Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-23
I heard on the radio a few weeks ago about a project sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution. In the forest somewhere in Western Maryland, a fence was put up about 30 years ago. That fence encloses about 30 or 40 acres, and it’s called an “exclosure”. The purpose of it is to keep out the white-tailed deer of the area, in an effort to understand what the land would look like if they weren’t present.
Inside the fence, there is a wonderful abundance of foliage, some 20 different types of trees, in all stages of growth, and a wide variety of grasses and flowers.
Outside the fence, there is a mono-culture of one or two kinds of grass, and the only trees are adult and elderly.
I would love to take this story as a full metaphor, and name each element of the story as a part of the modern church, but that is not for today.
What I’d like to concentrate on is this-several times, we used the metaphor Thursday night at Administrative Council of scattering seeds that we hope to grow. The seeds that we scattered were in the hearts of the children we recently were host to for a week, and the field we were working in is our own neighborhood. The remark was made that what Vacation Bible school did was spread many good seeds among young children, so that they will know God’s love, and that we do expect that God will do God’s best work with them. But what was also true is that between the children served in vacation Bible school and at least most of the people sitting around the table Thursday night, there is a great gulf of years-the same gulf between the adult and elderly trees and the tender, new shoots of new trees that have not yet been found by the deer.
The thing about parables is that they are pliable, useful for making illustrations, but only up to a point. I do not want us to think that we are responsible for making sure that every heart of every age person in Center Moreland (or Dymond Hollow) is healthy and ready for seed-we know that that is impossible. I also do not think that the parable tells us that we should only scatter the seeds of the story of Jesus only among those whom we know, and those whom we like, in a sense, spreading the seeds only in good soil. The farmer has apparently spread his seeds over all types of soil-his job seems to be not judging who gets the seed, only that it is spread. The end of the parable is the most important part for us, as people responsible for the spreading of the story of God’s love through the life of Jesus. Jesus ends his explanation of the parable by saying this- that some yield one hundred to one, some sixty to one, some thirty to one.
May I suggest that that is for us the point we should be taking away?
I think what we’re being given permission to believe here is that the yield is not the point. Things like Vacation Bible School are a success because 70 children and teenagers heard the stories of God’s love. If one of them becomes a mature, reasonable, compassionate and gracious Christian, then God’s harvest has been fruitful.
Our job, as Christians, is to spread the love of God through Jesus to all, without judgment of how healthy the soil of the hearts who hear it may be.
So then, what’s next? What shall we do now to share that story? What shall we do now to share God’s love? Do we wait until next year, for another VBS summer?
Or are there things we can do before then? Are there events we can invite others to? Is there an attitude we can prayerfully cultivate within ourselves that strengthens our faith enough to open up to friends about what gives us Joy in Christ?
In September, at Center Moreland’s Admin. Council, we are going to try something. We will get the work done of the church early, and then we are going to talk about what gives us joy in Christ, and in being a Christian. We are going to talk about what we do well. We are going to listen to each other, and get a sense of who we are as the body of Christ. We do invite you to join us then! I would like to do the same at Dymond Hollow, sometime this fall.
One thing that occurs to me in that talk is that we should begin to understand what it is that makes us different from other churches in the area. I do not want us to be in competition with the other churches. But in our rush to not be controversial by not highlighting differences, we do lose the opportunity to speak about what it is that makes our way, our particular “method” of following Christ, so special. Our “special sauce”, if you will. It isn’t as simple a message as some other believers in our area may have, and for many, that’s fine. But there are many people out there who know that a relationship with God isn’t simple, and there is no place for them around. I would like to be that place.
The word of God, the love of God, is a seed that can take root early and can take root late, can take root after several tries. All we are really responsible for is the scattering of the seeds by our words, and actions. We do not choose the soil, we just, like the legends of Johnny Appleseed (and I was reminded of this by the lunch grace at Center Morelands’ Sunday School picnic yesterday), are called to scatter the seeds wherever we go.