"Where Will YOU Plant?" - Sermon, July 16, 2017

Community UMC, Quincy
“Where Will YOU Plant?”
July 16, 2017
Pastor Andrew Davis
Isaiah 55: 10-13
Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-23

How many of you have a vegetable garden in your backyard?  How about a flower garden?  Since moving into my house last July, it was too late to plant a garden, so I made sure that I planted a garden this year.  Now considering that I’m not really a builder-type or even remotely skilled in that area, I did manage to put together a shabby garden bed, complete with mole/gopher-proof mesh bottom, and managed to get some deer netting around the outside.  So far, all my veggie plants which include  my tomato, eggplants, and green beans are growing and will hopefully produce next month, while my jalapeno pepper plant and cucumber plant have me scratching my head a little bit.  But when we decide to have a garden, we have to decide where we’re going to plant.  Ideally, we want a place where the garden will get adequate sunlight throughout the day.  Then when we do raised beds, we have to decide what kind of soil mixture we’re going to use.  In fact, that might be my mistake, as I don’t have enough top-soil, but instead a three-manure blend and something like the consistency of compost and potting soil.  It’s trial and error in this first attempt at my own garden and I always have next year to remix the soil and try again.  But where to plant is always the essential question that we ask ourselves and this morning’s Gospel Lesson, also known as the “Parable of the Sower” also asks each of us, where will YOU plant? 
This morning, we encounter some of Jesus’s parables in Matthew, which are not literal statements, but sayings of Jesus that often use the literary convention of hyperbole, or exaggerated phrases and demands that Jesus uses to make his point in many of his teachings.  However, today’s parable is one that you may have heard before, although it may be completely new to others and that is okay!!  Parables can be a little tricky to read at times, but also just as tricky to unpack.  However, in this morning’s parable of the sower, Jesus is telling a crowd of people about a farmer planting seeds in several different soil-types, with each one producing a different result.  However, after reading this same parable in Mark and Luke’s gospels, Jesus is saying that the seeds that are sown are the word of God, as we are the farmers who will plant the seeds, but we need to decide which soil we’re going to plant in, as the soil types are the people who will receive God’s word.  Yet this parable is sometimes hard to swallow because it also kind of feels like there’s a little shaming going on, especially in verses 18-23. But that’s not necessarily the case, as it’s more about how the seeds, or the word of God is received.  
At the same time, Jesus is all about people paying attention to God’s word, hence why he compares those who hear and receive the word to the different soil types where the seeds are planted by the sower.  Some of the soil will be rocky and hard to plant in, while some seeds will be left out and won’t even sprout, while other seeds will get scorched by the sun because the soil isn't very deep.  As we heard in the lesson, Jesus is very direct, sometimes even blunt, and perhaps a little passive aggressive, which we particularly see in the character of Jesus in Matthew’s Gospel.  Even leading up to today's lesson, we’ve heard sharing God’s word being like ‘lambs in the midst of the wolves’ (Matt. 10:16) we’ve also heard that when we welcome the stranger, we welcome Jesus (Matt. 10: 40). The last week as he addresses the crowds, Jesus says we can find rest in him (Matt. 11: 28).  But now after a slight interaction with the Pharisees, who were the religious authorities at the time who loved to question and challenge Jesus, we find Jesus addressing the crowds once again, essentially asking them ‘where will YOU plant?’ Where will you share God’s word with the world?  However, when we think about it, Jesus is asking us today where are WE going to plant?  Where are WE going to share God’s word? Especially when we have so many opportunities around us to plant the seeds of God’s word around us here in this community.  Of course, there will no doubt be different soils that our seeds will fall on.  Yet I think all of us hope that all soil that we plant our seeds In will be good soil, where God’s word will take root, but we also know that there’s a chance that our seeds will stay on the footpath and some of our seeds will not quite take hold.  It’s the reality that we live in today. 
However, I do see some very fresh soil and am particularly excited about this coming week and Vacation Bible School, as our theme is Barnyard Roundup; talk about being farmers and sowing seeds!!  Starting tomorrow, we will be welcoming many children from our community to our campus, including many of our own children from this church.  THIS, friends is a prime opportunity to plant some seeds.  One of the many things I have heard in my conversations with you this past year with you is the desire to invite younger families to our church, and this week is the chance to reach out and plant that seed and for all of us to put our desires and our words into action.  I believe that children are good soil to plant in, but it takes the responsibility of all us, the farmers Jesus speaks of, to cultivate, water, and nourish the seeds that we plant and we do that by genuinely and authentically welcoming ALL people; but with the children in particular, we really want to nourish those seeds that we plant by being encouraging, being willing to step up and TEACH our children about loving God, serving God, serving others, and about what it means to worship and be a follower of Jesus, something we can keep doing well after VBS has concluded.  It’s chances like these that we cannot let slip away and get snatched away by the birds or forces of evil, or fall on rocky soil (although we know birds are quite good at planting seeds too and will just leave it at that).  Yet in order to have a productive garden, it takes a good mixture of soil, planting the seeds, watering, and nourishing those seeds.  Even weeding and pruning.
Another means of planting seeds happened over this weekend which I returned a little early from, as I had the opportunity and honor of being an assistant spiritual director on the 36th Girl’s Chrysalis flight at the UMC Rancho Cordova, which is also the church I am a member at, and the church that launched me into ministry.  Chrysalis is the youth version of the Walk to Emmaus, Cursillo, Tres Dias, and similar three-day weekend experiences, which a number of members here at Community UMC have also been a part of (also how my family's known Pastor Ray over the last 20+ years).  While there are many surprises that happen over the course of three days, participants hear a series of fifteen talks that help nourish the seeds that have already been planted in them, but at the same time, there are many new seeds that are planted along the way after these three days.  Just like working with chaperoning the youth delegation at Annual Conference last month, this is am entirely new step for me in working with youth, but I also realize that that we need to keep nourishing the seeds that were planted in our youth and children and that is my hope here at Community UMC, that each of us can plant the seeds of faith throughout our community, particularly with our younger generations of young adults, youth, and children, even showing them and encouraging them to be leaders in the church, to be disciples, and make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world, and plant seeds of their own.  And I hope that over this weekend, those teenage girls experienced God’s love in many new and exciting ways, and I hope that we will be able to have a boy’s flight in the near future too and plant and nourish the seeds in our young men as we have with our young women. 
As we think about where we plant our seeds of faith, the more that we can plant those seeds with our younger generations, the more likely that those seeds will take root when we nourish them, but there is plenty of opportunity all around us with ALL different ages.  Most importantly, we need to keep trying to scatter the seeds and keep trying to plant everywhere, even if the soil might be rocky or gets overgrown by weeds (of course, weeds can be pulled and the plants can be salvaged!).  In fact in my own garden, I’m wondering about my soil mix if it’s good soil, but it takes trial and error, but more important, not giving up either and the same goes for sharing God’s word and planting that seed.  As we go into our new week and celebrate VBS, where are YOU going to plant?  

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, let the church say AMEN!!  

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