Sowing Seeds

Pastor Elizabeth Bier

Sowing Seeds

4 mins
June 15, 2021

Scripture: Ezekiel 17:22-24; Psalm 92; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 14-17; Mark 4:26-34

Today, we’re focusing on the Thanks of: Help-Thanks-Wow - author Anne Lamott’s reminder about the 3 basic prayers. Giving thanks is a way God’s love grows in us. Maybe you’ve kept a gratitude journal before - where you take time each day, or each week to write down what you are thankful for from that day. Or take a moment and reflect on the highs & lows of your day. With confirmation students, we use rose, thorn and bud. The Rose is something you liked today - a good thing; a Thorn is the challenge, the hard thing of the day, something difficult; and a Bud is what you are looking forward to tomorrow.

The Purpose of Parables

Jesus told parables to teach people about God’s loving reign and to turn people’s hearts toward God. Parables are simple stories that often have a surprising twist. According to Mark, the explanation of the parables was given secretly to the disciples. But now this meaning is proclaimed openly in the church: God makes what is low and dry to be high and green. The central occasion of this action of God is found in the cross. Walking by sight and not by faith, we all too often live only for ourselves, and we give special attention to people who appear high and powerful, as if they were the source of more life for us. But just as an annual bush — a scraggly bush that dies — is presented by Jesus as the very tree of life, just as the dry seed becomes a mighty harvest, just as God makes a sprig to be a mighty cedar, so against all appearances the cross of Christ’s death holds us into a new creation. 

In chapter 4 of Mark, and all over Jesus’ stories, he used agricultural themes - and people were familiar with these themes because farming was a common practice everyone depended on. Farming is a good image for exploring how God’s Word grows in the world. We share in proclaiming God’s Word, but we cannot control who hears it or how the Word works in those who hear it, and it may work in us in ways we don’t expect.

A Mystery of Seeds

From the first part of today’s gospel reading, we’re left with the twist of the mystery of the growing seeds & plants. The seed was planted & the farmer, the sower, goes to bed and rises, not knowing how that growth is happening. But the growth comes all the same. In the earthy, nutrient rich darkness, seeds are being nurtured and prepared to break through the soil.

For each of us, we are being nurtured, fed; something new is growing in you, in our world, our communities. The kingdom of God, Jesus’ Spirit at work in us. One practice of giving thanks is giving thanks for that which we cannot yet see.  The mystery that is happening under the soil - in our hearts, our lives.

Give thanks for the growth and pray for eyes to see it when it emerges.

One place we’re talking about God’s love growing in us this summer is at Vacation Bible School (VBS). Our focus story is the Parable of the Sower - the parable that comes just before the planting & mustard seed stories we heard this morning. The farmer sowed seed (tossing out seed on the field) - some birds came and ate up some of the seed, other seed fell on rocky ground, some grew up and thorns choked them out and other seed grew up in good soil. If you want the story - take a look at our hymn for today -The Farmer and Me.

Each day at ReNew VBS, kids hear the entire Bible story, and then focus on one section of it to discover what the passage means for them and how it relates to caring for God’s creation. We’ll learn about: Day 1: Planting Seeds; Day 2: Taking Root; Day 3: Growing; Day 4: Facing Challenges; Day 5: Living Together

One of the lines in the VBS song we’re singing today is “The Farmer planted some seeds and one of them is me - I’m guided by His hand.” God, the Great Farmer planted a seed and one of them is you and me - you and I are guided by his hand. God’s love is growing in you and me. And it changes us, even as we live in a world that changes around us.

Change Happens

That’s one of life’s realities right, change happens. We don’t always want change. It’s stressful when too much seems to be changing all at once. But sometimes we’re surprised at change because we haven’t seen what’s been taking place “under the ground” so to speak. There are new ideas, new life bubbling up in places we don’t hang out.

This ties into one of the most helpful change models I know of - the Two Loops model - based on the lifecycle of forests. And it fits super well with Christian hope of resurrection - that in Christ’s triumph over the grave, death does not have the last say. Our churches, like so many churches, have been having conversations about how we feel like we’re “growing older” - taking an honest look at who shows up most regularly to worship, who’s the majority on committees, council, etc. These conversations have been happening long before I joined you two years ago. 

There is a life cycle for organizations, and forests, - growth and then decline/decay (the first “loop”/arch). At the same time, there are things happening under the surface, in communities of practice, places we may not hang out in. Those things are nurtured and start to grow - to emerge above ground, now visible to others (the second loop). As an organization experiences decline, they look over and spy the new growth and take a walk over the bridge - hop over to that new growth. Taking that walk, there are some things that will be let go - a release of some past practices and ways of being - and they become compost/fertilizer - a necessary part of a living ecosystem. As Christians, we know that in the face of death, we have the promise of resurrection - we walk by faith, not by sight - trusting that God is working for good even when we can’t see what’s going on.

God at Work

And that brings us to the faith-filled piece of this. God is at work in the lives of everyone - even when we don’t see them in person very often, or may not be connected to our church at all. Makes me think of the Kindness Table at OW Schools (Nazareth). Saw that in giving quilts to 8 high schoolers (Our Savior’s). We have 8 kids headed off to camp this month - that’s great - and one of the reasons I go up there for the week is to take pictures and experience camp together to help tell the stories that don’t make it to all of you. We’re preparing for maybe 10 youths to head to the ELCA Youth Gathering next summer. We have grandparents sharing Bible stories and prayers with their grandkids. Godparents helping their godchildren, of any age, to remember that God loves them and is with them. Preparing for maybe 40 kids at VBS this summer? We’re not sure. “Church” is not just Sunday morning. Forming faith happens in many different places and ways.

We learn about these ways by getting together and listening to each other's stories for what God is growing. And, continue to intentionally nurture the faith of our kids, teens and young adults. We watch for that bridge to hop over to new things. That’s what the Growing Young Summits happening this summer are about. Our synod ministers are helping us gather with other congregations and listen and learn from one another, imagine and dream. This Wednesday, I’ll be on Zoom at Our Savior’s, participating in the summit and you can join me, to have in person time. The next dates are July 14 and August 18. This is one way of creating spaces where we build up relationships & can hear the new things emerging.

Praying for Growth

This brings us back to praying for that growth under the soil. Giving thanks for that which we may not yet be able to see - “we walk by faith, not by sight.” We are living that promise from Paul - “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” 

Lord, THANK YOU for making all things new - help open our eyes, hearts and minds to see it! Amen.

This article was orginally reported by
Pastor Elizabeth Bier

Rev. Elizabeth Bier is the pastor of ONE in Christ Parish, a three-point parish in Greenwood, Longwood, and Withee. She is ordained with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) and has served the ONE in Christ Parish since February of 2019.