Damariscotta Baptist Church
Friday, July 20, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

07/10/11 Sermon

As I read today’s scripture about seeds being sown in the soil I couldn’t help thinking about gardening.  Now I’m not much of a gardener but a lot of people really take it seriously.  In fact they can really go over the edge—

Now in case you’re not sure whether that’s you or not I ran across a list that might help you:

It’s the top 9 signs that you have gone over the garden edge: (it was the top 10 but I had to do some pruning)

9. Your favorite poem is "Roses are Red, Violets are Blue.

8.   Your kids are named Rose, Violet, Daisy and Zucchini.

7.   You have 8 X 10 family pictures of your Tomatoes and Peppers on your office shelf. .

6.   You think a cocktail is liquid fertilizer.

5.   You rush home from work and go straight to the garden and hug your roses. (Ouch!)

4.   On Christmas Eve, visions of "Sugar Peas" dance in your head.

3.   After the first frost, you are seen holding funeral services in your garden.

2. You take your kids multiple vitamins to use as a supplement to your plants fertilizer.

And, the # 1 sign that you have gone over the garden edge is..

Every Spring your family files a "Missing Person's" report. You remain missing all summer, and mysteriously re-appear in the fall.

Now even though you may not be an over the edge gardener-- today’s scripture does calls us to think about gardening and growing things. 

In our scripture Jesus tells a parable about a farmer who is sowing seeds in 4 different kinds of dirtAnd Jesus is using dirt or the soil as a metaphor or a symbol of our hearts.  And the seed that is being scattered into the soil is a metaphor for the message or the words that Jesus speaks to his audience about the good news, the coming kingdom of God.  And today as we’re here together, we’re reminded that Jesus is still scattering that message today.  We’re here together (you and I) hearing Jesus’ words of love and salvation and life----these are broadcast out like seeds to us thru worship and music and scripture and the spoken word.  Jesus still scatters seed. And his intent as we see in our scripture is that we will become his fruit producing followers.  That’s what Jesus cares about. He wants us to be healthy, joyful, productive, fruitful people. But in order for that to happen, Jesus says our hearts, our dirt needs to be receptive to his seeds.

So today is a day for us to examine our dirt. And I thought in order to check and see how our dirt is; it would be best if we examined these different kinds of soil that Jesus speaks about in our scripture:  So let’s take a look:

Now the First soil, Jesus speaks about, is the soil that is the road.  Now this soil on the road would obviously be hard dirt.  This is the dirt that would be compacted down, walked and driven on over and over until it was smooth and baked by the sun.  And when the seed has fallen on this hard path it just bounces and remains on the surface for the birds to eat.  In fact, Jesus says the Evil One comes and takes it and keeps it from penetrating into a person’s heart.  And when we think about people having this kid of dirt, this hardened heart, we think of those persons who have heard the message of Jesus, and have simply rejected it.  Jesus says in verse 18 that these are people who hear but do not understand---to understand means to receive.---------It’s to take it in and reflect on it.  But there are many all around us; some may be neighbors, friends or even family members who simply refuse to believe in God, dismissing Him their whole lives---until suddenly trouble comes their way.

An atheist was spending a quiet day fishing when suddenly his boat was attacked by the Loch Ness monster.  In one easy flip, the beast tossed him and his boat high into the air. Then it opened its mouth to swallow both.  As the man sailed head over heels, he cried out, "Oh, my God! Help me!"  At once, the ferocious attack scene froze in place, and as the atheist hung in mid-air.  Suddenly a booming voice came down from the clouds, "I thought you didn't believe in me!"   The man pleaded----"Come on, God, give me a break!!----Two minutes ago I didn't believe in the Loch Ness monster either!"

How sad it is for those to not take the time to seriously reflect and consider and then receive the most wonderful good news in the history of the world.  The message of true freedom and joy that begins the moment you decide to receive Christ and follow his ways of love and grace and mercy and justice; to have a softened heart that loves, and forgives others and forgives ones self. 
If you haven’t taken the time to simply listen and consider Christ, Jesus is once again scattering his seeds to you today that you might begin the journey of becoming the joyful human being God created you to be………………….

Now the second kind of dirt we see Jesus talk about is the dirt that has gravel in it.  Jesus says in verse 20 that these are the folks that receive the seed or the word and are enthusiastic at the beginning but after the excitement is gone they fizzle out.

There was a pastor who had just led an unbelievably successful revival.  Many people signed commitment cards indicating that they wanted to commit their lives to Jesus.  But about a week after the crusade, when the pastor visited some of these people, he discovered that many of them had already lost their enthusiasm.  There was the single mother, overwhelmed by her family's needs, who quickly lost the joy she'd found during the services.  He visited the teenager who now had decided against becoming a Christian because he was afraid of his friends' ridicule.  A businessman decided that he wasn't ready to let his faith change his life so he retreated back to his old comfort zone. 
All of these people had heard the good news and had good intentions but their good intentions alone weren’t enough.  Something else was missing.  What was missing was an understanding of commitment.  You see, commitment calls us to a way of life.  Christianity is a way of life. It’s not about a one time conversion or completing a confirmation class when you were in the 6th grade.  We can tend to think that those moments are the grand finale--- but really they are rather a new beginning.   And it’s a beginning that includes commitment to a life of disciplines that are means to help us to be changed and committed in our life. 

