There was an involved discussion at the RevGals' Preacher Party Saturday about sermon writing ~ which each of us does in her or his own way ~ interspersed with discussions about Sunday's texts.
These days, I usually read through all the texts the week-end before. Then I go through them carefully on Monday with a highlighter, looking for what speaks to me, and I keep them all in mind as I pray and ponder and do some research and mostly go about the rest of my life for the next few days, waiting for the sermon itself to more or less emerge.
I prefer to do the bulk of my writing on Thursday, which gives me plenty of time for changes of heart, reading what others have to say, and revisions. I don't read other sermons anymore until the bulk of mine is written.
This past week, as I began to read what others had to say, I concluded that I had not had an original thought in my brain. My bent was toward the sower who tosses his seeds every which way. I preached for a congregation which just kind of stared at me, leaving me to push forward through an ever-increasing sense of doom: They hate it.
But then: some wonderful post-service comments. If only their expressions during the service had encouraged me along!
Anyway, here's a bit of it (and feel free just to skip to the final paragraph):
Imagine the path, in the parable as Jesus tells it. Perhaps it runs alongside the field, or perhaps through the middle of the field. The sower, walking a straight line in the field just adjacent to the path, casts his seed from side to side and, while most of them land in the field, some of them slide through his fingers onto the path. The path has been hardened by many feet and baked in the sun into something resembling the solid texture of a brick walk; the seeds that land there have no chance. They lie scattered across the path for less than a matter of minutes before the birds swoop down, eager for a free meal.
Imagine that path in your life. That hard, resistant place against which the kernel of God’s word has no chance. The place you’ve sealed up tight. That place from which your capacity to respond with gentleness, with openness and hope, is excluded. The path on which you walked when someone yelled at you, or hit you, when you were a child. The path you traversed after your father died, or after your wife left. The road of unemployment, or school failure. The trail of ruined dreams, of crushed hopes.
Yeah – that hardened, impermeable path. The one onto which Jesus tosses seeds willy-nilly, not at all concerned about the likely futility of his labor.
. . . (Three more sections of the field!)
We know that Jesus sows his word, sows the hope of his kingdom, everywhere, in every possible circumstance available to him, everywhere in the wide, various world. He doesn’t stop to ask for soil certification, for proof of faithfulness, for adherence to all the rules. Oh, sometimes he gets those things – sometimes the people with whom he pauses are demonstrably competent, kind, faithful -- even holy. But more often than not, they aren’t. Often they aren’t any such thing. Often they are prostitutes and tax collectors, people on the margins, people who wouldn’t recognize a good investment in land from a hopelessly poor one.
And yet he scatters those little seeds; he plants them everywhere he goes.
What does that mean that he is inviting us to do? How does he ask us to imitate his actions, to get to know his priorities, to participate in his kingdom?
. . .
Now imagine another sower; it’s you. Imagine the joy, the freedom, the hopefulness, of a heedless generosity. Your inheritance, that bag of seeds passed on to you by your lord, is one of abundance, not scarcity, one of extravagance, not limitation.
We all possess all kinds of fields. We possess within us patches of anger and selfishness, areas in which we hold ourselves back from God and from God’s love out of our own quite impressive limitations. We also possess fields of great goodness, places filled with the riches of God’s love, love which has yielded great blessings within us.
We look out on all kinds of fields, and what do we do? Do we think for a second that God wants us to turn our backs on the barren places, to withhold God's good gifts from those we judge unworthy, those unlikely to benefit, those whose appearance or actions tell us that God’s love will be wasted there? Or does God want us to scatter seeds regardless of our own assumptions and preconceptions, trusting in God to produce a harvest in the most unlikely of places?
. . .
But what Jesus does, what he suggests for the sowers of his kingdom, is not limited to the requirements of farming, whether Ohioan or Middle Eastern. God looks at hard ground and, as a Father, sends a son. Jesus looks at potential farming disasters and scatters his words and his gifts of healing and hope. We are called to do the same: Think abundance! Open the fields of your own life, no matter their condition, to God’s infinite love.
And scatter generously! Let bits and pieces of the Kingdom of God fly out of your hands and sparkle across this earth, onto hard soil and rocky soil and pliable soil and every kind of soil there is. Because that’s what our Creator gazes upon and what Jesus tends and what their Spirit sustains. Every kind of soil – thanks be to God.