Thursday, July 16, 2020

Praying the Sower's Story

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the lake. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have 
much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!’

‘Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.’

Prayer of Confession (based on Matthew 13:18-23)
Gracious and loving God, we are a mixed bag to say the least: when we are tempted to give up;  when we fail in practicing a living faith; when we seek our peace in neglect and privilege: heal our broken spirits, confirm us in all goodness, save us from trusting in our own strength. As we turn to you in these quiet moments: forgive what we have been, help us to amend what we are, and direct what we shall be; that we may do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with you, our God. Amen.

Richard Lischer’s Open Secrets: A Memoir of Faith and Discovery, is a beautiful story of his experience as a first-time pastor of a Lutheran Church in the corn belt town of New Cana, Illinois. His church celebrated what was known as the ritual of the field on Rogate Sunday. It was the Fifth Sunday of Easter. This is how Lischer describes it:

When April’s sweet showers had bathed the dry veins of March, callused palms the size of gourds would cradle a few hybrid seeds as if they were crystal, and our church would ask God to make the crops grow. At the end of the service, representative farmers would lead the congregation through the back doors of the church and across the road into Norbert Semann’s muddy field, which at this time of the year was as rank and sweet as black bread soaked in port. There, we symbolically planted the seeds.

Lischer continues with brief liturgy he used on his second Rogate Sunday:

Pastor (in the sanctuary): Let us now proceed to Norberts field.
(The congregation files out the center aisle in orderly fashion. The people cross the road and walk unceremoniously into the dirt. There is no talking or laughter.)

Leonard Semanns (crouching on one knee as he places the seeds in their furrow): Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

June Semanns (flanked by her husband, several farmers, a nurse, etc.) The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose. We are God’s servants, working together. You are God’s field.

Pastor (from the midst of the congregation): Lord, when you came among us, you proclaimed the kingdom in villages and lonely places. Have mercy on those who work hard at lonely jobs, where they can’t talk to others or can’t be heard when they do. Remind all country people that you are never far from those who plant and harvest. Help everyone in our nation to say grace over their food and to respect those who produce it. O God, hear us as we bless earth, sun, wind, and water, in the name of Jesus. Amen.

The Parable of the Sower is an invitation to nourish and respect the life of God within. What if I nurtured the word of the kingdom like the farmers “cradled” their seeds? What would it mean for me to guard the word “like fine crystal,” so that the seed of God’s kingdom could grow by leaps and bounds! I tend to minimize what is possible because of God’s abundance. How can I overlook the fruit of this relationship? It comes in unheard multiples of 100, 60, and 30 fold!

The Letter of James asks: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom…. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind…But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace.” James 3: 13, 16-18

Prayer and Blessing
Loving God, in your mercy, hear our prayers for others:

+Your healing grace and comfort for the sick and those who care for them; the grieving and those who reach out to them; the brokenhearted and their families,

Your help for those who grow, deliver, and prepare food for our tables, 

+Your strength for those on the front lines in this time of crisis:  firefighters and police, every day maintenance teams and housekeepers, doctors and nurses, researchers and scientists, 

+Your wisdom for the leaders of all nations of the world, our leaders in our nation, cities, and states,

+Your safekeeping for all serving far from home in our military and their families,

+Your shalom for all injured by unfairness, neglect, abuse, and injustice,

+Your compassion for all diminished by fear and worry, hate and bitterness,

Send us from this space to be seeds of Christ’s love, to scatter seeds of God’s hope, and to bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Through Christ and in Christ we pray. Amen.

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