A Sermon for Series A Proper 10 2017 “The Landscaper”

 

Old Testament Lesson  Isaiah 55:10-13

Second Lesson  Romans 8:12-17

Gospel Lesson  Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 

Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.  The text for our meditation this day is the Gospel lesson just read.  [Matt. 13:1-9, 18-23]

There was a man who loved gardening.  His vocation brought him to Washington State; to Kitsap County.  He bought a house with a glorious view of the Olympic Mountains and Kitsap Lake.  He was really excited about the house, and the view; but he wasn’t too excited about the yard.

It was a small yard, mostly rolling berms covered in bark with lavender bushes here and there; and the little bit of grass he had in the yard was dry and brown.  He tried to make it green up, but it was more than he could handle. So he hired a landscaper to turn his little part of this parched land into a garden wonder land.

The landscaper would put in sod and flowers, and a beautiful tree in the front yard; and in the back he would terrace the hillside that was washing away with every rainstorm; and most importantly he would put in a space for a garden and prepare it for herbs and vegetables.

The landscaper began removing the parched dry grass and soon realized that the soil was little more than rocks and decomposing rock.  It wasn’t just rocky, it was rock.  He couldn’t move it with a shovel, and so he brought out his pick-axe and chipped away the hillside, leaving the chewed up, pulverized, rock to be used in the garden.  That was all the owner wanted done.

You see, the owner had no idea what he was getting into.  He was from Nebraska, and he assumed the soil would be like the soil he was used to back home.  He was very excited.  He couldn’t wait to put in his garden.  He had great expectations for the garden.  It was going to be fruitful, and the owner would enjoy seeing the fruits of his labor as the garden matured.

When the man told the landscaper how excited he was, and how he longed to nurture the plants, making them fruitful, the landscaper was cut to the heart.  He knew that the soil left behind from the terracing was lifeless. He knew that any seeds planted in this garden would be competing with weeds and the seeds would struggle because no matter how well the seeds were watered, the soil wouldn’t retain any moisture.  Worst of all, because this house was on the edge of town and so close to the lake, the bird population was huge and so was their appetite.  They’d easily peck through this poor soil and feast on the seeds.

Although it wasn’t a part of the contract, the landscaper brought in good, rich, soil and filled the garden with it.  The owner was nervous.  He knew he hadn’t asked for this, and he became suspicious that the bill was going to get a lot bigger, so in his doubt and distrust, he confronted the landscaper and asked him why he was adding all this deep rich soil to the garden.  The landscaper told him not to worry, the soil was a gift and he didn’t owe him a thing.

He knew the man wanted the garden to be fruitful, and he knew that the man didn’t understand just how worthless the soil he had to work with was.  Without the gift from the landscaper, the garden would have been a failure; but because the landscaper had mercy on the homeowner, the garden was fruitful for as long as the man lived there.

Our lives are like that garden.  God plants us in the world to grow where he intends us to be.  He plants us in a world corrupted by sin, a world that’s dry and lifeless.  And although he plants us, we challenge his nurturing.  Our hearts are hardened by our sinful nature and we resist his care.

We misuse the reason he created us with and use it not to understand, but to twist and bend his holy Word.  We try to explain away his miracles and the mysterious great works he’s recorded for us in scripture; excusing them as well intentioned exaggerations or attributing them to naturally occurring phenomena misunderstood by a people lacking in scientific know how.  But despite our distrust, despite our lack of faith, God comes to us and uses us according to his will.

God places us where he wants us; sometimes placing us where the soil has no life; so if we go it on our own, our spirit weakens and at the first sign of tribulation or persecution, we wither away.  And wouldn’t you know it, in this lifeless soil; we may not thrive, but the weeds sure do well.  Weeds of social immorality grow ever stronger, sucking up the water and scarce nutrients available so that our voice seems to be choked out.  And when our voice is heard, the truth we proclaim is twisted as the very ones who proclaim the truth are accused of bigotry and causing dissension and division.

God placed us in unique and challenging places; not cushy easy places, but places requiring endurance and steadfastness and strength; places where we see others driven from his word, driven deeper and deeper into lives controlled by sin, deeper into the grip of the other sower, Satan himself; literally being devoured by the messengers of Satan … like birds plucking seed from dry ground.

God has planted us in the world, a harsh sin filled place where it’s hard to survive; hard without God’s intervention; impossible without God’s gift.  But, God gives us the gift of faith; rich, fertile faith, deep and well watered; faith filled with nutrients essential for life, faith that drinks in the water of life and holds on to it, faith fed by his own Son’s body and blood sacrificed for us on the cross, sacrificed in our place, sacrificed so that we might live through him and never die; but live with him eternally.

Our lives are fruitful because of God’s gifts; the gift of his Son that ensures us forgiveness of all our sins; the gift of faith, brought to us by his Holy Spirit through his holy Word; the gift that reveals our Savior to us, the Way of our salvation to us, and reveals our vocations planned for us by God even before we were born.

Our lives are fruitful because God’s Spirit continues to work through us.  He dwells in us, making us strong despite poor soil, and weeds, and the relentless heat of the sun surrounding us.  He leads us and directs us, planting us wherever he desires, surrounding us with plants that are dying in lifeless soil, and giving us the words of life, his Words, to give to those plants, so that the kingdom grows as life is poured into these new plants.

And so, through the Spirit, we bear fruit; sometimes a hundredfold, sometimes sixty, sometimes thirty.  Don’t be discouraged when the kingdom doesn’t seem to grow as quickly as you think it should.  Remember, we’re the plants, not the gardener.  We grow because of his gift, and although he prunes us and places us near others who need pollinating, it’s still him who does the work.  Plants don’t direct the gardener; they trust in him, they gladly accept his pruning, and they produce as he makes them able.

We live in a desolate land, parched and hardened; but we shouldn’t be discouraged.  The difficulties we face are reason to rejoice.  You see, the birds, the rocks, the thin soil, the thorns, are all signs that Satan is at work, attempting to cut off what God has planted; so when we see difficult times, we know for sure that God is at work.

God has planted us and he will make us fruitful.  He feeds us.  He prunes and waters and nurtures us; and we will bear fruit.  A hundredfold, sixty, thirty …just trust in him … we’re in his garden … he’s the Landscaper and he’s the Master Gardener.  He’ll make us fruitful.  Amen.

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Huelle