Outside of flipping on the news when I get up in the morning – and again when I am usually eating dinner. And besides watching Jeopardy faithfully every day --- I really don’t watch a lot of television.
I am perfectly fine with my antennae tv – without a 1,000 cable channels at my fingertips – most of which I would not have an interest in anyway.
I do enjoy watching things on PBS – like the great documentary on Ulyses Grant done back in January – or more recently the series on Franklin Roosevelt and on the National Parks.
Another PBS show that sometimes snags me – is the Antiques Roadshow – I guess I am always amazed at how much something pulled out of someone’s attic can really be worth.
Out of curiosity I googled “top selling items on the Roadshow.”
First was a watch made in 1914 by a well-known Swiss watch maker. The watch had been handed down to a man from his great-grandfather – who, when he took it to an edition of Antique Roadshow in Minneapolis discovered the watch was worth $2 million!
Second a man had been collecting rhinoceros horn carvings and had a particular affinity for a certain cup – and ended up purchasing an entire set.
Carved around 1700 --- the ornate collection was originally purchased by the owner for $5,000 – but an appraiser on the show gave the owner a surprise when he told him the collection could be sold at auction for $1.5 million!
It doesn’t take long for us to search for the answer to the question – not what’s in your wallet – but what’s in your attic!!! Perhaps when my siblings and I reconvene to continue cleaning my mother’s house out – we will be a bit more cautious of what we send off to the thrift store
I suppose we all know that there is sometimes investment and sacrifice in pursuit of such treasures – but when great value is there and almost within your grasp --- how could you possibly give up and turn away??? And that is precisely the point which Jesus is making in the gospel parables we hear today.
It is not a parable that requires all that much explanation or interpretation. The point is all too clear: the gospel that Jesus came to preach – the story about God in heaven and God’s unconditional love for us all – and all the opportunities God provides for us – are like buried treasure.
Only the coward, the incompetent, the fool would turn away from the possibilities which Jesus offers in the name of God.
How can it be that the pearl of great price, the buried treasure in the field, the pocket watch handed down from generation to generation – are pursued vigorously //// and yet the opportunity that Jesus provides with the offer of God’s love is pursued somewhat lackadaisically – if at all??
Obviously the Good News of Christianity does not look like the glittering gold of buried treasure. We may claim that it does, but in fact we can take this particular pearl of great price or leave it alone – and mostly we leave it alone.
Treasure hunting novels and movies are still pretty popular. The story of buried treasure has lost none of its appeal since the day of Jesus. The problem for us today is rather to believe that the truth revealed to us by Jesus, that the God disclosed to us through Jesus’ words and deeds --- does, indeed, represent something at least as valuable as buried gold, a rare Swiss watch, or a carved rhinoceros horn.
We have heard this parable so often, we take it so much for granted – that it really doesn’t hit us the way it ought to. We cannot quite accept the fact that the knowledge of God’s love should transform our lives every bit as much as a buried treasure transforms the hard life of a laborer.
We can understand such things as wealth, power, and leisure – we can realize that they do transform the life of the one who acquires them --- but we can’t quite comprehend how the same thing happens to us when we accept the message of salvation from Jesus.
Wealth, leisure, and power – lessen if not eliminate such things as fear, anxiety, worry, uncertainty – and all the harshness of our daily struggles.
Jesus is telling us quite definitely in today’s parable that accepting the vision of God will accomplish the same thing for us –
indeed would accomplish it more effectively and more decisively than would the treasure in the field or the watch in the drawer.
But we find it hard to believe -- we might agree when we hear the parable read to us – as we have through all the years since we first heard it. . . But still, we don’t take it seriously – we do not believe that our life is an adventure – and that the buried treasure which ought to give us power and energy and drive to our life is a treasure that is ours simply for the asking – costing us nothing --- when we realize that God loves us that much. . .
Today, and for the next two weeks – we will be reading from Chapter 13 of St. Matthew’s Gospel. In this chapter Jesus tells seven parables – or stories -- about the kingdom of heaven. . .
Next week we will hear how the kingdom of heaven is like weeds an enemy sows in their neighbor’s wheat field.
The week after that we hear how the Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field or like a merchant’s search for fine pearls.
If the crowds gathering to hear Jesus have come expecting academic lectures on the kingdom– then they are disappointed for what they get are more like dreams or poems –
in which images of God’s kingdom are given to them – as familiar as crops in their own fields and pearls in a market place. And Jesus is saying these very ordinary things have something to tell us about God’s purpose for us. . .
So today – it is the parable of the sower --- that is what we call it right? “A sower goes out to sow.”
If this is the parable of the SOWER – why do we always seem to have the same response ---- we start to worry about what kind of ground we are on with God.
We start worrying about how many birds are in our field, how many rocks, how many thorns.
We almost immediately and consistently turn it into a parable about how we can clean the messes of our lives up – how we can turn ourselves into the well-tilled, well-weeded, well-fertilized field for the sowing of God’s word.
We start worrying about how the odds are three to one against us – those are the odds in the parable after all --- and we begin to think about how we can beat the odds, or at least improve on them – by cleaning up our act. . .
Isn’t that our usual response to this parable? We hear it as a challenge to be different, as a call to improve our lives, so that if the same parable were ever told about us – it would have a happier ending – with all the seeds falling on rich, fertile soil.
But today, I want to suggest there is something wrong with that reading of the parable. . . because if improving the soil of our lives is what this parable is all about – then it should be called the parable of the different kinds of ground. . .
Instead, it has been known for centuries as the parable of the SOWER – which means there is a chance, just a chance, that we have got it all backwards.
