given on April 18, 2010
Have you noticed the grandeur of God’s world this week? I do not think any one of us could ignore it, especially living in the middle of the heartland. Still the mystery of just one seed is revealed to us year after year. And I expect we are so familiar with the rhythms of nature that one seed is seldom on idea upon which we dwell: We take one seed for granted.
In each seed, whether the tiny mustard seed or a grey-striped sunflower seed holds the promise of life. Obviously, that life means growth and a final product, but consider what other elements of life are promised: beauty, food, shade, soil enriching compost, and more seeds—not just one, but many seeds. The cycle continues: One seed promises life. One seed promises more seeds. More seeds promise more life. The cycle continues season after season.
Imagine that you were Saul. You had a job to do and thought nothing of that job to stop the spread of Christianity. He grew up to follow in his family’s tradition serving as a tentmaker yet trained to be a Pharisee. He took upon the responsibility of capturing Christians and having them punished, even stoned to death as he had Stephen stoned. Yet God chose him to serve.
True, God had to get his attention because Saul was one determined individual who took his job seriously. God had to stop him in his tracks, blind him, and talk to him. On that road to Damascus, Saul went from a strong, independent man to a frightened, weak, dependent man. He spent those few days in a state of confusion, bewilderment, chaos…the emotional tornado surely wiped out the world he knew and he had no idea what his new world would be.
Still God had a plan. He knew that Saul was gifted with leadership, with languages, with Roman citizenship, with charismatic personality, with stamina, and with passion. Saul was the man for a job God needed to get done. Yet God knew that this strong-willed man held the promise of one seed if he could get his attention and Saul would listen to him, Saul would be like the mustard seed.
The message of God’s grace could be planted into the fertile soil of communities beyond Jerusalem. The promise of one seed turned into the exponential growth of Christianity history has recorded for over 2,000 years. The Christian seed planted in one small region of this earth, a region where the soil certainly is not rich in nutrients like the soil here in the heartland of our country, and yet that one seed provided a yield that has continued to produce more seeds, which produce more seeds—and the cycle continues.
This week we see the results of seeds planted by caretakers who work to maintain the soil, to use the best seeds, and to nurture the seeds. The caretakers come in such an array—birds, animals, wind, and people. The task may seem insignificant to some caretakers, but others work hard to learn more, to do more, and to produce more.
Saul was a caretaker. He had trained to be a leader in the faith community. He had the skills; he just needed to know Jesus personally. He needed a life-altering event so God could reach him. Blinded, on a road, Saul heard God. Saul had to retrain; he had to go back to the basics in order to manage the job that God had for him. Saul shed the old self, the scales fell from his eyes, and he took on God’s challenge as Paul. Paul was one seed that produced the exponential growth on Christianity. Are we able to continue his work?
As we continue to work in the yards and the fields, we have time to think, to reflect. We are getting our hands dirty. We are feeling the warmth of the sun on our faces. We are watering the ground around the new seeds—well God is watering it at least. We are providing the nutrients to fine tune the soil here in our corner of the earth. The results are so obvious as we drive down the roads. The trees have leafed out, the flowers are blooming, and the fields are tilled and planted; and the seeds are beginning the process—germinating, peeking through the soil, and reaching to the sun.
There is not a more appropriate analogy or comparison of how faith is nurtured and developed as the idea of one seed’s promise as it is placed in the ground. Whether we were born into Christian families or not, we know we must continue to nurture ourselves if we are to produce the fruits of our faith.
The process is not always easy. This week I introduced knitting and crocheting to my hobbies class. The moaning and the complaints had made me hesitant, but I knew that there was hope. First, I showed them finished projects. They saw the colors; they felt the textures. And then one of the students brought in crocheted throws her grandmother had created — gorgeous, unique, specialized by requests. The results were stunning to the students as they were unfolded and displayed. By fourth block, the students were ready to begin.
Our lives are like the rose which has died during the winter and revived in the spring. The beauty of the rose’s bloom is the result of the proper care. The wait is worth it. The work is worth it. The same is true of the afghans. The work to create beauty is important. Our practice improves the product. Does it not follow to reason, then, that the practices of our faith will improve the final product?
We are the seeds of Christian faith. The generations before us have worked to make sure that we have all that we need to develop our faith. Are we being responsible and continuing to nurture our faith? Each one of us holds the promise of growth just like any seed that is produced. Each one of us is responsible for our own bodily health and our own spiritual health. Are we still just a seed? Or are we at the seedling state, the budding state, or the full bloom? Have we reseeded and started the process all over again?
When Jesus entered the locked upper room where the Disciples gathered and locked the door, where they in full bloom? I believe that the Disciples had bloomed and were now in the position to reseed the earth with a New Covenant. Jesus came back to them to provide them with the directive and to give them that final tool they needed to fulfill the promise of one seed. The Disciples were the seeds of Jesus and the exponential growth that continues is because the final beauty of the Christian in bloom is worth all the work it takes to make it reach its ultimate bloom.
You have been tasked to make disciples of Christ, just like the Disciples were tasked. You are one seed with the potential to produce many, many more seeds. What do you need to grow? Do you have the basics of your faith? Do you need more sunshine? Do you need more wind and rain? The Christian faith needs the proper nourishment which is the Bible, the fellowship, the worship, and the commitment to tend to the growth of your faith.
As Methodists, we know that our faith development never ends. We are to read the Bible, to attend worship regularly, to serve one another, and to study. Our faith cannot grow and produce more seeds if we do not take care of our own faith health. Implement a plan that you can maintain in order to develop in your faith even more than you are today. The cycle of life never ends, nor does one’s faith development.
Saul took on an entirely new persona—he became a hybrid tea rose which was stronger and more bountiful than he had been. Saul became Paul and this one seed of faith grew exponentially until Christianity wrapped around the globe. God knew Paul had the spiritual gifts to reproduce Jesus’ teachings in a manner that crossed cultural and geographical barriers. Even today, our churches work to continue in mission so the seed planted by God in the shape of Jesus continues to bear fruit.
The challenge to each Christian today, whether sitting here in these very pews or not, is to continue to grow. Grow personally. Grow in unity with others. Grow so more may grow in faith, too. We are planting the most important garden there is here on earth, but it will whither and die if we do not tend to it correctly. Read the Bible, attend worship, study together, and share your story. You are the bloom for others to see and that bloom is the seed of promise for others.
Dear God, tender of the garden,
We see the beauty of your earth this week and are filled with joy. We watch in amazement as the seeds sprout and grow. We delight in the blooms as they color the yards and the roadsides. Guide us as we continue to nurture your earth. Talk to us and tell us what to do to plant more seeds of faith around us. Refuel us with your words, with fellowship, and with the skills to continue planting and nourishing faith among others. Thank you for promising us the beauty of faith and the beauty of this earth. Thank you for trusting us to continue the cycle of life. –Amen