Faithlife Sermons

Should We Even Get It?

NL Year 2  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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How many of you have vegetable gardens at your home? Since we bought our house we have been focusing a lot on doing some things to fix up the inside of the house, that we haven’t done much to the outside of the house of house. Which means that we haven’t made a vegetable garden yet but we have a place picked out for it and possibly a separate place out in the front of our house for a herb garden as well.
We made raised garden beds in our house in Washington and we loved them. I don’t claim to be a good gardener or to have a green thumb, but we enjoyed the herbs and vegetables that we got from our garden each year. We most enjoyed our strawberries. I think part of the reason that we loved them was that they were as bad as weeds. They always tasted amazing and the took over an entire garden bed.
The one that really confused me was the wild blackberries. We didn’t start out with them but they suddenly started appearing as they crept their way over our fence on both sides of our house. They were absolutely delicious and there were always more than we could pick. The problem that started happening was they ended up taking over 3/4 of our fence on the one side. Every year, more and more would appear and between the thorns and the roots, it was a real pain to get trim them to a more manageable amount.
The final part about gardening that has always frustrated me is pure and simple fact that at my skill level, I never knew what kind of crop I would have when it came to harvest time. I was never successful with peppers, be it hot or bell. The slugs and other bugs would get them no matter what kind of care I would provide. One year we had a great crop of peas and another year just an ok one. Herbs usually did ok each year. And much like our strawberries in Washington our rosemary in our front yard here in Kingman seems to grow and grow without any need for attention other than trimming it back because it grows too well.
So I look at these parables of gardening and on the gardening level, I feel like I kind of get it. Sometimes you plant your seeds or your plants and there are times when nothing happens and the bugs and the sun just eat them up. Then there are other plants like the strawberries that yield a hundredfold and you are so excited to eat fresh strawberries off the vine that look and taste amazing. I can also kind of understand the mustard seed of seeing how something small turns into this huge thing, which was the case of the blackberries. One year they popped up on our side of the fence and then the next year we can’t even control it because it became so big and spread so much.
But what does that mean for us and for the kingdom of God? In other words, what is the actual meaning of the parables? Are the parables truly meant to confuse us? If Jesus really meant to confuse the people, then why would he use imagery that most people would understand? In an agricultural society, why use agricultural parables if it was truly meant to confuse people?
As I look at, study, and wrestle with this text myself I wonder if there is more to it than what we see on the surface. It is the very wresting with this text that I think is the key. One way to deal with something you don’t understand is to give up and just let it go. One way to deal with a garden that isn’t producing is to try different plants. Another option is to keep wrestling with it, studying up on it and trying to do better the next time that you encounter that problem.
I really like peppers, so I tried to grow them every year, yet still with no success. I wanted fresh hot peppers from my garden so that I could make fresh salsa with basically all the components from my garden. I struggled with them every year. I used copper and slug repellent and all kinds of tried methods as well as “old wives tales” about how to take care of the slug problem so my peppers would grow. Nothing worked. Maybe if I had more time I would have figured something out, and maybe here when I fix up a garden I will have success.
The part that keeps coming back to me about the text is the part that said, “so they many not turn again and be forgiven.” Perhaps it is in the wresting with the difficult to understand texts that keep bringing us back to God’s word. If we wrestle with these parables then perhaps we are so deeply rooted in God’s word that we will not turn again. When we are constantly entering into God’s word to better understand it then wee receive the nourishment that we need. When we are around other people that are seeking that same growth then we are digging ourselves deeper into the soil so that we can’t be easily plucked up, dried up, or blown away.
Ultimately, despite all our knowledge of gardening from even the greatest minds, there are still factors that we cannot control like the temperature or the natural water that comes from the sky, and perhaps the seed that just isn’t able to grow. There are just times when we don’t understand why something does or doesn’t do something. I think that is another lesson from today’s parables. Jesus is trying to explain to people the kingdom of God and is trying to figure out the best way to explain it.
Mark 4:30 NRSV
He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it?
Mark 4:30 NRSV
He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it?
Perhaps there is no best way for us to understand the kingdom of God or how and why people do or don’t listen to the word. Sometimes the crop is plentiful and sometimes it’s not. Perhaps the best route is to live out the Gospel. Live out the message and know that at all times and in any place there is a chance that that message will be heard, take root, and grow in a single person.
I don’t think that Jesus knew how to best describe the kingdom of God in a way for us to understand
Trust that no matter what, God is the one who is in charge. Trust and know that the message is available for all to hear. The message we share and plant is one of hope, peace, love, and forgiveness. A message that has the power to grow and change the world for all who are willing to struggle as a seed, push forth from the soil and grow in the light of the day knowing that both God and us, God’s children, are there to help nurture that new growth along the way. And finally to trust knowing that one day, God’s garden will fill the earth and every stretch of land will be filled with good soil for us to all grow and help one another to live as one family of the one God who created us all. Amen.
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