One week from today I will be on vacation, summer holiday, R + R. Jane and I will probably worship at Trinity Church Copley Square or St. John’s in Cambridge. Yes, that’s right, even on vacation we’re dialed into giving God some quality time on Sunday morning. No saint mattress. I’m looking forward to this vacation period because, for once, I’m not over scheduled. I’m going to go with the flow – fish a little – hit a few golf balls – putter around my home sweet home – do some day trips and the like. But one thing I will schedule, in addition to worship time with God, is a trip to the movie theatre to see the new Woody Allen movie. I’m a fan his films. It’s because Allen is a keen observer of the human condition in post post modern times who usually gets it wrong while occasionally coming through with true insight… and always with a dose of humor with a drop or two of biting cynicism.
I remember in his film ‘Life and Death’ that Allen said, “If it turns out that there is a God… the worst you can say about him is that he is basically an underachiever.” Well he got that one wrong. But he also once wrote, “If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name in a Swiss bank.” Yes, his idea of faith could be pretty shallow too. Maybe that’s why I seem to like Woody Allen’s work. He reminds me of myself and most people these days, we watch the world around us, get it wrong a lot, and usually land a bit on the shallow side of the faith continuum.
Today in this morning’s gospel from the 13th chapter of St. Matthew we heard Jesus describing a variety of stances of faith for making sense of life and the world. He spoke of hard hearted souls, souls on the rocks, souls over run with the invasive vine that chokes off life, and of course the souls of rich, pure, fertile ground wherein the seeds of faith and life and joy take deep root and grow and thrive. (WHICH IS PRECISELY WHAT GOD WANTS FOR YOU.
And so I ask you this morning the same question Jesus was getting at when he told the story about the good seed that landed on the different types of ground. What sort of soil are you these days? What kind of spiritual soil are you in your heart? When the good Lord, who is no underachiever, lavishes the seed of life and joy, discovery and fulfillment on you … like God is doing right here and right now in this house of God, how receptive? … What kind of soil is that good seed landing on?
+ Are you rich, receptive, fertile and free inside? OR ARE YOU FIGHTING IT? Are you just too overrun with invasive weeds of long roots deep smothering your spirit within? / (They grow easily in rich soil too – might you need to clear some of that stuff out with God’s help?) -- ARE you kind of rocky these days in the sense Jesus described that you’ll take hold of the good seed gladly in the moment but only for a little while and not let it really take root within you so it can grow and have staying power? Many of us have that kind of relationship not just with God but friends, organizations, sometimes even with spouses or co-workers. Where there is no real depth, there is no real rootedness or growth over time. Or are you lately a lot like that hard, almost impenetrable path Jesus talked about, where the only thing that will grow from you is in the shallow soil between the cracks, like weeds in the sidewalk.
What kind of spiritual soil are you lately, Jesus was asking. But what He was getting at was for us to decide what kind of spiritual soil we really want to be?
St. Paul tells us that we are spiritual beings. And that we are! We are spiritual beings. At the end of each day and the end of your earthly life the only thing that matters are the spiritual matters. We are spiritual beings. And recent brain research shows that the part of the human brain that lights up when we are fulfilled, joyful, and experiencing pleasure LIGHTS UP BIG TIME WHEN WE ARE being generous – when we are giving of ourselves for others. When we are being Christ – like! It’s true. The early Christians lived out this generous spiritual way of life and St. Paul called this, ‘being in the spirit of God’ – letting your spiritual beingness shine through day by day. And insodoing people of faith learned a great thing, NO MATTER WHAT KIND OF SPIRITUAL SOIL YOU SEEM TO RESEMBLE TODAY, GOD WILL THROW THE GOOD SEED YOUR WAY. From there, if you are kind of rocky or fighting it you and God will need to clear some of that out.
You’ve seen the stone walls throughout New Hampshire. Those old stone walls next to back roads and alongside our fields didn’t get there without the effort and commitment of people willing to do what it took to create a fertile field. So roll away your stones. Likewise if you have rich soul soil, you’ll need to pull some weeds on a regular basis lest, as Jesus said, you become over grown and over extended and the seeds of grace get choked off. So we all have promise and we all have some good spiritual tending to do to let the Good Seed grow in our lives, stay in our lives, thrive in our lives.
So this summer week ahead, the week before I go on vacation, join with me in little spiritual exercise, take notice of how many stone walls you see along the way as you walk or drive, or chase a golf ball out of bounds.
And remember, in order for that stone wall to have gotten there, someone had vision for that place, and someone put forth great effort, commitment and “WANT TO!” to clear those stones. Not just to build a wall, but more importantly, to clear a field where new things could grow. So do take note of those walls this week ahead and then, every time you see one, clear a little extra room on the inside of your self– within your heart and soul, for the grace of God to take root and thrive. I bet you’ll be surprised by how many stone walls you’ll notice this week. And by clearing room in your heart, I’ll bet you’ll be surprised how much fertile inner space will open up for the Lord to work wonders in and through you, and all of us UNTIL A HOLY, SAFE, JUST AND JOYFUL WORLD IS ONE DAY BUILT where the seeds of God have blossomed. No small achievement. See you on the other side of vacation. Amen