Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Sermon in Progress - for July 13, 2008

The Readings

Genesis 25:19-34 - Esau said to Jacob, "Let me eat some of that red stuff, for I am famished!" (Therefore he was called Edom.) Jacob said, "First sell me your birthright." Esau said, "I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?"

Psalm 119:105-112 - Your word is a lantern to my feet and a light upon my path.

Romans 8:1-11 - …but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 - Listen! A sower went out to sow.

This is a sermon in progress. I welcome input.

Some people will think that it is rather dumb of Esau to sell his birthright for a bowl of stew. But his question is a good one, what good is a birthright if I am dead. It is generally agreed that this passage from Genesis is not about Esau’s hunger for food or even Jacob’s hunger for power, it is about what God wants. Much could be made about Esau’s strength (in the flesh) and Jacob’s strength (in the Spirit) thus tying this passage in very nicely with Paul’s letter to the Romans.

I think that some people argue that Paul has a dualistic view of the world and that this passage is a good example of his worldview. I am not convinced that this is true. Paul is really acknowledging that his will is sometimes different from God’s will. The struggle for Paul, and he presumes for us too, is that we need to let God’s will be our will. That is "life and peace."

The connection between the two readings therefore is not that the flesh is bad and the Spirit is good. The connection is that the assumption made in both readings is that when it comes to conflicts between God’s will and our will, God’s will should and does prevail.

That brings us to the Parable of the Sower. A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, some seeds fell on rocky ground, some seeds fell on good soil. The seeds that fell on the path and on the rocky ground failed, but the seeds that fell in the good soil brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Matthew’s Gospel tells us that the seed represents the Word of God.

The other day I went strawberry picking with one of my daughters. The rows were all straight and the paths were easily walked upon, clear of weeds. As we drove to the farm we drove past lots of other farms with straight rows of potatoes and corn. Nothing was out of place. So, the audience listening to this parable would have been at least familiar enough with farming practices to know that farmers don't plant seeds in the paths and in bad soil. It is strange behavior.

Also, to have a yield of a hundredfold, or sixty, or thirty is amazing at a time when tenfold would have been considered good.

This parable is about the Word of God, a seed that has been entrusted to us to plant. We are to be extravagant, just as God’s love is extravagant, with the sowing of the seeds. We are to plant even where we don’t expect to harvest. And the yield will be beyond our imaginations.

There is a bit of irony I guess in the words from the appointed Psalm, "Your word is a lantern to my feet and a light upon my path."

I read the following story on a website called Sermon Nuggets:
A woman had a challenging dream - that she walked into a new shop in the mall - and to her surprise, found God behind the counter. "What do you sell here?" she asked. "Everything your heart desires," said God. "Everything." Hardly daring to believe what she was hearing, the woman decided to ask for the best things a human could wish for. "I'll take some peace of mind and love and happiness and wisdom and freedom from fear, " she said. Then as an afterthought, she added, "Not just for me. For everyone on earth." God smiled. "I think you've got me wrong, my dear," God said, "We don't sell the fruits here. We only sell the seeds."

We are sometimes distracted by the feeling of scarcity, thinking that the Church doesn’t have enough of this or enough of that… but we have been entrusted with seeds that are the Word of God. Esau acted out of a sense of scarcity and lost his birthright. Paul admits that there are many distractions in life, things that draw us away from God but encouraging us to be attentive to God’s will. Jesus, in this Parable of the Sower, teaches that there is no scarcity in God’s realm, God loves us extravagantly. Amen.

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