Pentecost 6 ~ Haraambe

Readings: Genesis 25:19-34 ~ Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Rebecca is clearly having a difficult pregnancy as Esau and Jacob struggle together within her womb.  And it is only made worse after the boys are born by parents who play favourites, for we are told that Isaac loves Esau and Rebecca loves Jacob.  It’s the perfect recipe for a conflicted, dysfunctional family and it takes lots of years tears to sort it out. I wonder how things might have been if Isaac and Rebecca had loved and encouraged their sons equally?

That being said, the image of children wrestling within the womb is a wonderful metaphor for where we are right now.

We live in a time when It’s not just one nation struggling against another, but within nations there are competing ideas of how countries should be run on socio-political levels.  And that creative tension is not a bad thing as long it stays open, non-violent and focused on the common good.  Problems occur when one group pushes its agenda at the expense of another. Or tries to eliminate the other.

The same thing is going on within main line churches.  Traditionalists struggle to maintain control as the more contemporary movements push to make room and respect for their ideas.

As the churches in the diocese go through this time of the great restructuring, I am so very thankful that we have been able to work together and come up with a pilot project for services for this fall, and that our pilot project attempts to treat our diverse groups equally. It is my hope and prayer that through the creative tension of this experiment we will find a way forward that is good for the whole church.

In the meantime, we are called to continue to sow gospel seeds – not with the careful, calculated planting of modern farming techniques but with the reckless abandon of the farmers of Jesus’ day.

Flinging seeds across the land as they go, the sower expects that some of it will fall on rocks and be eaten by the birds, some will get choked out among the weeds, and some will land in shallow soil and quickly die.  In fact, a first century farmer would expect that about three quarters of the seed would go to waste.  But they also know that some of the seed will land in the good, rich soil and produce about a 10-fold crop, but not much more.  The idea of a 30- or 100-fold yield does not surprise to us, but in Jesus’ day it was something that could only happen by an act of God.

Now, we all know that Jesus is not really concerned with farming, but with growing the kingdom of heaven on earth.  This parable seems to speak to the unasked question: Why it is that of all the people who hear Jesus speak and see his work, only a few actually decide to follow him? Why is it that his message often falls on deaf ears or produces only a shallow, temporary response? And yet, at other times, the word takes hold in the life of the believer and flourishes like seed in fertile soil. 

This parable is all about God’s ability to bring forth the kingdom in spite of less than ideal conditions. And about our sharing in that dream; sowing seeds and leaving the outcome to God.

And we can actually see this in the parish. For example, it’s about two years ago now that Sue Evans dreamed of a Centre for Creative Living.  So, with our blessings she started sowing seeds with what seemed to some of us like reckless abandon.  From the original pilot project of Photography as Spiritual Practice have come two more practice circles of Mixed Media and Creative Writing.

But more importantly, these practice circles have given a spiritual home to people who struggle with or have been hurt by traditional church.  Some of the people connected with the center established our All My Relations group which gave birth to the Indigenous service here in June. And there is another event in August.

Have there been struggles through all of this? You bet.  There is limited hall space at St. Paul’s and we have had to find a way to make room for the Center activities, funeral receptions, and all the other folk who use this space. In a funny kind of way, the hall has become like the womb of St. Paul’s – which is may be why Bob Bassett is keen to get it refreshed.  

And there are other seeds that are being sown, like the seeds of restorative justice.  We participate in the Salvation Army’s Community Service program which means we give offenders a place to volunteer in lieu of incarceration.  It doesn’t always work the way we hope, but several of our clients have taken advantage of it and it has been mutually beneficial.

Then there is our music program. It’s one year ago that our reduced finances effectively changed the ground under our feet and we had to cast some new seeds that are taking root in ways we could not have anticipated.  Wendy, John, Dan, Dave, Matthew, the choir and praise team are pulling together to keep a wide range of music playing here at St. Paul’s.  Are there struggles? You bet. But people are giving it a chance to flourish.

And these are just a few of the things that are taking root and sprouting in this place as we seek to spread the seeds of the kingdom.

The theme of this year’s Anglican consultation was the Swahili word ‘haraambe’, meaning to pull together for the common good.  It is my prayer that we will use our energy to do just that in the days ahead.

Pat Martin +