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July 12, 2020 

SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST 2020 A

In 1962 when my sister was born, my Grandparents came from Germany to live with us.  We had just bought our first house and my Opa, my grandpa, could build or rebuild anything.  My older brother, my dad, and I were in charge of painting the house.  I wanted to do a little sanding, open the paint can, and start painting away.  Did I forget to mention that the old paint on the house was 40 or 50 years old and that the narrow wood slats had a thick round nose to go with a 2 ½ inch over lap.  That meant that a flat scraper was useless.  Every thing had to be scraped with a steel wire brush followed by course and then fine sandpaper.  The preparation took about 5 times as long as the painting and was 5 times as hard.  What I learned from my Opa and my father was the importance of 3 things: PREP, PREP, AND PREP—you don’t cut corners when you work—and finally the importance of follow up to see if you missed anything.  

Jesus used illustrations from everyday life to explain how to do what had to be done, and how to do it effectively.  His stories reflected the audience that he was dealing with.  For instance, Jesus told fishermen the best place to fish, and that they would soon be CATCHING PEOPLE INSTEAD OF FISH. 

 In today’s Gospel story, Jesus is in farm country that is close to a fresh water lake—the best of both worlds!  This story is about how to effectively plant seeds.  As we have already mentioned, the first three things we have to do is what?  PREP, PREP, AND PREP!  

It wouldn’t hurt to get rid of rocks and weeds, then break up the ground by plowing some rows the right distance apart, the length depending on how big the harvest you want.  You might have to account for irrigation so you can water the crop.  You certainly don’t want to waste too many seeds, but you do want to plant a full crop, even if some of the seed falls on the road or the rocks, and not all on the nicely prepared earth.

One thing I definitely learned from serving a church in farm country, is that you have to BE ATTENTIVE.  Your crops and your farm animals are like your children.  You can’t just take care of them Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm and then take the weekend off.  My farmers would come to church in overalls, because they had already done some farm chores before church on Sunday, and they would be going back to finish what they still had to do.  You can’t be an occasional farmer, and as our lessons remind us, you shouldn’t be an occasional Christian, either.

Jesus was in tune with his audience, but today’s Gospel lesson reminds us that even if we do our due diligence to meet people in their places of greatest need, they also have to be willing to accept the love and support that we have to offer.  As the expression goes, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”

Let’s be truthful.  Jesus is not trying to give fishing lessons, nor is he trying to give farming lessons.  He is speaking to people using idioms that fit where they live.  Jesus is trying to get down to THE BUSINESS OF FAITH AND LIFE.

When we heard the passage from Isaiah, it’s God saying to us, “My word, which comes from my mouth, is like the rain and snow.  It will not come back to me without results.  It will accomplish whatever I want and achieve whatever I send it to do.  Cypress trees will grow where thorn bushes grew.  That sounds like GOOD NEWS.

But with all the suffering and death that our planet is dealing with, it is getting harder and harder to see past the BAD NEWS.  Personally and truthfully, at times I found today’s scriptures difficult to appreciate.  To be honest, they were a bit too upbeat—a bit too positive.  God is supposed to be providing for our every need, but I see more suffering than any time in my lifetime.

And yet, when we see all the people who are focusing on saving lives and thinking about what they can do for others, we know that these words of hope is where we need to focus our attention.

When Isaiah says that Cypress trees will grow where thorn bushes grew, and  Myrtle trees will grow where briars grew, he is helping us remember that Jesus came to bring healing and love, even in the midst of suffering, and animosity.  

When I see all the masks, shields, plastic baggies, thermometers, tracing of names, social distancing, and sound reducing, I don’t think of suffering as much as I think of Christ-like people who put the needs of others ahead of their own comfort.  I am thankful for all the medical staff at hospitals that are doing the job of ministry, as well as that of medicine.

 I am also thankful for those in our family of Faith who have been supporting those who have lost loved ones in the last few days.  We know that for our dearly departed loved ones and friends, their suffering is over, and they are able to experience the joy of being with our Lord in that place where there is no suffering and death, but rather joy and freedom and love.

I know that Linde Smith and Mike Sullivan were ushered into that place where there is no more suffering and no more death by those who loved them into their new heavenly home.  We know that the suffering is far from over.  But we also have to know that the love we can share with each other is the best preparation that any of us can have to meet our Savior in this world or the next.  SO…keep prepping!  Keep praying, and keep loving.  That’s the best way to insure a Godly harvest!

And all of God’s seed scattering children said…AMEN!