July 16, 2017 - Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

 

The Collect

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 

Old Testament

Isaiah 55:10-13

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,

making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,

but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

For you shall go out in joy,
and be led back in peace;

the mountains and the hills before you
shall burst into song, 
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;

and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial,
for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

 

The Response

Psalm 65: 1-8

 You are to be praised, O God, in Zion; *
to you shall vows be performed in Jerusalem.

 To you that hear prayer shall all flesh come, *
because of their transgressions.

 Our sins are stronger than we are, *
but you will blot them out.

 Happy are they whom you choose
and draw to your courts to dwell there! *
they will be satisfied by the beauty of your house,
by the holiness of your temple.

 Awesome things will you show us in your righteousness,
O God of our salvation, *
O Hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the seas that are far away.

 You make fast the mountains by your power; *
they are girded about with might.

 You still the roaring of the seas, *
the roaring of their waves,
and the clamor of the peoples.

 Those who dwell at the ends of the earth will tremble at your marvelous signs; *
you make the dawn and the dusk to sing for joy.

 

The Epistle

Romans 8:1-11

There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law-- indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

 

The Gospel

Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”

“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

 

The Homily

The Rev John C Powers

Sunday, July 16, 2017, St. Bede's Westport

Pentecost VI, Proper 10-A

THE BIBLE IS FULL OF AGRICULTURAL REFERENCES.  IN THE FIRST CENTURY PEOPLE IN MIDDLE EAST GREW CROPS.  SO JESUS USES FARMING AND AGRICULTURE IN HIS TEACHINGS AND SERMONS.  OFTEN HE DOES THAT WITH PARABLES THAT ARE LITTLE STORES THAT HAVE A SPIRITUAL POINT.  TODAY IS SUCH A PARABLE.  IT’S A STORY ABOUT THE EXTRAVAGANCE OF GOD IN THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER.  THE SOWER GENEROUSLY SOWS SEEDS.   HE DOESN’T MAKE NEAT, LITTLE, STRAIGHT FURROWS OR ROWS IN THE GROUND AS WOULD A PROFESSIOBAL FARMER.  HE OPENS HIS BAG OF SEEDS AND THROWS THEM HITHER AND YON WITH THE PROSPECT THAT MANY MIGHT GERMINATE AND GROW.  THIS SOWER, GOD, IS A BIG GIVER OF SEEDS.  HE IS SORT OF LIKE THOSE WHO RIDE ON PARADE FLOATS AND FREELY THROW OUT UNLIMITED AMOUNTS OF CANDY TO THE CROWDS.  THE CHILDREN RACE AFTER IT AND EVERY SINGLE PIECE OF CANDY IS FOUND AND NO DOUBT EATEN.  GOD IS LIKE A PINATA COMMON IN THE LATIN CULTURE WHICH ARE FULL OF CANDY AND GOODIES AND WHEN THE PINANTA IS BROKEN THE LITTLE TINY TOYS AND CANDIES FLOW OUT EVERYWHERE.  WELL, GOD IS LIKE THAT. HE TOSSES OUT SEEDS WILDLY WITH NO CONCERN WHERE THEY WILL LAND.  THIS SOWER’S NATURE IS TO SOW WITH GUSTO WITH THE PROSPECT THAT IT WILL TAKE ROOT AND GROW AND PRODUCE.

SINCE THIS IS A PARABLE, IT’S A STORY, NOT ABOUT BURPEE SEEDS FROM THE CATALOGUE. IT'S ABOUT DIVINE GIFTS TOSSED OUT TO US IN ABUNDANCE.   THE SEEDS ARE THE USEFUL GIFTS GOD GIVES US THAT GROW AND FLOURISH AND BRING US LIVES THAT ENRICH.  AND THIS IS THE CENTRL POINT OF THE PARABLE, THAT GOD GIVES GENEROUSLY TO US OF HIS GIFTS, OF HIMSELF, AND IT IS THOSE GIFTS THAT HELP US GROW AND PRODUCE THE FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT.

AND THEN THE PARABLE MOVES ON TO TELL US WHERE SOME SEEDS LAND.  SOME ALONG THE PATH WHERE THEY ARE OBVIOUS FOOD FOR THE BIRDS, SOME ON ROCKY GROUND AND CANNOT GERMINATE, SOME WHICH FELL INTO AREAS OF TOO MUCH SUN AND BECAME SCORCHED, AND SOME AMONG THORNS WHICH CHOKED THEM.  I READ AS THORNS AS OKLAHOMA JOHNSON GRASS OR OTHER WEEDS WHICH CHOKE MY FLOWERS.  FINALLY, OTHER SEEDS FELL ON GOOD SOIL AND QUICKLY BROUGHT FORTH GRAIN AND FRUIT ABUNDANTLY.

