflected upon by Chet who sent me an email. It read:
“Dear Anne+, I must say that I have never seen such a combination of fun and compassion as when you stepped off the chancel, bent down, and offered a prayer of healing for a foot, witnessed as it was by a dozen or so children of various ages who surrounded the foot including (of course) its owner. Given the range of ages among the children, I wondered what each experienced in witness to the prayer. To each their own on that, but may it prove to be a seed planted in their hearts for future reference on human relations through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. AMEN.”
We don’t know how are actions are going to affect others. Jacob had no idea that from his action he would produce the descendants that will result in a lowly virgin girl to given birth to our Savior some 4000 years later. One could argue that because of his action, he was a cornerstone sower for salvation’s gift here on earth as the Son of God is made man. This is God’s action fulfilling a sovereign promise.
But we have to start with ourselves first before we can go out into the world. God wants us to grow. Paul talks about this growth in faith using the analogy of human development from childish acts to mature adult faith (1 Cor. 12:11). This growth requires self-examination. It requires sitting with the pain or maybe even praying through the pain. Richard Rohr in his blog titled “Contemplation gives Power to the People” suggests that “contemplation addresses the root, the underlying place where illusion and ego are generated. It touches the unconscious, where most of our wounds and need for healing lie.”
So take the time this week to sit, to ponder, and to pray asking God to reveal his growth edge for you. And as God reveals his purpose for you, then go, and reach out beyond yourself because we don’t know who will take the message and inwardly digest the radical love of Jesus Christ.
Be a sower! Plant that seed! Spread the Love!
 Robert B. Horine, Stories, Tales and a Few Small Lies of a Country Parson (Cincinnati, Ohio: Forward Movement Pub., 2001), 143.
 William F. Brosend, Conversations with Scripture: The Parables, Anglican Association of Biblical Scholars Study Series (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Pub., 2006), 33.
 Richard Rohr, “Rebuilding on a Contemplative Foundation: Contemplation Gives Power to the People,” Center for Action and Contemplation (blog), July 13, 2015, accessed July 13, 2017, https://cac.org/contemplation-gives-power-people-2017-07-13/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=2017-07-15%20DM&utm_content=2017-07-15%20DM+CID_9b2cb1e232eb8494da7c070aa1946c05&utm_source=Campaign%20Monitor%20Google%20Analytics&utm_ter.