We hear the story and think it is a story about us – but what if we were wrong? What if it is not about us at all ---- but about the sower? What if it is not about our own successes and failures and birds and rocks and thorns --- but about the extravagance of a sower who does not seem to be fazed by such mundane concerns as rocks and birds --- who flings seed everywhere – wastes it with holy abandon – who feeds the birds – whistles at the rocks – picks his way through the thorns (maybe looking for a few blackberries along the way) – who shouts hallelujah at the good soil and just keeps on sowing – confident that there is enough seed to go around, that there is plenty --- and that when the harvest comes at last – the grain will fill every barn in the neighborhood to the rafters????
If this really is the parable of the SOWER and NOT the parable of the different kinds of soil --- then it begins to sound quite different.
The focus is not on us and our shortfalls and our rocky and thorny hearts --- but on the generosity of GOD – the prolific sower who does not obsess about the conditions of our fields – who is not stingy with the seed --- but who casts it everywhere, on good soil and bad --- who is not cautious or judgmental or even very practical ---- but who seems willing to keep reaching into the seed bag for all eternity –
covering all of creation with the fertile seed of God’s word – the values of the kingdom – like the dewfall, falling on the good and bad alike. . .
Being the cautious, thrifty people we are --- we certainly wouldn’t do it that way of course.
If we were in charge, we would devise a more efficient operation: a neater, cleaner, and certainly a more productive one that did not waste seed on birds and rocks and thorns – but concentrated only on the good soil and what we could make it do.
But if this is the parable of the SOWER, then Jesus seems to be suggesting that there is another way to go about things, a way that is less concerned with productivity and plenitude:
The kingdom of God is like a sower who went out to sow. . . God’s way – which must become our way --- is to throw the seeds of truth, kindness, forgiveness, compassion, understanding, acceptance, encouragement, and joy as lavishly and recklessly as we can – out of a sense of abundance, not scarcity – with the hope – the deep, profound, faith-filled hope of the kingdom – that some of the Gospel and its values -- will take root in the people and situations of our lives --- in order to make the kingdom of God present – that is, to make the world a better place because of us – we sowers of God’s word – who have passed through these times and places. . .
A sower went out to sow. . .
I hope you don’t find it a surprise that people ask me all the time to pray for them --- and hopefully people ask the same of you, as my prayers are no more powerful than yours. . .
A friend of mine always says that whenever someone does ask you to pray for them – you should do it as soon as you can – right there on the spot as you walk away from them or hang up the phone --- otherwise you are likely to forget about as soon as you get back to work, or play, or whatever it was that you were doing or going to do.
I’ve had a lot of people lately ask me to pray for them because they are going through a difficult time. Often people ask me to pray for them because they are sick or suffering in some way and need the healing touch of God in their lives.
There are many people these days who are going through pain, and anxiety, and frustration: in our parish, in our state, and in our country who need our prayers.
On this weekend when we celebrate the gift of our country, the freedom we enjoy and the opportunities that are given to us – we need to be aware that there are many who struggle amid an uncertain economy – and living and working conditions that are challenging with mask wearing and social distancing, >>
and the possibility of businesses not coming back as strong as they were before all of this began. . .
One friend of mine is used to the extra income from the work she does at Kaufman stadium during baseball season – and we know how that is working out for her this year. . .
The people of Israel in our first reading today would understand the feelings of those who are struggling in today’s world.
At the time the prophet Zechariah was writing to the Israelites – around 520 B.C. – the Persians had conquered Israel and were occupying their land and lives.
The Jewish Temple in Jerusalem had been destroyed – and all the people of Israel wanted more than anything else ---- was to get things back to normal – in their day to day lives – and in their worship ----SOUND SOMEWHAT FAMILIAR????
In the midst of their anguish, hope-less-ness, and despair : Zechariah was writing to remind them that God would NOT abandon them. Zechariah was telling them to just “hold tight” because God will never desert the people that God loves so very much:
“See, your king will come to you, and he is a just savior. The warriors bow shall be banished and he shall proclaim peace to the nations. HIS dominion shall be from sea to sea”
God’s dominion – not the dominion of the Persians, or the Babylonians, or the Romans who will come along later --- and not the disruption caused by a pandemic such as the covid virus. . . GOD’S dominion shall be from sea to sea. . . we might want to say from sea to shining sea. . .
And Jesus echoes that message so well in the Gospel: “Come to me, to me -- all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Faith teaches us that Christ walks with us and carries us in those difficult moments that bring us to the brink of despair – and should bring us to our knees. >>
Christ is saying to us: “Trust in me. I will lead you through this valley of darkness and of fear. We will get through this together.
WHO DOESN’T NEED TO HEAR THESE WORDS TODAY???? IN OUR TIME AND IN OUR PLACE???
GOD IS WITH US – AND WE WILL GET THROUGH THIS TOGETHER!
The problems which we face as individuals and as a nation reflect the character of our country at this time in history – just as they did for the Israelites in 520 BC. While we celebrate our country this weekend with both pride and hope –
we should be clear that it is prayer and the action of God in our lives that is the most important element in our celebrations on the 4th of July and every other day.
We pray for those who have no work. May they find labor soon.
We pray for those who struggle and who live in fear because they do not know what the future holds. May the light of God’s love direct their efforts and guide their actions.
We pray for our country which seems to struggle in its efforts to be a beacon of hope to the world. May God bless our nation. >>
And my God bless our leaders. May God bless all of us who live in this great country. And may we never take it for-granted.
And may we realize that no matter what our struggles, pains or fears – we are all in this together. And together we seek God’s guidance in our future – and the future of our country. God’s dominion shall be from sea to shining sea. And may God bless America.