The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost — The Rev. Sam Owen

The Rev. Sam Owen

The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost: June 17, 2018

1 Samuel 15:34-16:13  |  Psalm 20
2 Corinthians 5:6-10,[11-13],14-17  |  Mark 4:26-34

 Preacher: The Rev. Sam Owen, Priest in Charge of the Haitian Congregation of the Good Samaritan

Sermon June 17, 2018

In the name of God… Good morning, thank you Kate, good to be back… Happy Father’s Day! Show of hands, how many here are farmers? Today Jesus gives two farming parables, familiar to many of us.  The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground. After scattering the farmer goes about her life, and then, with no understanding of the process with no intervention from the sower, the seed becomes a fully formed stalk of grain, which ripens and is harvested. The Kingdom of God is also like a mustard seed that is the smallest of all seeds but when put in the ground becomes the greatest of all shrubs… with large branches for making nests for birds and giving shade. Even though we aren’t farmers we can appreciate the context that Jesus was preaching in. In his day many people were farmers. Comparing God’s Kingdom to their daily activities was a way to bring the Kingdom of God closer.

The Greek phrase Basileia Theous is translated Kingdom of God which is an accurate literal translation. But the problem with the translation is it sounds like some fixed, static place. Some translate it as the reign of God, The implication is something much more active. We can participate in God’s kingdom here and now while recognizing that God is in charge and it’s not up to us. Jesus says the kingdom of God is among, some translate within you. The farming parables were meant to bring them the same faith and hope in God that they had in the farming process, a process which they believed in enough to stake their livelihood on. It is also a good parable because during Jesus’ time, people were hungry. People paid attention to a parable about food. Jesus encourages us to trust God when we are hungry, spiritually or physically. For us who are not farmers, [ and the closest I have come lately is growing the little plant that my son Martin brought home from school as a Mother’s Day gift, ] this parable can mean many things. It applies to the mission of the church. As we sow the seeds of the love of God, those seeds flourish and transform into something much bigger, something which does not at all resemble it original state. For example, two years ago St. Michael’s helped plant a new Episcopal church and school in Martel. Starting in September they will have 125 students enrolled in the school. Each Sunday nearly 100 people come to worship and pray and hear the word of God. If you want to hear more about this amazing project Please come to our presentation after worship in the Gray Lounge.

This parable can also apply to each of us. We are the mustard seeds. God uses the events of our lives, especially the tragedies, the failures, the disappointments as seeds of new growth. Many of us are going through dark times right now. Maybe someone you love died, or you got a divorce. Maybe it’s a disappointment like a dream that didn’t come true, a job you didn’t get. Maybe it’s a failure, like saying I’m not going to drink alcohol today and then you did.

If you’re not going through something like this now, you have in the past, or you will in the future. We do our best to avoid these times, because they are hard. They are dark. If you are going through a long period of unemployment, you’re like a seed sitting underground, the world can seem dark, cold, and dirty. We wonder will this ever change! But through God’s grace, from the darkness of our tragedies, failures and disappointments can grow new and surprising things. They are the seeds for new growth. I know a man who tried to quit drinking and drugging for 10 years. With the grace of God he is now sober. I know a man who got divorced and thought he would never find a partner again. He did. People with long-term illness and unemployment can find a deeper faith and reliance on God. New and unexpected things can grow out of the seeds of our tragedies, those seeds we wish were never planted in our lives.

But there is a second part to this parable that is bigger than each of us. Jesus says that tiny seeds of despair become the greatest of all shrubs. They provide shade and shelter for others. Jesus says the seed becomes a home for the birds. Home means safety, comfort, love. Our recovery from addiction can become a source of hope and service for others who suffer. Our woundedness from divorce can give us a deeper sense of compassion for others going through the same thing. God transforms our losses – loss of health, loss of youth, death of a loved one – Pèrt nou yo, pèrt jen, lanmò into a place that is safe, comfortable and full of love. This is the nature of the God we believe in! Sometimes when we suffer we cry Why is this happening to me! My God, My God! Why have you forsaken me?! Bondye, Bondye m’, poukisa ou lage m’ konsa? But God hasn’t forsaken us. God is on the move, reigning over God’s Kingdom. God is the fertile soil, God is the water, God is the sunlight… that makes transformation happen. We have to do our part, which is to sow the seeds of our messy lives. We offer ourselves to God. And then we wait, and that’s hard. It’s hard to sleep and rise night and day not knowing of anything is growing. It takes faith. We have to trust that the same God who raised Jesus from the dead the same God who delivered the Israelites out of slavery into the promised Land The same God who created light out of darkness… Will bring us home. In fact, the very thing that we tried hard to avoid, can become the very source of our purpose for living the world. We are subjects of the reign of God here and now, a celestial monarch who loves and cares for us. Finally, what happens to the seed when it becomes a shrub? The seed dies. That what Paul means when he says If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new. Allow yourself to be a seed, allow God to transform you from a seed to a shrub. The Kingdom of God is here, today, with us. May God bless these words. May God bless each of us. Amen.