There are days when you wonder if you can really make a difference. I watch with horror and great sadness as over 132,00 people have died from the coronavirus in our country. Yes, I wash my hands frequently, wear a mask, and social distance. Yes, I stay at home most of the time and choose public places very carefully. But I still see national leaders who refuse to do the same. I think they’re horrible role models. It makes me feel so frustrated that some people refuse to take this virus seriously. Perhaps you feel the same way.
I also see what passes for conversation these days, which mostly consists of yelling loudly at those we disagree with. This happens in public as well as on social media. Yes, I try to shine the light of Christ into our world as brightly as I can. I try to hold my tongue when I’m tempted to say something in anger. But some days it’s easier than others. I’m just being honest. I’m certain I’m not the only person in our congregation who feels this way.
I’m also determined to help dismantle systemic racism. I’m listening to the voices of those who have been the victims of this oppressive system. I’m reading and also joined the North Carolina Synod’s Racial Justice Network. I donated to My Daddy Taught Me That, which is a local mentoring program for black make youth in Asheville. I’ve volunteered to serve with the Asheville Police Department, hoping to bring about reform. But, I also know I am only one person. I can only do so much. And so, there are days when I begin to wonder if I can make a difference.
Perhaps you feel the same way, too. Perhaps today, as you’re listening to this sermon, you’re feeling a little bit defeated, too. If this is the case, I do have some good news for those of us who are feeling less than optimistic. It comes from the well-known parable of the Sower and the Seeds which should really be named the Invincible Harvest, since this is the true point of the parable. So, let’s take a look at it, and see what good news it proclaims.
Jesus says, “A sower went out to sow.” A simple statement. An everyday occurrence. There’s nothing exciting or exotic going on here. The sower is doing what a sower does: Planting seeds in late winter or early spring with the hope that they will produce enough food to feed a hungry family and some to sell in the marketplace. As these seeds take flight, they run into some tough times.
Some fall on a path, and the birds swoop down and eat them up. Some fall on rocky ground. Since they could not establish deep enough roots, The sun scorched them and the plants died. Some fall on soil that is full of weeds. The weeds eventually choke the life out of the plants springing up from the ground.
Yes, I realize, it’s a horrible story so far. There is a 100% failure rate. There are days when all of us feel this way. We try our best but sometimes feel like our efforts are in vain.
Thankfully, the story does not end here. Some of the seeds find fertile soil. Not only do they germinate and produce a harvest. The harvest itself is 30, 60, or even 100 times what can be expected. If we do the math on this, it makes up for all the other seeds many times over.
What Jesus is giving us here is what I call “kingdom of God math.” It’s not the math I learned in college. It’s far tougher and more invincible than that! It’s grace upon grace from the prologue to John’s gospel. It’s water that becomes the best wine we’ve ever tasted. It’s the pinch of yeast that leavens the entire loaf. It’s the tiny mustard seed that becomes a tree where birds can make nests in its branches.
Kingdom of God math is hopeful. It’s strong and tenacious. It stands on the solid ground that if God is for us, who can be against us. On days when we begin to wonder if we can really make a difference, this is the math we need to remember. It’s all over the gospels, if we have ears to hear and eyes to see it. Jesus believed in kingdom of God math. He encourage us to believe in it too.
If we take into consideration the traditional interpretation that is attached to this parable, here is what I think the Sprit is saying to God’s people: The seeds we sow are God’s Word. What is God’s Word? It’s all the things that Jesus and the prophets taught us to do.
We talk about these activities All. The. Time. We should know them by heart. They should be heard in the words we speak, and the actions we do. God’s Word is doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly. It’s loving God, our neighbor and our selves, along with loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us. It’s showing up and taking care of the “least of these”: the hungry, the homeless, the immigrant, the sick, the imprisoned.
You know all this stuff. It’s written in our hearts. It’s reflected in the Mission and Welcome Statements of Abiding Savior. On those days when we begin to wonder if we can make a difference in this world, we need to remember these values. We need to trust that the kingdom of God math in the parable is accurate. Our efforts do make a difference. Sure they are an utter failure 75% of the time. But when those seeds find good soil, it more than makes up for what was lost.
Even as I speak these words, I feel a little sprout of hope growing in the soil of my spirit. Perhaps, you feel it, too! Perhaps we can encourage one another, when one of us is having a less than optimistic day.
My dear friends, we are in this for the long haul. It doesn’t look like the coronavirus is going to be defeated any time in the near future. Dismantling 400 years of systemic racism is not going to happen overnight, either. What we are called to do in these difficult times is keep on sowing kingdom seeds each and every day. We’re not supposed to focus on the places where these seeds fail to germinate. Instead, we are called to trust that when they find good soil, the harvest will make up for the losses, in overflowing abundance. Today, let us claim this truth for ourselves, our nation and our world. Let us live out the values Jesus taught is with reckless abandon. AMEN.
Copyright ©2020 by David Eck.