Friday, 11 July 2014

Bushels of Abundance

Pentecost 5

Proper 19

Year A

July 13 2014

I would not want to be a farmer in Manitoba right now.

The excessive summer rain, coming down the Assiniboine River from Saskatchewan, has led to flooded lands, ruined crops and, for some, financial challenges.

And yes, farming has always been a challenging life. It doesn’t matter what you grow; corn, grain or even potatoes; it’s not easy. But for those who love it, there is no other life.

Jesus used farming illustrations in his speaking to people. People would get that. It was their life.

In today’s Gospel lesson, they would understand that a farmer sowing grain would find that some seed would fall on hard soil, some on rocky soil and some among thorns and weeds.

Farming doesn’t do it that way today. The land is prepared, picked for rocks, fertilized, seeded and continually monitored to cultivate the best result.

That may be good for farming, but it’s not reality.

In the last couple of weeks I have been cleaning out my study here at the church.

I took twenty five green grocery bins to the dump. Boxes of books, papers, stuff that I just don’t need any more.

I came across several cards and letters, which I had kept for some unknown reason. They were thank you cards from families with which I had contact through the years.

I was heartened to read them again. You see, doing ministry is just like the sower in our Gospel lesson this morning. There are times and places where what you do and say falls on rocky, unfertile ground. What you say and do can fall among weeds and be choked out. But there are times when the Spirit moves and a word or a phrase is shared and something changes.

The point of this story is simple. It reminds us all of our calling as Christians to be sowers in all of our lives. It is our task to accept that calling, no matter what the result.

You see, there is another point to this story of Jesus. It’s not just to encourage us to keep on going in the face of rejection.

The second point is a challenge; a challenge to believe and trust in God’s abundance in the face of rejection.

If the parable ended with a sevenfold return on what was planted, then would could easily say, "It is enough".

But the parable goes further. It is not just about pragmatism; enough. It is also about promise.

That’s not an easy message to hear.

Over the summer I am part of a writing project started by EDGE a ministry of our United Church. EDGE describes itself as "A Network for Ministry Development joins hands with those willing to take a leap into the promise; God breaking open the church, breaking into the world. EDGE is a living web of new and renewing ministries and leaders in the power of the Spirit, following Christ, embracing God’s mission in the world."

EDGE does a lot of things, including consulting. But the project I am involved in is to find and describe eighty positive stories from across the United Church. EDGE is deeply concerned about the negative narrative that seems to be taking hold in our church. They are concerned that we are falling into the story of death, as opposed to seeking out life.

My assignment is to research and write a 500 word story on a ministry I know nothing about.

I’m looking forward to it

Curiously, Central Westside’s communication ministry is seen as a sign of hope and life in the church and a writer from Ottawa has already contacted me for an interview. Our ministry is seen as a sign of hope.

Do you believe it?

Novelist Bebe Moore Campbell writes in "Singing in the Comeback Choir", "Some of us have that empty-barrel faith. Walking around expecting things to run out. Expecting that there isn’t enough air, enough water. Expecting that someone is going to do you wrong. The God I serve told me to expect the best, that there is enough for everybody."

Do you believe that?

Are you prepared to trust God and to trust the words of Jesus.

Are you prepared to believe there are bushels of abundance in following God’s way?

That’s what Jesus tells us.

Do you believe it?