Germinating Seeds of Hope

July 30, 2017
Stetson Memorial United Methodist Church
Sermon Series: This Living Hope
(Adapted from Marcia McPhee’s
“A Future With Hope”)
week 2 – “This Living Hope”
Psalm 128
Matthew 13:1-9
Parable of the Sower
Matthew 13:18-24
Christ explaining the Parable of the Sower
Psalm 139:13-16
Matthew 13:31-33
Parable of the Mustard Seed
Parable of the Yeast
and Sermon, “Germinating Seeds of Hope”

Opening Prayer
Let us be in a spirit of prayer

Lord God, Creator of the Universe, Savior of the World, the Breath that Guides our Steps, that moves within us, we pray for your mercy, for your teaching, for your Spirit’s presence to be within us, to be with us, alive, moving, thick upon us in this moment, this morning, like a fog around us, like a blanket wrapped around us.

Lord may we be open to the gift of this time we are gathered together in your house, this house of prayer. May we feel you with us. May we be changed by the scripture, by your message, through your answer to our prayers. May this time be holy, pleasing in your sight oh Lord. And it is in Jesus’ name, our risen Savior that we pray. Amen.

Prayer before the sermon:

Lord, make me a vessel for your word, for your message to your people here in Patten and around the world. Speak your word through me or in spite of me.

May these words of this message, whether what I have written ahead or what you give me now, be your words, not my own. May this be precisely the message you would have heard today, right now. May what comes out of my mouth and what is heard by your people here be pleasing in your sight.

May we all be open to what you would share with us. And we pray all of this in the name and the authority of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.

Good Morning; today is the second Sunday of the sermon series Pastor Ruth began last week on “This Living Hope”. She preached on God’s love, God’s grace, God’s promise, God’s plan, and God’s hope for us.

Today let us go deeper, let us welcome the gifts, the seeds God sows, the seeds of the kingdom, of the gospel; may they grow within us, to fulfill that prayer in the Psalm Sharon shared with us, that we may be fruitful.

Please stand as you are able for the reading of the gospel according to Matthew. I am reading from Matthew 13:1-9 and Matthew 13:18-24 (NIV).

18 “Listen then to the parable of the sower” and what this parable means, from the words of our Master, Jesus Christ:

13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore.

3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “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.
19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.

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.
20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 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.

7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.
22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful.

8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.
23 [. . . ] the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

And this is the important verse . . . Matthew 13:9.

9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

That is exactly the point. Jesus is not hiding the ball, though He spoke in parables. This one was so important that he spelled it out in the same chapter in detailed language for the disciples that we must all understand.

And I said MUST understand because this is critical. We may be farther from the earth than the people of Jesus’ day; but we are closer here in Patten than those in big cities. We understand more the planting and the harvest; but much of what God does, is still in secret, according to His timeline, His purpose.

Many of you know about seeds and soil and what happens in the ground; but in some ways it remains a mystery, a miracle, known only to God.

Chapter 13 of Matthew is loaded with parables, about the kingdom of God, each of them one of the seeds God sows, as Christ, in Matthew 13, verse 19, tells us directly. The seeds are the message of the gospel.

In Matthew 13:31-32, we have the parable of the Mustard Seed. (NIV)

31 He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. 32 Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

And in Matthew 13:33, we read The Parable of the Yeast (The Message)

33 Christ told them another story. “God’s kingdom is like yeast that a woman works into the dough for dozens of loaves of barley bread—and waits while the dough rises.”

In these three parables, I hear an echo of the Psalms, the reading today about the blessing to come, about being fruitful, and especially a passage from Psalm 139:13-16.

13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

God’s hand is upon us in secret, within. We have to nurture that faith, that faith which God is working within us. This is Christ’s promise and our hope.

We want to be the good soil, we need to be the good soil, to be open to God’s calling on our lives. We need to be ready, prepared for the seed, ready to care for the good news we have been given, the hope planted within us, the breath of the Spirit igniting our faith.

We have the seed planted, in the soil, the good soil, the fields of our hearts, waiting, in secret, for God’s time alone.

Before the planting, there is the preparing of the soil. After the planting, there is the nurturing, the caring for the seed, for the soil, the watering, the weeding, all of this guided by faith, because most of the growing is in secret deep down within the seed, in the soil. The seeds germinate in the ground after a time of dormancy.

There is a lot of truth in the idea that the faith of a farmer has to be strong because so much of what they do relies on God’s little miracle, starting with the right seed, the right soil, the right amount of water, the right amount of heat, of sunlight, all of it happening in God’s time alone.

We are seeking, searching, but the seed is within us, growing in the soil, after a time of dormancy, like spring after the winter, waiting, growing in secret, a miracle within the seed, germinating in the soil, sending down roots, deep into our faith.

And we need that hope to work within us, the faith that we carry within that seed, like a small mustard seed growing within us, or maybe more like the yeast, spreading in the kneading, in the working of the dough, throughout, so the yeast can do its work in the secret, the darkness within the walls of the dough, spreading, rising, as the Spirit fills us.

Now, I have never been a farmer, nothing more than a little garden in my yard at least; but I have seen the fruits of yeast growing, in secret within the skin of a loaf of bread, or a whole proof box full of rack after rack of rolls in an industrial bakery I worked in one summer in 1979.

I worked in the mixing room on the third floor where the yeast was added to the ingredients and just the right amount of water to make the dough and I worked on the pan-o-matic on the first floor where the 300lbs of each batch of dough was divided into the different kind of rolls we were making at the time , but mostly I worked between the proof box, where humidity and temperature were set to activate the yeast, and the roll oven, often for a 12 hour shift.

Each time I went into the proof box to get a rack of pans of rolls, the smell of yeast and the humidity of the air would hit me. My glasses would fog over. The yeast had definitely done its thing, germinating, growing, down inside the dough, spread throughout. My clothes and hair were thick with the smell of yeast long after my shift was over.

We prepare the materials, we prepared the dough, but the growth was hidden, like the germinating seeds in the good soil of our hearts.

We must nurture the soil, preparing it for the seeds, the gospel that God sows into us. We must embrace the seeds when they are planted within us. Yes, we must embrace the seed. . .

embrace the seed

embrace the seed
the hope that God has planted
the seed in the soil
of our hearts, our lives

embrace the seed
the message of the gospel
the promise of Christ Jesus
His love, His sacrifice

embrace the seed
the calling awaking in secret
deep within the soil
of our lives, of our hearts

We must water and feed the seed in the soil, within us. We must add warmth, light, all that the seed needs to grow. We must read the word, we must prayer, we must serve, we must spend time in worship, feeding our lives, our hearts.

But, most of all, we have to trust in God; we must have faith in God, for it is God who provides the growth. And in that faith is our hope, for the new life to come.


Closing Prayer

Lord, God, Holy Spirit, risen Lord Jesus Christ who came in the flesh, we pray that you would nurture the seeds planted within us, that we would be good soil for the good news you has sown upon us. May the seeds germinate in secret, within us. May they grow, may the roots go deeper. Lord water us with your word, the breath of your Spirit. And we pray all these things in the name of our risen Lord, Jesus. Amen.

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