Now I’ve got a hoe---- shovel---- rake---all designed to work the soil—to remove the rocks and break it up.  Now in a spiritual sense we also have garden tools.  Prayer, scripture reading, silence, Sunday school classes and small groups, worship and serving the less fortunate.  All of these are tools or disciplines that are turning over the soil of our souls, clearing the way to deepen our roots in faith.  And yet so many of us see these tools as optional which can lead churches to become lethargic and uncommitted---there’s a missing energy and passion.  It’s why there can be the beginning of new ministries or new projects or people sign up for new things but they eventually fizzle out.  The roots are not deep because of a lack of commitment to working the soil of our souls either individually or in small groups that are lovingly holding us accountable.   God has given us these disciplines, these garden tools, to turn over the soil in our hearts and souls so that the seed of the Holy Spirit can take root and ground us so that when trouble comes our way (such as the loss of portfolios and financial difficulties) we are still strong. 

Jesus is scattering his seed again today inviting us individually and as a congregation to practice these disciplines so that we might become a vibrant and fruitful congregation.  And so if you need some help practicing these disciplines, either on your own or as a part of a small group, I invite you to please contact me.
Now the third kind of dirt that Jesus speaks of in this parable is the soil that has weeds in it.  Now weeds are plants in the field that want to take away from that what is sustaining the healthy plant that we want.  Weeds are the things are in competition with the fruitful Christian life.  There can be many different kinds of weeds that can be in the soil of our hearts: 

It can be the weed of our desire for money and possessions and wealth.

It can be the weed of the busyness of our jobs or a project or hobby; a desire for status and power.

It can be the weed of a relationship that is harmful---or an addiction to alcohol, drugs, pornography

It can be peer pressure where we put a premium on what other people might think about us
It can be the weed of not giving up control in our lives; not trusting God, relying on our own strength in doing things…..
There’s a true story about a fellow by the name of Dr. George McCauslin, who is hailed as one of the greatest YMCA directors of all time. He served at a troubled YMCA near Pittsburgh.  The club had all kinds of problems: declining memberships, financial difficulties, and very challenging staff issues.  McCauslin found himself working 85 hours a week, getting little sleep at night, and taking virtually no time off.  Whenever he tried to take time off, he just worried all the more about the problems at work and how he was going to fix them.  McCauslin went to a therapist who told him he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. He had to learn to release his worries to God. But how?  He took an afternoon off, escaping to the woods in western Pennsylvania.  As McCauslin walked through the cool woods, he could feel his tight body start to calm down.  He sat down under a tree and sighed. For the first time in months he relaxed. Finding a pen and pad of paper in his coat, he wrote this letter to God: “Dear God, today I hereby resign as general manager of the universe. Love, George.”
McCauslin later told a friend: “And wonder of wonders, God accepted my resignation”. Citation: Thomas Tewell, "The Weight of the World [1995]," Preaching Today, Tape No. 147.

The weeds in our dirt are all about not putting God first in our lives. They can manifest themselves in so many different ways.  At the heart of the issue is that we are feeding something that we believe is going to give us something that God can’t.  Whether it’s putting our trust in Material things, or possessions or in ourselves.  Or whether it’s holding on to our insecurities, or fears, or guilt, or shame, or worry.  Whatever it is, Jesus wants us to commit to those spiritual disciplines daily so as to rake and hoe out the weeds.  By intentionally choosing to put God first daily, we are intentionally choosing to not give the weeds the power in our lives.

Jesus desires for us to have this 4th kind of dirt—-He wants us to have a healthy, cultivated soil where we have an intimate trusting relationship.  You see, it’s with this kind of soil that God grows us to be strong and peace loving and patient and kind.  And as God grows us to become healthy, fruitful Christians, we subsequently become instruments for God to use.  We actually become seed “scatterers” ourselves. We start making a difference in the community we live by pollinating other seeds to those we come in contact with.  We serve as Miles of Friends making a difference in children’s lives, we serve at the food pantry sharing compassion and a smile, we pray over knitted shawls to give to those who need comfort, we make visits to those at Cove’s Edge and Chase Point, we offer hope with Divorce Care, we adopt an elementary school to help with their projects. 
There are so many ways for us to be seed scatterers ourselves if we will be committed to do so thru our commitment to put God first in our lives.

Today, we’re being asked to look at ourselves and check out our dirt? Are we a fertile part of God’s creative life process that’s going on in the world around us?
Are you receiving his seed; have you received his forgiveness and love and life?

Has the truth of salvation and eternal life deeply rooted itself within you so that you are free and joyful to serve others?

Do you trust God and put Him first in your lives?

God wants what’s best for you. And at the same time, He wants what’s best for everybody else.  God looks to achieve His Kingdom way thru you and me: His fruit producing followers called to scatter seeds to a world in need…………..

Today He asks you and me----How IS your dirt?

 In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen