It’s another warmish sunny day on Cape Ann, with all the attendant beauty of a summer’s morning. The sun is coming up around 5:00 a.m., and I watched it rise over Good Harbor with a cup of coffee. There were some early walkers and photographers out for the spectacle, for spectacle it was, a shimmering orange, red, and gold sky, some clouds, and clear water. “Morning has broken” indeed.
Below is a version of yesterday’s sermon, based upon Jesus’ parable of the sower and the seeds. It’s not exactly what was preached, because words change in the moment, but it’s close enough. The lectionary readings were:
Psalm 65:[1-8] 9-13 (11)
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
God is a profligate god, a prodigious God,
a plenteous God, an abundant God,
a giving God, who never gives up on
planting, a farmer God, really,
tilling and preparing our hearts,
to receive God, to welcome God.
God’s tills even the rockiest of hearts.
God’s word goes out like scattered seed,
like someone throwing endless handfuls
into the wind, and God doesn’t stop
sowing it, ever, day after day,
year after year, eon after eon.
From the beginning of creation,
God’s word went out.
God speaks, and who we are,
this world we live in, the universe,
everything that is, springs from that Word.
Let there be light, and there was light.
Let there be a world, and there was a world.
Let there be beauty, and there was beauty.
God sows seeds of goodness and truth,
of wisdom and mercy, of life and grace,
everywhere all the time.
God’s word, Isaiah tells us,
fulfills that which God intends—
It doesn’t go out and return to God empty,
but does what it says.
What a promise we hear this morning.
God says life, and life shall be:
an ultimate promise, though we die, we live.
This week in our church,
we’ve had the chance to see
some of the seeds of grace and faith
ripen and bear fruit.
Yesterday, in a beautiful ecumenical ceremony,
Hilary Mattison and Nat Crosby were
married at St. Anthony’s by the Sea.
Hilary is a member of our church.
Nat is Roman Catholic.
but both of them are faithful young Christians
and their faith brought them together.
It was Father Gariboldi’s first ecumenical wedding,
and we all felt the uniting spirit of God at work.
Part of the joy we experienced
was the chance to bring together
in a small but powerful way
to great expressions of Christian faith.
Catholics and Lutherans at that wedding
were delighted by the chance to worship together
in such a happy moment.
Yet even more, our hearts were lifted by the couple.
The wedding was testimony
to their faith in God, and their faith journey.
Hilary and Nat both are consciously faithful;
they don’t take their spiritual lives for granted, and
their life choices are shaped by their faith commitments.
Nat, for example, spends most of his vacation
in the summer, helping to reconstruct synagogues
in Poland that were burned during the Holocaust.
That’s what he does with his spare time.
As an architect, he’s used his gifts to help heal
in a concrete way, the violence of persecution.
Hilary’s been a seeker all her life;
she’s been on archeological digs in the middle East
in order to understand the ancient worlds
of the bible better.
She exemplifies that wonderful theological maxim:
“faith seeks understanding.”
She’s made a pilgrimage through France and Spain.
She’s pulled by the Gospel, interested in where
Jesus leads, and she wants to follow.
Their lives are concrete evidence
that the seeds of faith, of the gospel,
we plant as the church
and as parents, or friends, as grandparents,
aunts and uncles, friends and relations,
in our children’s lives really do take root and grow.
At the wedding reception, I listened to another
faithful young person, Hilary’s brother, James,
tell a remarkable story of seeds coming to ripen.
As a college student, James had an opportunity
to start a school in rural Africa, in Ghana, with his cousin.
They began with one teacher, and four children,
and a small room, no money, or personnel besides themselves.
But they had a vision, and persistence.
James said he began fund-raising at a table
outside his college refectory, with coffee cans
for donations. But as he kept at it, they found
family and friends to help, and those family and friends
found more family and friends—each person
bringing something to their dream, a gift of time,
or money, or concrete material needs
like books, and crayons.
They formed an organization
called For One World: Education through Empowerment.
You can read more about how they started
on their website.
Today, they have a full on elementary school,
with four hundred children.
Each year as the school grows,
more people have a chance to participate:
seeds of goodness, truth, hope coming to flower
and bear fruit. The important thing James learned
and loves to tell about is the power of relationships.
We’re not alone, he says.
We all have friends and family
who help with our vision,
who help us make dreams come true.
Their success at the school is based on
loving connections between people,
and the willingness to take a risk on those connections.
He says he’s not remarkable.
The opportunities to do remarkable good
are in front of all of us every day, so don’t wait
to have enough money or enough people to get started.
Just start and see what happens.
There’s the Gospel—believe and act.
Have faith, and live it.
We know what James is talking about—for this church
is like that, too. And we can see the fruits of the
Gospel seeds planted in the lives of everyone here,
especially when we listen to each other,
when we tell our stories to each other,
or when we tell the story of this community.
We know the power of loving connection.
We experienced the promise
that God’s word doesn’t return to God empty,
but fulfills what God purposes. We’ve seen it happen.
This morning, we have a chance as church to celebrate
the seeds of the gospel planted in the life of another child.
Today, we baptize Lukas Philip Spinelli, here
in the presence of God, and his family and friends.
We’ll make promises to God on his behalf,
but we’ll also make promises to God that we’ll
be there for Lukas, as community, as a place for
him to grow, and learn, and experience
the fellowship of faith.
These are serious promises.
We’ve had the great blessing, as a church,
of making them often to many children.
It’s a profound pledge on our part,
to this child, to pray and care for him.
God plants the seeds, and gave us the
task of helping in Lukas’s garden of faith,
of tending Lukas’s spiritual life,
of helping when he needs help,
of being faithful witnesses of God’s love for him,
that God cares for him,
that faith in God is the best adventure of all.
Like Hilary and Nat’s ecumenical wedding,
this morning’s celebration brings together two great rivers
of world faith—Judaism and Christianity.
Lukas is blessed to be the living descendent
of all our ancestors in biblical faith
Abraham and Sarah, Issac and Rebekah,
Jacob and Leah and Rachel.
He is blessed by the faith of his parents Jessica and Michael
who worship here with us at St. Paul.
He is a blessing for us, too—
for we’ll have the gift of being able
to watch him grow up,
to see for ourselves the seeds of faith
grow, ripen and bear fruit in his life.
God is a profligate God, a prodigious, generous God.
God plants and plants, tends, and nurtures,
breathes life into all that lives,
holds all together with his will.
God is our ground,
our water of life, our spirit.
All creation sings God’s praise.
Mountains and hills rejoice,
the trees clap their hands,
and we go out in joy.
May God’s life grow in you, flower and bear fruit.
May God gives us eyes of faith to see
this greening, joyous life everywhere.