Sunday, July 13, 2008

Rocks and Thorns

This may be an appropriate parable for getting ready for VBS which is Operation Creation….  After all, we're talking about taking care of the earth and what grows in it.

But you know, it's not easy, is it?  We've been filled with doubts -- will we pull it off?  Will we have enough students?  And assuming we get the students and pull off a great week, will those kids learn anything?   In short, will all this work be wasted?  

That's one of the questions that plagues us all, isn't it?  What's the point of doing whatever I'm doing?  It's not going to make a difference.  

Well, this parable Jesus told is just right for us, but not because it's about farming.  Rather because it's a message of hope.  A message that says, relax, it'll be all right.

Shall we look at it for a moment?

Jesus describes the old form of farming called broadcasting where you prepare the soil basically -- but then you walk through the field and scatter seeds with your hand, litterally casting them in a broad arc.  It's a given that you'll lose a huge percentage of the seed.  But you will generally get enough to grow to help you make it to the next year.

Which is exactly what Jesus is telling his followers. 

But if we put it in VBS terms, it might look like this.  Sometimes you send out invitations to attend, but they either don't respond or tell you they can't go because of other commitments like vacation or other camps.  Then some say, "that sounds good, we want to go," but they never turn in their registrations.  Some will even come for the first day and disappear.  

Then you get to those who DO arrive.  Some of them get the snacks, play the games and go home having had a nice week.  Others go home and talk about it with their folks.  But one or two might have something change inside -- something we might never see but that could inspire that child to become the next Presiding Bishop or Nobel prize winning earth scientist.  

The funny thing about this parable is that sometimes we are the soil, and sometimes we are the sower.  Sometimes we're the VBS student and sometimes we're the staff, if you will.

When you're the soil that Jesus talks about -- what does that mean?  Well, I know for myself, sometimes I can't hear God talking to me -- in any way shape or form.  Sometimes I see others talking about God and it goes right over my head -- it just doesn't make sense.  Other times -- like when we're getting ready for Towel Camp or VBS or when we're talking about Buildings and Grounds or the budget, I'm WAY too preoccupied and worried to hear God.  

But there are times when God gets through to me, and I hear, and wonderful things happen in my life -- and maybe even through me.  Like, every now and then, I preach a sermon and someone comes up to me and says, "That was exactly what I needed to hear to make it through another day."  It's not huge, but it's enough.

Maybe your life is like that, too.  Maybe sometimes you're the soil, and you hear God, but it might not make sense, or you're too worried or scared to let the radical news that God loves you really sink in.  Rocks and Thorns everywhere.  But notice this:  Jesus never condemns the soil.  Not the rocks, not the thorns, not the path.  And of course, not the good soil.  He simply lays it out there.  What Jesus understands, and we forget, is that people are not static.  Sometimes they are rocky soil, and sometimes they are good.  What we forget is that the seeds aren't cast just once -- but many times over the course of our lives, so that even if we aren't receptive at one point, we might well be at another point.  Even if we've been followers and fallen away, it might be that at another point, we will be ready again.

And sometimes, sometimes, maybe that word touches something in you -- and you see.  And you know.  And you grow in God's love.

It's times like that when you switch from being soil to being sower.  And when you do, Jesus says, don't worry about results.  Don't condemn the soil, either.   Never look at someone and say, "I tried that person before, and they're not interested."  You never know.  

Going back to VBS, I can assure you that God is touching it -- I can feel it.  But what the results will be, I have no idea.  Maybe all our seeds will fall on rocks and thorns.  But maybe, just maybe, we'll see thirty or sixty or a hundred fold growth.