OF COURSE, ALL THESE LOCATONS WHERE THE SEED FELL STAND FOR FOUR TYPES OF PEOPLE AND THEIR RESPONSE TO THE SEEDS, TO GOD’S GIFTS.   THOSE ON THE PATH FELL ON THE HARD HEADED PEOPLE, NOT OPEN, WHO HAD ALL THE ANSWERS, AND WERE SELF-SASTISFIED AND NEEDED NOTHING.   THEN SOME SEED FEEL ON ROCKY GROUND, IT TOOK ROOT, BUT SOON WITHERED.  SORT OF LIKE THOSE WHO WHEN THE GOING GETS ROUGH, JUST GIVE UP, FAIR WEATHER FOLLOWERS WHOSE STICKTUITIVENESS DOES NOT LAST.

THEN THERE IS THE SEED WHICH FALLS AMONG THE THORNS AND IT GETS CHOKED BY NUMEROUS OTHER CONCERNS AND CHOICES.  THE SEED IS CHOCKED BY THE CARES, CONCERNS AND OCCUPATIONS OF LIFE THAT COMPETE FOR OUR ATTENTION TO GOD AND GODLY THINGS.

AND THEN FINALLY, IS THE SEED THAT LANDS ON GOOD SOIL.  THE SOIL RECIEVES IT, NOURSHES IT, GUARDS IT, GUIDES, IT, FEEDS IT AND IT YIELDS MUCH GOOD FRUIT.

IT’S ALL FAIRLY SIMPLE.  THE GIFTS WE ARE GIVEN ARE OVERFLOWING AND COME WITHOUT RESPECT OF COLOR, BACKGROUND, INCOME LEVEL, ETHNIC HISTORY, ICE CREAM FLAVOR PREFERENCES OR KIND OF DEORDORANT.  THEY COME TO PEOPLE IN EVERY COUNTRY AND CULTURE.  GOD THE SOWER DOES NOT FAVOR ANYONE.  THAT’S WHAT MAKES THE GOSPEL THE GOOD NEWS.

EVERY YEAR OR SO I THINK I AM GOING TO DO WHAT THE COUNTY AGRICULTURAL AGENT SUGGESTS.  THAT IS, DIG UP SMALL CLUMPS OF SOIL OUT OF MY LAWN, DELIVER IT TO THE AGENT WHO CAN TEST THE SOIL AND WEEKS LATER GIVE ME A DETAILED REPORT ON WHAT MY SOIL NEEDS IN THE WAY OF NUTRIENTS OR FERTILIZER, AND THEN APPLY THEM TO THE LAWN.  THE PROPECT IS THAT MY SEEDS WILL GERMINATE AND GROW AND I WILL HAVE A BEAUTIFUL LAWN.  THE TROUBLE IS I NEVER GET AROUND TO IT.

SPIRITUALLY, I SUPPOSE GOD DESIGNED THE SABBATH SO THERE WOULD BE A WEEKLY SPIRITUAL TEST THAT WE COULD GET AROUND TO.   HOW WE’RE DOING? HOW ARE GOD’S SEEDS GROWING IN US?   WE HEAR THE GOSPEL. RECEIVE THE SACRAMENTS, SAY A CONFESSION, PROCLAIM OUR FAITH.  AND IN DOING SO, WE ARE FERTILIZED SPIRITUALLY.   A PERSON WHO NEVER ALLOWS HIMSELF TO BE PLOWED UP AND NEVER WAITS FOR WHAT GOD DROPS INTO HIS LAP, THAT PERSON HAS ALREADY LOST THE GAME.   SUNDAY CAN BE SPIRITUAL PLOWING DAY.  DON'T MISS IT!

TODAY’S GOSPEL PROCLAIMS THAT GOD COMES AND SOWS SEEDS.  OUR SOIL NEEDS TO BE RECEPTIVE, IT HAS ALL THE NECESSARY QUALITIES FOR LIFE TO FLOURISH, BUT CANNOT CREATE THE LUSH GROWTH OUT OF NOTHING.  IT CAN ONLY DO ITS MARVELOUS WORK WHEN IT RECEIVES THE SEED.  THE WORK OF SPIRITUALITY IS TO NURTURE THE SEEDS GOD PLANTS WITHIN.  PERHAPS THAT IS WHY THE ROOT WORD FOR HUMAN IS "HUMMUS" WHICH MEANS SOIL.   WE COME FROM SOIL, "FROM DUST WE HAVE COME AND TO DUST WE SHALL RETURN."  IF WE ARE WILLING TO BEAR THE SEEDS OF GOD, WE SHALL ALSO BEAR THE HUNDREDFOLD HARVEST.  AMEN

 

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