Gospel Sowing, Divine Growing

Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church, Wesley Chapel, FL
Preacher: The Rev. Adrienne R. Hymes
Proper 10/Year A ● July 12, 2020
Gospel: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Gospel Sowing, Divine Growing

WCEC July 12 Mass

10:30 a.m. Sunday Mass on the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost Mother Adrienne Hymes' sermon, "Gospel Sowing, Divine Growing" (Gospel: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23).THOSE SERVING THIS MORNING Celebrant and Preacher: The Rev. Adrienne R. Hymes Crucifer/Candles: Mr. Pete Soto Gospel Book/Bells: Dr. Gerene Thompson Readers: Ms. Keitra Waterman (First Lesson), Dr. Gerene Thompson (Epistle) Intercessor: Mr. Pete Soto Altar Guild/Flowers: Ms. Christine O’Donnell Visibility: Mrs. Sharon Soto (video) Music: Ms. Gina Spano (Keyboard); Choir: Ms. Katherine Knippel Greeters/Ushers: Ms. Karen Bauer, Mrs. Herfa Roach Counters: Mrs. Sharon Soto, Ms. Karen Bauer Join us for Sunday Mass at 10:30 a.m. here on Facebook Live next week, July 19th. To reserve your seat(s) for upcoming Sundays, please visit www.wcepiscopalchurch.org. Reservations close at 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays.

Posted by Wesley Chapel Episcopal Church on Sunday, July 12, 2020

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

The parable of the sower, an allegory about the kingdom of God, is well-known among people of faith. As you might imagine, this scripture featuring one who produces crops, and who extravagantly casts seeds, with the potential for new life encased within them, has been adopted as the “go to” scripture for ministers specializing in the unique ministry called church planting.

When Bishop Smith called me into this ministry I had never heard the term “church planting,” and was equipped with a planting coach who served many functions in my formation as a “spiritual agriculturalist” in God’s mission fields. In those early days my coach managed my rose-colored expectations by advising me of the inevitable challenges of casting a broad vision net, full of possibility, and yet to be seen.

My coach said, “People will come and go.” The prospect of starting a new church is exciting, and will attract enthusiastic people eager to be in on the ground floor for the kingdom building work; until they realize that it really is work, and is not for the faint of heart. “Beware of the initial white-hot interest with little care for long-term commitment which can fizzle out fast.”

He also said, “People will come periodically, and support the vision and the ongoing planting efforts from afar—with prayers, referrals for others and financial gifts. Though they may not be able to commit to the initial journey of building, their connection with the church plant may eventually lead them to call it their spiritual home.”  Just when my rose-colored glasses began to fog up, my coach said: “And, Adrienne, know that God is preparing servants who will come, stay, and nurture the growth of the faith community.  They will be the steady caretakers of a vision yet unborn—trusting that the fruit of their shared labor will manifest.”

Since 2017, I have experienced all of the above. And, I am convinced that the kingdom-building experience of church planting is the divine fruit of wild gospel seed sowing.

In our gospel passage today, while sitting in a boat, Jesus addressed the crowd gathered on the beach. The parable began with the imperative, “Listen!” followed by a series of scenarios regarding the fate of seeds being scattered wildly by a sower. Because of this wild casting of the seeds some fell on surfaces that made them vulnerable to be eaten; some fell on rocky ground lacking depth of soil making, and making them incapable of enduring deadly exposure to the sun; others fell among thorns that overpowered and killed them; and still others landed on good soil which brought forth an abundance of fruit.

What is not obvious is that between Jesus’ telling of the parable and his explanation of the parable, there is a chunk of verses (10-17) sandwiched in between, yet are not included in our lectionary passage today.  In that missing section, Jesus’ audience changed from a broad audience of the crowd to the exclusive audience of his chosen disciples, those to whom Jesus said the knowledge of the kingdom of heaven had been given (13:10-11).

It is in that missing section that Jesus made it clear that the crowd listening to the parable was not given knowledge of the kingdom of heaven. Paraphrasing the prophet Isaiah, Jesus said that the people were those who in seeing did not perceive, and in hearing, did not listen, nor did they understand” (13:13).  So, when Jesus revealed the meaning of the parable, in the second section of our gospel passage, we must be clear that he revealed it only to his disciples. This change in audience and message is important because Jesus was clear that within the human heart, there exists environments inhospitable to the gospel message, resulting in the rejection of the word of the kingdom, and those environments that are nutrient rich, enabling full acceptance.

Like my church planting mentor, Jesus, in explaining the parable to his disciples, was managing their expectations for the life that they had chosen, fully aware that as they walked in the footsteps of Jesus proclaiming the good news, they too should expect more rejection than acceptance as evidenced by the three examples of seeds that failed to survive and yield fruit in hostile environments. Those who hear the word and understand it, will bear the fruit of good works, which will reverberate like an echo to reach into the hearts of many.

Jesus said that the word of the kingdom was sown in the human heart. If we are being faithful to our call as disciples in sharing the life-giving gospel message with wild abandon, then what does happen to the various conditions of the human heart when those gospel seeds land? God only knows.

I am reminded of a time-lapsed video of the germination of a seed planted in soil, which many of us have seen as school children, and which may offer us a clue.  When the potential for new life within the seed begins to transform from possibility to reality, the seed necessarily moves, and so does the soil. The movement of the expanding seed pushes the soil in unrestricted ways in order to make room for the new life. And, as the gospel takes root it will demand, like the expanding seed, room to grow within the human heart that knows no other response than to accommodate the divine movement taking place within.

Throughout our lifelong journeys of faith with Christ, none of our hearts are immune to conditions of the human heart that may jeopardize our own ability to hear the gospel and understand it, even as it is rooted in our being.

Long before God called me to this diocese, the Diocese of Southwest Florida—sowers of the gospel—went out to sow in the mission fields of the diocese, one of which was Wesley Chapel.

As the now-sown seed of the gospel, WCEC has taken root in this community and is bearing God’s divine fruit. We are, at once, the product of wild, gospel seed sowing, and the sower whose sole purpose is to sow and produce abundant crops.  As people are drawn to the divine fruit of good works, with the delicious aroma of Christ, we as a church must always be mindful that people will come and people will go; as they do, we must sow the seeds of the gospel.  People will come periodically and support from afar; as they do, we must sow the seeds of the gospel and throw them farther out. And, people will come and stay; as they do, we must sow the seeds of the gospel and nurture the “soil” of their human hearts so that in hearing and understanding, their lives in Christ will also bear divine fruit.

Sisters and brothers we don’t plant new churches for the sake of having new places to worship. We plant because, like Jesus’ disciples, we have been given the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven and are responsible for sharing that precious gospel message without restriction.

We plant because serving God’s people demands that we be an intentional environment of nutrient-rich soil for nurturing gospel seeds in the that are sown in the human heart.  May God grant us grace and power to sow His life-giving word and the humility to faithfully manifest it in the world. Let anyone with ears listen.