4th Sunday after Pentecost, 6-17-2018
Pentecost 4 B 2018
First sermon at St. Luke’s-Granville
Texts: 1 Samuel 15:34-16:1, Psalm 20, 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17, Mark 4:26-34
“The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how.” Mark 4:26
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be always acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. Amen.
My husband will tell you that I am not a gardener. Now, I absolutely adore flowers and truly appreciate a beautifully tended garden. In fact, one of the great delights when we moved to St. Louis was to live a block from the Missouri Botanical Garden. This is one of the most beautiful places on earth as far as I am concerned. We would have friends come and visit and they would always want to see the Arch. We say to them, “We’ll get to the Arch, but first we’re taking you to the Garden!”
From the azaleas which greet you when you first enter, to the rose gardens, from the exquisite English Woodland Garden with its bubbling streams and meandering paths under heavily canopied trees, to the beautiful precision and form of the Japanese Garden; every inch of this place is infused with peace and beauty. No matter the season, there is this hidden wholeness, this ever-changing sameness about it.
If you go in the spring the azaleas are so vibrant they will knock your socks off-but don’t expect to see the daylilies when you see the azaleas-because they aren’t up yet. And if you go in June the rose gardens will make you drunk with their heavy scent, but the lovely irises are already spent and deadheaded.
In the fall, thousands of trees begin to change their color from the deep green hues of summer to the auburns, yellows, and rust of autumn. The gentle, feathery needles of the bald cypress and the blazing colors of the Acer Maples stand together to create a textured, serene beauty that will both calm and delight your soul.
And don’t forget to visit in the winter. To walk through the Garden after a light snow fall is to enter an enchanted wonderland. The garden in winter tells a different story; a quieter, grace-filled, soothing tale of subdued excitement and anticipation.
All of these separate gardens blend together yet remain distinct from one another. They seem to transition seamlessly into each other. It is as if all the separate gardens that make up the Garden know what they are about and each contributes to a wholeness and unity that make up those incredible 79 acres that is called the Missouri Botanical Garden. Each separate garden knows when it is to bloom and when it is to die back. When it needs to step up and when it needs to rest in order to bloom for another season in its long life.
I’ve often thought to myself, how does this happen? How could such a place of peace in beauty exist in the middle of the city? How could such perfection and perfusion of smells and sights and soul renewing peace come together and be what it is?
David’s family was in from Chicago over Memorial Day Weekend and we took a docent led tour just for our family. Our guide was wonderful and I posed that very question to him. And he told us that from the Director of the Garden, who is a world-renowned botanist, to the researchers in the field around the world (the Botanical Garden is a premier international horticultural research institution) , and from the front office staff to the people who develop the year round educational programs, they rely on two things: a clearly defined vision of the mission that is shared and known by every person who works there and on the hundreds and hundreds of volunteers who go about doing the everyday, ordinary, mundane and incredibly important work of tending the gardens in season and out so that what is seen and experienced by the two million visitors each year is consistent with that vision and brings that vision to life.
Why am I telling you about all this? Because I believe it reflects the themes of today’s gospel reading and is instructive for the work we will do together in my time with you.
“The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter the seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”
Often times when this parable is preached the focus is on the seed. But today I want to focus on the process, on what it takes to get to the harvest.
The story of Jesus, our story of salvation, the story that makes up the history of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, doesn’t start at the harvest, at the second coming of Christ, but thousands of years before that when Adam and Eve are led out of the first garden-The Garden of Eden. It continues through Abraham and Sarah being led out of Ur to a new land to start a new life. Our story continues through Moses leading the people to the Promised land. It runs through the Exodus and the Exiles; through prophets and kings. It runs through the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. And it continues through the life and work of the Apostles, through the lives of those who made up the early church councils, through the Reformation, through the Revolution, through the World Wars right up to today, to June 17th, 2018.
All of these events, all of our history, is made up of everyday people living everyday lives, following God’s will for them as best as they understood it. All of our history is made up of simple moments and not so simple decisions, of people putting one foot in front of the other and traveling to where God would have them go.
Our history is about people just like you and me doing the everyday, ordinary, mundane, and incredibly important work of tending to God’s kingdom, in season and out. You see, no matter the time, no matter where we stand in history, no matter who stands in this pulpit and at this altar, some things do not change.
God is still God-and we still are not. God still loves each and every one of us with the same intensity and intimacy and longing as he loved his son and not one
Jesus is still Jesus who beckons us to come and follow him. Jesus still asks us to tend his sheep and feed his lambs and to come to this altar and be tended and fed by his offering of himself so that we can go out into the world and do the work of the kingdom.
In all of this time of transition and change, the most important things do not change. We can rest together without anxiety, without worry about what God’s future holds, because after all, it is God’s future and the amazing story of salvation is that we are asked to be a grand part of it.
But seasons do change, and little moments build on each other to create larger events and new purpose. Needs change and so our response to them must as well. Vision builds upon vision, response upon response and with each little step history is being written.
In this next year there will be times of intense work and there will be times of laying fallow and listening deeply, of moving forward and also of resting so as to renew, rejuvenate, and hear the whisper of God as to what we need to do together. Some of us are more comfortable with intensity and some with resting, and both are necessary to find our hidden wholeness, to live into our ever-changing sameness.
The process will unfold over the coming months. We will need steadiness and balance, we will need determination and patience. We will need a renewed commitment from each and every person that calls St. Luke’s home to the practices of praying for and with one another, of coming together when we like how things are going, and even more importantly when we don’t, to be nurtured by God’s Word and Sacraments as we work together towards the harvest. We will sow but God will grow. We may not know or understand how it will happen, but we have God’s promise that it will indeed happen.
We will come together as beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, in all our
separateness, in all our differences, into a shared vision of St. Luke’s that each of us can articulate and share with the community. We will walk together into a shared future and into a shared wholeness and unity.
We will take some wrong paths and we will learn how to watch and listen for signs that will get us back on track. Our work together will not be easy, but by golly it will be joyful and grace filled. How could it not be when our life is founded in Jesus Christ and our work is the work of God’s Kingdom?
Come, my friends. Let us sow some seeds together.