22 Jul The Fields of Life
The Rev. John C. Brink
July 22, 2018
Matt. 13: 24-34
Recently my wife Betsy and I were “down east” on Damariscotta Lake in Maine, as we have been blessed to be for the last 20 years or so. We rent a lovely, small cottage on the lake with a dock … our powerboat and kayaks … great fun … gentle times … no TV … just reading, relaxing, and quiet reflection. We tried our best to set our mobile phones aside.
This year we were even more in pursuit of rest and relaxation coming off a year of health challenges for both of Betsy’s parents. Her mom Tilda is dealing with dementia and ever-increasing confusion … a tough time. She is a gentle sweetheart, and we are honored to be on her care team at Rose Court at Linden Ponds. Together we look for God’s presence and assurance in her journey. Betsy’s dad Ted is also feeling the physical and emotional effects of Tilda’s challenges.
We sat on the dock on the lake in nice chairs. The sun was warm, the clouds were soft and beautiful and were reflected on the lake like a mirror. Gorgeous birds …geese, ducks, and loons, to name a few … were near our dock and sang out in their beautiful choir-like assemblies.
One rainy afternoon Betsy went out to the dock as 30 or so geese hit the water on either side of her. Later while out on the boat we saw bald eagles, hawks, and owls all around the lake. Truly, this lake is the gift of God … the amazing visual and emotional gentleness of what Heaven may look and feel like. The beauty of creation. All of which calls us to look beyond our daily hassles and distractions.
We were surrounded with flowers growing in the grassy area just to our left. Long purple stems of flowers, growing out of the marsh. Lily pads in abundance … with white and pink flowers … amazing. We could not have added any point of view or beauty … we were simply blessed to be there and live in these gifts, these visions, these moments of God’s Grace and Love. We are called to love and care for such beautiful gifts from God. Our Loving God is the Creator. We are gardeners, the caretakers of God’s Gifts of Life and love.
As I was preparing my sermon for today, I could not move away from this special time on the lake. Truly, we were in the Kingdom of God … the earthly vison of heaven. We are called to see, care for, love and share the Kingdom here on earth. We are called to welcome others to the beauty and wonder of God’s Plans for our growth in life and love. We are blessed with the Garden of Life.
What are we to do? We can’t just sit on the lake, but we can take the fulfillment of God’s gifts and create our own fields of beauty. We do this literally and figuratively. We create and care for the fields of God’s Love, in so many ways. We do this in our church lives and beyond.
Like the Master of the Garden of life, God helps us to grow in life and faith, even in the midst of pain, terror and failure … ours and others. We are made, nourished and cared for in the field of life. Yes, we live in the midst of wild and weedy life challenges, but we are strengthened in our faith and trust in God’s Way.
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus brings teachings and awareness to us in parables, using images and stories from a familiar life situation to create a vision for us, hoping we’ll take it in and see the lesson Jesus brings to us. He often surprises us with a turn of events. We have to listen and imagine to get to His Message.
As I was thinking through this sermon, I laughed because I never remember my mother ever using a parable to get her point across to me … mostly me … and my sisters. She was direct and got to her point quickly.
In today’s Gospel message, Jesus teaches many things that show us the peculiar quality of the Kingdom of God, our Creator. Here we read the stories of weeds in the wheat, the mustard seed, and the powerful presence of invisible leaven. Once again, I think of parables in my life, and I bet you do, too.
My chief drill instructor in the Marines, in boot camp, had some parables about men greater than me who got their butts kicked for wrong moves, and that’s the most polite language I can use. Staff Sgt. Maxwell D. Prader, all 5 feet 8 inches of him, used references and expressions that were perfectly clear in the cause and effect of our days in boot camp. Regardless of how outlandish and threatening his commands and parables were, I got the clear message that I was to manage myself first. If we all followed those orders, the idea was we could then create a sense of community that would help us all be in step and unity – literally and figuratively.
So here we are. We are alive in the field of God’s Creation. We are nurtured and cared for. Sometimes, weeds grow in too close and stifle our growth and full potential. Often, those weeds are the result of our own weaknesses and failures. Regardless, God has charged us to care for the plot of life we have, to keep an eye on invasive weeds and try to be in unison with the wheat, the mustard seeds, and yes, the lilies of the fields.
We are, in fact, like mustard seeds, don’t you think? We are conceived and grow in the womb to a full measure of life, like the mustard seed, and then we go from infancy to adulthood, becoming a shrub and then a strong tree…not always perfect, but stronger in life as we are nurtured in God’s Creation.
Jesus’ next parable is the one in which the Kingdom of Heaven is the yeast that the baker mixes with flour to create, literally…leavened bread for our nourishment. Is this not the very church life we share this morning?
In this month here at Pilgrim Church, we shared two baptisms, and worship services with wonderful music and prayers. This is the full range of life and faith God calls us to. This is the field of life, in all its seasons.
We truly begin in life as small as a mustard seed. We grow in strength, in the joy of life and then, maybe marriage, maybe children, maybe good friends, maybe rewarding work, maybe caring service to others, all of it making us even stronger in life, hopefully.
As in the parables, we bring both our strength and our weaknesses to the field of life and faith we share here at Pilgrim Church and beyond in our families and our work lives. God, as our Provider, finds a way to mix in the yeast of life to make us as a powerful, tasty leavened bread for the world. In community, we truly feed on the skills and energy of others, as we offer and share our own gifts.
Jesus calls Himself the sower of the seeds. God is the Creator and overseer of the fields of our earth. We do best to care for our own plots before we take on the entire world. What sort of a farmer is Jesus who is accepting of weeds in His garden?
Jesus, the sower of the seeds, is more interested in growing and cultivation that in weeding and separation. This is the message of our church, Pilgrim Church. We are called to grow in faith and cultivate the seeds and yeast Jesus provides us, to do just as He did for us.
We are not Pilgrim Stand Alone Church…with our own “weed-and-preventive-spray” theology. We are the followers of the First Sower of the seeds of faith. We have a plan. We don’t have to go very far to understand the nurturing of the field of life. Soon, we will welcome Rev. Bill Ferguson as our new settled Senior Pastor. We begin a new season of energy, spirit, and growth.
If we take this as a parable about the Kingdom of Heaven, and, by implication, a parable about the church, our church here, I think we can see its challenging meaning for us. In our field of faith, being faithful means to meet God where God meets us. And we firmly believe that God meets us – not only on long, silent walks on the beach, or in times of peace and meditation – but also in our church life. God meets us here in the church, a motley crew of saints and sinners, this friendly gathering of people who some would say have not much that holds us together, or nothing to keep us in motion…other than our discipleship with Jesus Christ. I feel we are a place of strength and energy.
I know this flies in the face of current, popular definition of “spirituality” and the religious life. But there it is. We are the body of Christ. You are God’s answer to what’s wrong with the world. We are the primary means whereby the world will meet Christ. You. Me. All our kids. All our service and outreach.