The Bible begins with the story of creation, God is the creator of all things, and the method used is amazing. God speaks and things happen. God says, “It will be so”, and it is, because God can’t lie. Can you imagine how absolutely perfect God needs to be for this to not end up in a catastrophe? I think of the things that I say sometimes, sometimes out of habit, sometimes out of anger or pettiness. Sometimes I catch myself complaining or finishing “I wish” with something that’s not truly best for me or for those around me.
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.
The words we say are so important. Luckily we don’t have that same power that God has. I converse with people quite a bit at the store each day. I try to be positive, working toward the greater good of our community. Some of the conversations are wonderful, but some make me cringe. I can’t help but overhear quite a few conversations too. Sometimes , if they get too crazy, I’ll turn on the nature sounds CD on my laptop and drown out the noise. Sometimes I can only thank God that I have paperwork to do!
One of the things I enjoy talking about the most is gardening, and growing food. I’m a volunteer Master Gardener with the NDSU extension service, which anyone who knows me already knows. I love growing plants, they amaze me. They generally start from a seed, sometimes a tiny small seed sometimes a big seed depending on the plant. But somehow, contained in that seed, are the blueprints and the nutrients, and all the stuff it takes to make life happen.
But even though that seed has everything it needs in it, it won’t grow until it gets the proper place, time, and set of circumstances. There is a certain signal that prompts that seed to sprout. As a gardener, I try to replicate that signal, I try to give the seeds everything they need to start that process of sprouting. Many seeds are easy to sprout, but others take extra circumstances. Some seeds need to be left outside in the cold all winter before they will sprout. Some seeds need to be burned in a fire before they will hear their signal that its time. And others need to pass through the digestive tract of a bird or animal before the hard outer shell is dissolved, and the seed can begin its journey.
People are like seeds. We all need the proper set of circumstances to truly grow. Its one thing to be alive and occupy space, but its another thing to truly live life and continue to learn and grow and share ourselves with others. Some of us seem to thrive right off the bat. Others need time, and space, and some extra help. Some of us need a big push to leave our comfort zone and reach out to others, while other people seem to live as though the whole world is their comfort zone. Some people need to get burned by life, or frozen in their tracks, or even be consumed by something that seems to be the end of the line, before they are able to truly grow in life.
Many of us are born, or planted, in the same set of circumstances, yet the result of our lives can be very different. There are things that stunt the life and growth of plants, just as there are things that will stunt human growth too. There are pests and diseases in both plants and people, some can be cured, and some cannot. In 1 Corinthians 3: 6-9, Paul tell us “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.”
One of the stories from Jesus is the parable of the sower from Mark, chapter 4. 3 “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”13 Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? 14 The farmer sows the word.15 Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. 16 Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. 17 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 20 Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”
If you put a plant that needs a lot of sun in a shady location, that plant will never reach its full potential. It won’t get as big, and it may not bloom or produce fruit. However if you place a shade loving plant in an area that receives full sun, it will probably burn up and die. We are like that too. If you stifle someone’s ability to grow and improve and learn, they will never reach their full potential. They may never bloom or produce the fruit that God wants us to produce. But give that same person the opportunities and tools they need, and they may grow so much you’ll barely recognize them! There are some people who love to work behind the scenes, if you thrust them into the spotlight, you may lose them forever. We all have different personalities that demand different scenarios for life. There is only one “one size fits all” model that actually works for all of us. And that model, is the life we have in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
During Lent, we remember the great sacrifice that Jesus made for us, and then we celebrate the great triumph of Jesus rising from the grave. The death and resurrection of Jesus fulfilled the Law, and then Jesus gave us his New Covenant. The wonderful thing about this New Covenant is that this is where we Gentiles are invited to be the children of God. Before this, we were not invited to the table. We had no chance to grow. The Bible says that we are the wild vine that has been grafted onto the tree of life. I’ve grafted a few trees in my life, and here’s the crazy part; you have to cut off part of the tree in order to graft another piece onto it. Another piece of that tree was cut off, or broken off, in order for us to be attached to it. Romans 11 tells us that those branches were broken off due to unbelief. So if we also suffer from unbelief, we can be broken off as well. God can graft as many branches as he wants onto his tree. He can offer forgiveness and mercy to anyone he chooses. The people of Israel were God’s chosen people, but He didn’t offer his son up for just them, he offered up this sacrifice for us all. As Gentiles, we were never included in the Law of the Old Testament. That’s why the Laws from the Old Testament do not apply to us. We have only ever had the New Covenant. Large portions of the Paul’s writings are aimed at telling the Jewish people that they cannot keep both covenants. Since a covenant is a contract, you are under one or the other, you cannot have both. Some people want to keep parts of the old law in place, some of us have been misled into believing that we must. Paul tells us specifically that the old law, the old contract, is over.
Imagine if you will, that you have a loan contract with a bank. You purchased a new car and are paying payments on the car. Once the payments are paid in full and on time, the contract is done and you own the car out right. Would you keep sending the bank a car payment each month? Of course not! The contract is done, its finished. So why would any of us try to keep working on a contract from God that is finished? Its a contract we were never offered in the first place. Your name isn’t even on it!
Instead our name is on the contract that tells us to love God, and to love each other. God says that the work of Jesus is finished. Its done. When he died on the cross and rose again, we were included in the most amazing deal in the history of the earth, we are to be called children of the most high God. So even though our roots were not from that tree, we have been grafted onto it and receive our nutrients from the roots of the tree of life.
Now we are called to go out and testify to the love and mercy of our Creator. We are to go out and proclaims God’s greatness. We are to replicate his love by showing love and mercy to others. We have been called by the Most-High God to be the hands and feet, to be the mouth and the voice of Jesus. We are called to be the keepers of the kingdom.
I pray then, that we all hear our calling and rise up to the challenge of producing the fruit that God wants us to bear. May we love God above all, and love each other as God loves us. Amen.