June 13, 2021
Sunday after Pentecost
Corinthians 5:6 [11-13] 14-17
Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable and suitable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
Several years ago Billy gave me the book, Gardening Without Work: For the Aging, the Busy and the Indolent, by Ruth Stout. I hope it’s because I’m busy..and not because I’m aging or slothful….eh?
It was a great read. And if you drive by our ‘garden’ you can see that I took her – cover the garden with straw/hay very seriously.
Her personality presents itself throughout the book as she continues to tell readers her methods and how they have worked for years and years and years. She almost scoffs off readers who say, that doesn’t work with a response of “It has worked for me.”
But even for advice on gardening ‘without work’, she takes the task seriously and with deep passion. She maps out her garden each year, takes time to bed the garden down in the winter and loves the spring when perennials return and she is able to add other plants in their seasons.
Even ‘without work’, she still gives it attention and care and time – she is part of the process.
I’ve attempted this method…although the straw that we have used in the past has not quite kept all of the weeds out, but it helps. It also helps the neighborhood birds building their nests.
But even with Ruth’s guidance and my attempt to garden, it doesn’t always pan out as planned.
I look at the gardens at Longwood and Williamsburg and Old Dry Road Farm…and sigh…longingly…at their simplicity, beauty and order.
My garden often seems chaotic, growing out of its bounds and not quite orderly.
I guess it’s a skill and a work in progress - that depends on so much more than just the gardener.
In our gospel lesson today, Jesus compares the kingdom of God to someone who scatters seed on the ground and then goes to bed. Who does that?
The gardener doesn’t even seem to worry about the growth…the growth is left to the earth which produces of itself.
Geesh…my garden has not thrived with that treatment, yet.
Maybe I need to sleep more…
The next description of the kingdom of God is that of a mustard seed….known in those times as weed. Something that farmers wouldn’t even plant, because they would overtake the crops and grow into a huge bush!
Needless to say, in these two explanations…the kingdom of God (spoiler alert) is NOT what we expect it to be.
Both of these explanations of the kingdom are countercultural to the point of sounding ridiculous. In the words of Debie Thomas, “these explanations make no sense. They’re big, cosmic jokes, intended to stretch our imaginations far beyond any place we’d take them on our own. What is the kingdom of God like? Are you sure you want to know? Okay, brace yourself: the kingdom of God is like a sleeping gardener, mysterious soil, an invasive weed, and a nuisance flock of birds.”
Friends, I’m here to tell you that the kingdom is more often than not something we do not expect. It breaks into our lives and our world in a way that we could not possibly imagine, through people we don’t deem worthy or holy enough, in experiences where we just did NOT expect God to be present.
I’ve heard it said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”
I think, too, the kingdom of God is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.
Sure, we’re an active living, breathing part of this kingdom, but when we get so caught up in how all of this is supposed to happen, then we miss the actual happening.
And, here’s the kicker, not only are we making other plans, but the kingdom continues to happens, in us, through us, around us and in spite of us.
Sometimes we miss it because we are looking for specific signs of growth and change and familiarity.
Sometimes we miss it because as Debie Thomas says, “the kingdom looks like slow mysterious growth. Periods of fallowness. Plants we can neither control nor contain. Weeds that run wild and still nourish. Hungry, raucous birds. Feasts we might mistake for waste. Gardeners who take naps.”
I’m sure at this point in the year…after 14+months in a global pandemic that we could look around and say…uh oh. What is happening to the kingdom?
What is happening to the church?
And even more specifically…what is happening to family of faith here at Trinity?
We could look around and worry about faces that we have not seen in over a year.
We could listen to the whispers that speak of people leaving in droves.
We could worry about how our response to a global pandemic has impacted this congregation and community.
We get anxious that we are not yet back in the building when so many other places are back to normal. (what is normal anyway…after a pandemic…in a congregation experiencing the death of its senior pastor?) Normal is gone.
But the good news?
The really good news?
As Jesus reminds us time and time and time and time again, the kingdom of God is far from the normal that we expect or think we can return to.
Let me say that again, the kingdom of God is far from the normal that we expect to resume or think we can return to.
Are you catching on?
The world, our nation, this community and this community of faith has been changed over this past year. Period. End of story. Mic drop.
Well, except that it is not the end of the story.
As Kermit sings in the Muppet Movie,
like a movie, write your own ending
Keep believing, keep pretending
We've done just what we set out to do”
We will keep believing.
We will keep prepping and planning and working in the kingdom of God.
Knowing that it is happening all around us. Trusting the presence of God here and now. Seeing Jesus among us in the places least likely….and in the places we forgot to look, or just missed because we were looking the other way. Squirrel!
So, what is the kingdom of God like?
The kingdom of God is like the member who joined Trinity just before the pandemic who gave the gift of a kidney to someone else.
The kingdom of God is like the couple who started worshipping with us online, who were overjoyed when they could join us in outdoor worship.
The kingdom of God is like the families and friends of Trinity who have worshipped with us in Missouri, Florida, Indiana, North Carolina, Connecticut, New Hampshire and even Russia.
The kingdom of God is like a handful of our post college young adults sharing their faith through daily devotions.
The kingdom of God is the outdoor celebrations of 1st holy communions, confirmations and retirements.
The kingdom of God is communion in just a wafer…or an all in one hard to open wafer and juice kit, either in a parking lot, or under a portico in the rain or in your car.
The kingdom of God is families in the parking lot covering it with butterflies for Easter Sunday.
The kingdom of God is like one of our graduates sharing their name and future plans in front of us all, when 5 years ago public speaking, even in a small group caused fear and tears.
The kingdom of God is like two members talking to each other every day on the phone, until one of them dies.
The kingdom of God is this community surrounding one another through great loss and grief. And shouting Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! through communal tears as loudly as possible.
The kingdom of God is the body of Christ struggling to figure out how to be church through and beyond a pandemic.
The kingdom of God is this place.
The kingdom of God is you and me…it is us, hearing the call of Christ for our lives and the life of this place and responding as faithfully as we can.
The kingdom of God is Trinity – in a year of transition.
The kingdom of God is here…and now.
And now, may the peace which surpasses all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, and let all God’s people say, amen.