Worship for Sunday, July 12, 2020

Isaiah 55:10-13

10For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
  and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
 making it bring forth and sprout,
  giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
  it shall not return to me empty,
 but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
  and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

12For you shall go out in joy,
  and be led back in peace;
 the mountains and the hills before you
  shall burst into song,
  and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
  instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
 and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial,
  for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 65:[1-8] 9-13

1You are to be praised, O God, in Zion;
  to you shall vows be fulfilled.
2To you, the one who answers prayer,
  to you all flesh shall come.
3Our sins are stronger than we are,
  but you blot out our transgressions.
4Happy are they whom you choose and draw to your courts to dwell there!
  They will be satisfied by the beauty of your house, by the holiness of your temple. R
5Awesome things will you show us in your righteousness, O God of our salvation,
  O hope of all the ends of the earth and of the oceans far away.
6You make firm the mountains by your power;
  you are girded about with might.
7You still the roaring of the seas,
  the roaring of their waves, and the clamor of the peoples.
8Those who dwell at the ends of the earth will tremble at your marvelous signs;
  you make the dawn and the dusk to sing for joy.
  9You visit the earth and water it abundantly; you make it very plenteous; the river of God is full of water.
  You prepare the grain, for so you provide for the earth.
10You drench the furrows and smooth out the ridges;
  with heavy rain you soften the ground and bless its increase.
11You crown the year with your goodness,
  and your paths overflow with plenty.
12May the fields of the wilderness be rich for grazing,
  and the hills be clothed with joy.
13May the meadows cover themselves with flocks, and the valleys cloak themselves with grain; let them shout for joy and sing. Amen.

Romans 8:1-11

1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, 8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

  9But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

The Word of the Lord.

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9Let anyone with ears listen!”

  18“Hear then the parable of the sower. 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

The Gospel of our Lord.

My very favorite gardener preparing our garden for planting.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ.

These days lots of folks are making do with less.   The current unemployment rate in our country is an absolutely – positively staggering 11.1% after dropping from a truly painful high of 14.7% this spring.  (And we all thought that the unemployment rate during the Great Recession was bad . . . But that peaked at 10%.)

And those aren’t just numbers and statistics.  Those numbers are our friends and our neighbors.  They are our beloved family members and well – they are us!  That 11.1% unemployment rate is made up of honest to goodness human beings who are really worried people.  Of people with bills to pay and families to feed and dreams for the future.

And we are all so worried.  Even those of us who still have jobs are worried.  We wonder and worry how long we will be able to keep our jobs in this COVID-19 world.  We wonder if we will be furloughed too.  Or if we will be asked to take a pay cut to keep our jobs? 

So we tighten our belts.  We conserve.  We save wherever we are able.  We are frugal and cautious.  We carefully refrain from excess.  Bare bones budgets – and cutbacks are the part of our COVID-19 reality.

Being thrifty – frugal – and cautious comes pretty naturally to some of us.  I tend to be pretty frugal.  And Jason – well let’s just say Jason makes me look like a wild woman with money.  The family joke is that on the rare occasions Jason does open his wallet – moths fly out!

I took Jack shopping last week and spent a whopping $39.  (I know – wild stuff – right?)  I had also been to Sam’s that morning to buy groceries.  Apparently this behavior was so extraordinary that our credit card company sent Jason an alert to let him know that an unauthorized person might be using our credit card!  They were concerned about fraud over 2 whole charges in one day . . . Yes – we are that cheap! 

But – that sort of thinking – has absolutely – positively nothing to do with our Gospel reading for this week.  Today’s Gospel is all about extravagance and excess.  And being completely and utterly over the top.

This week Jesus tells us a story about a farmer who goes out to sow seed in his fields.  This farmer clearly loves his job – because he really throws himself into it.  He is exuberant.  He is passionate.  He is excessive.  He is wildly and wonderfully in love with farming.  Farming isn’t his job.  Farming is his CALLING. 

My favorite picture of Will helping with the garden when he was 2!

This farmer sows seed like a mischievous toddler throws Cheerios.  The seed goes everywhere!  Left – right.  Up – down.  All over the place.  He tosses the seed in every direction.  The seeds land – here – there – and everywhere in between!

Surely this farmer knows the difference between a road and a field.  Certainly – he can see the difference between rocky ground and cleared soil? 

But he simply doesn’t care.  He hurls the seed everywhere.  Letting it fall all over the place.  Only about 25% the seeds fall onto the field. The rest of the seeds land on the road – or on the rocks – or in the weeds.  But that doesn’t slow this farmer down, he just keeps up his wild sowing. 

Some Bible scholars say this was the way farmers sowed seeds back then.  But I think this sower is extraordinary.  There is something unique about his style.  His style is just way – way too over the top to have been a standard farming practice of his time!

After all – people in Jesus’ day had to be very careful with their seeds.  Because they couldn’t just pop over to the garden center if they ran out of seeds.  Or to Kroger if their crops failed to grow.  Seeds were precious.  And could mean the difference between life and death.

And yet – this farmer sows seeds with wild abandon.  He is extravagant – and excessive.  This farmer is completely and utterly over the top!  And you just know – that this farmer ALWAYS sows seed this way. This is his style.  He always has and always will be a passionate, exuberant sower of seeds.  

We grow A LOT of peppers at our house!

This farmer is unique.  This farmer is one of a kind.  This farmer is God.

In our Gospel reading for today – Jesus is telling us our God is extravagant and generous and completely over the top.

We see this extravagance all around us every single day.  Think of the world God created.  Think of the variety and abundance in the world. 

Our first ripe tomatoes of 2020.

Was it really necessary for God to create 38 dolphin species and over 13,000 kinds of flatworms? 

Did we really need over 10,000 species of birds? 

Or how about 12,000 ant species and 44,000 species of spiders! Talk about extravagant. 

Every single person in the entire world has unique fingerprints.  Even identical twins have different fingerprints!

Every kind of tree has its own unique leaf shape.  Why?  Why not just one basic pattern?  It seems so over the top. 

But that is our God.  Our God is extravagant, and over the top. 

Time and time again – throughout the Bible we read that God is wildly and extravagantly generous to his people.  God doesn’t hold back.  God gives his love and offers his forgiveness generously.

Adam and Eve sinned and turn their backs on God – but God loved them anyway.

God’s Chosen People worshipped a golden calf – but God still loved them.

Matthew was a thief – but God loved him in spite of his actions.

Judas betrayed Jesus’ – but God didn’t stop loving him.

Paul held the coats of the people who killed Stephen – but God loved him anyway.

These folks didn’t deserve God’s grace – love – and mercy.  But God gave it to them anyway.  Because our God loves generously and forgives freely.

And God has continued to be wildly extravagant with his love, grace, and mercy.  Because God showers each of us with his love – grace – and mercy even though we are a bunch of broken sinners too.

This parable is about how much God loves each of you.  This parable reminds you that God loves you with a love that is far beyond what you could ever deserve.  God loves you with a truly amazing, extravagant love.  God’s love for you is truly merciful. 

None of us could ever deserve God’s love and forgiveness.  But God is not frugal when he spreads his love and grace around.   

Our generous God calls us to follow his lead.  He calls us to be generous.  God calls us to be extravagant.  

We are called to spread God’s love and our love generously and with wild abandon.  Because the Good News of God’s grace – love and mercy are just too good to keep to ourselves and we are called to share them with EVERYONE – even people we might not think of as “good soil.” 

We can be generous and extravagant with other people because God has been generous and gracious and extravagantly merciful to us.  Truly this is Good News – AMEN.

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