Sunday, February 21, 2016

Lent II - Our Call and Our Commission

Second Sunday of Lent
February 21, 2016
Fr. Philip Eberhart

Our Call and Our Commission

This past couple of days I've been involved, once again, in the work of the Diocese as we convened a discernment community to work with a potential candidate for Holy Orders that Bishop Bill sent us from West Texas.  Along side of that work, I've been scheduled to preach this morning, and have sensed a call to preach on the Call we have as Christians to share our faith, as a reflection of the heart of God for the world, and the Commission we have to Go and Teach all Nations.

Someone was joking this week that they had seen a sign in front of a church that named the church The NO-Great Commission Baptist Church!  Apparently they had decided that the Great Commission didn't exist - that Jesus actually meant something else - that they could pretend that the words of Jesus, sending us to the World for which He died, simply didn't exist!  In my mind, when I heard that, I thought of a common malady that is found in many churches these days - it is simply characterized as an "US FOUR - NO MORE" mindset.  Completely self-centered and closed society, focusing on its own needs and wants.  The problem today is that those churches can be 4000 people, not just 4!

This morning I want to tell a farmer story - one about seedtime and harvest and the work that is included in that lifestyle.  Turn with me to Mark 4 for just a moment.

“This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk then the head then the full grain in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe he puts the sickle to it for the harvest has come.” -- Mark 4:26-29 

As most of you know, I grew up on a wheat farm in eastern Colorado, a fact that is part of my life story and a proud heritage that I hold close and dear, not just for the roots that it gives me, but for the context and lessons that I take from the knowledge of the land and the process of seedtime and harvest that we engaged in year after year as I grew up.

Let me be clear with you all.  I believe that these Kingdom parables are given to us, in the terms they are given to us, farming terms - to that we can all understand the process, no matter what land we are from or what time we live in.  These parables are UNIVERSAL, across all times and places on our planet !!  We probably, most of all, are at risk of not grasping their reality, because we are not engaged, in our urban and city culture, in the process of growing things, of planting or of harvesting our food.

Throughout the NT, Jesus is using these images and parables to instruct his disciples, soon to be apostles (sent ones) as to the reality of His Kingdom and it processes of growth.

Here are some Kingdom distinctives that Jesus pointed out to his followers:

1.  Seed has the potential of life inside it - by nature!  Peter calls it "eternal seed" or "seed that springs up to eternal life" -  [1Pe 1:23 NASB] 23 for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God."

2. Sowers are those who carry and plant "seed" in the soil of the hearts of men and women they meet.  The parable of the sower is one which teaches us the necessity of following in our Master's footsteps who was and is the Master Sower!   This parable is applicable to all of Jesus' followers, be they local missionaries or global missionaries.  We pray Sunday after Sunday that Jesus would make us a "united, biblical and missionary Anglican Witness in North America."  We are all missionaries. We are all sent to the work of the field - both as sowers and as harvesters.

3.  There are SEASONS which we need to be aware of in this process: 
      a.  The Season of Preparation:   The work is done by the Spirit of God in the hearts of men and women

      b.  The Season of Planting:   The work is done by both the Spirit and Us in cooperation with Him and under His direction.

      c.  The Season of Growing:   The work of God and the natural potential of the Seed in the soil (or the soul)

      d.  The Season of Harvest:     The work of the Lord of the Harvest and the workers He sends in the Harvest.

      Of the seasons, we only have some control over the second and fourth.  God has invited us into the process of the Work of the Kingdom as sowers and as harvesters.  He is the "LORD OF THE HARVEST" and as such, He has invited us to sow into the fields HE has prepared and then to "put in the sickle for the harvest is ripe!  (Joel 2) Multitudes, multitudes are in the valley of decision!"

The question for us this morning is where is your field?  Do you believe that God has sent you in the field?  Do you "pray the Lord of the Harvest to send forth laborers into His Harvest?"  If so, then the natural outcome of those prayers, is that you will become on of the Sent Ones - the Apostolic Band of Jesus Followers who are sent to do the work of the Kingdom of God in the world, field by field.

We Enter a new field,
We Sow into the soil (souls) of the field,
We wait for God's promised growth - that is the potential of the seed - 
And we Join in the Harvest of Souls that God has promised.

I know that many here pray that prayer to the Lord of the Harvest - or at least you pray for greater numbers, here at REZ.  Both are the same prayer, and God is inviting us into the Kingdom work of Sowing and Reaping.

One last scripture that I want to remind you of - and we use this when we are talking about money, from the context in which it is found, but it is a universal principle of the field:  

[2Co 9:6 NASB] 6 Now this I say, he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

The secret of a bountiful harvest is bountiful sowing!  It is a financial principle but it is also a principle of the life of the sower and the seed - a parable of the growth of the Kingdom of God on the earth!!
For a long time I took the parable of the sower and turned it on its head - thinking, as a smart farmer that I was, that the parable was really all about the soil and the preparation of the soils for the seed.
It was as I looked at a life size statue of The Sower in the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, NC that I realized the soils were not the point at all, but the seed - and a sower who would be obedient to fling as much seed as humanly possible, everywhere he went!!

Friends, the SEED as I indicated earlier is the enduring and unlimited, eternal Word of God!  That is what we are planting in the hearts of those around us, - the seed isn't our ideas or opinions about things (we are very willing to plant that stuff almost everywhere as well!) - the SEED is God's ideas and what GOD says about people and circumstances; what GOD promises about our life and our destiny in Him; what GOD says about how to live and how to make our life after His image.

This is the SEED we have to sow!  Not our good ideas, but GOD IDEAS.  God's Word is the Seed that is eternal, that springs up to eternal life in the hearts of those who receive it.
But the sower sows indiscriminately!  The Sower NEVER judges the soil, he just casts the seed!  

Where are you casting seed these days? What does that even look like in your daily life and work?

You know we can get in trouble for quoting the bible in our workplace.  People have been fired for having bibles and scripture verses visible on their desks!  We are living in a hostile environment.

Just let me point you to two passages:
Gal 5: 22-23
[Gal 5:22-23 NASB] 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

and from 1 Cor 13
[1Co 13:4-7 NLT] 4 Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud 5 or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. 6 It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. 7 Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.
What if the Fruit of the Spirit and the Unconditional Love of Jesus, are a part of the vehicle for the delivery of imperishable seed, into the lives of those around us?  What if?

I just want to challenge you to consider this morning that you are an agent of the Kingdom of God and the task is unfinished!  Does anyone question that?

So let us live in such a way that what we say and do may be a catalyst for the planting of the Seed of the Word of God in the lives around us - so that God may give grown and we may all become harvesters in the field that God is appointed us to.

Amen and Amen.

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched forth you hands on the hard wood of the cross, that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace;  So clothe us with Your Spirit, that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of You, for the honor of Your Name.

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