Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
“A Dirty Church”
July 13 2014
Not many people like dirt. It’s usually something you try to get rid of. Things that are dirty are usually considered bad. Most people like things clean instead of dirty. When your house is dirty, you clean it. When your car is dirty, you want to wash it so it can be clean. When your clothes are dirty, you wash them so they can be clean. When you are dirty, you take a bath or a shower so you can be clean.
Most of us like things clean instead of dirty.
Unless, of course, you are a kid.
Most of you know that I was the Pastor In Residence at Camp Monroe this past week. They had an over abundance of Day Campers, kids ranging in age from 6 to 9 at Camp this past week, There were 24 little ones from 8am to 5pm every day, although it seemed like there were thousands of them! My only real duties at Camp were helping lead the opening of the day worship in the morning and the closing of the day worship at night. The rest of the day I was supposed to be free to rest, work on sermons, or whatever else I wanted to do. Well, I did what I wanted to do. My heart went out for the counselors and the Day Campers, and by Tuesday morning I was helping herd the 24 little ones to their activities and taking part in the activities with them. I did everything from playing soccer – both regular soccer and crab — swimming, which I must admit felt pretty good at 2 in the afternoon, to helping with the horses to crafts – those of you who know me realise that I had a wonderful time! But I was reminded last week that kids don’t mind getting dirty! In fact when I came to be meal time or time to get in the pool we would almost have to hose them down t get them clean! No – kids don’t mind being dirty! I bet you know what the first thing I did was when I got home Friday afternoon – I dumped my clothes in the washing machine and myself in the shower!
Besides being a kid, there are other times when dirt is not that bad.
Being a potter, Sally likes nothing better than to have her hands in the mud making pottery. Back when she was pottery she comes home covered with dirt – clay – and mud from head to toe. But before she would leave the studio you know what she does? She would clean her wheel and her work area. And when she got home she would put her clothes in the dirty clothes basket so they can be washed. and took a shower to get the mud – clay – dirt off of her.
I know the joke about being made to take a bath every Saturday night whether you needed it or not – but the truth is most of us like to be clean instead of dirty. And we like things around us to be clean. We take great pride in things being clean, and spend a lot of effort getting things clean. Most of us do not like dirt.
Unless, of course, we enjoy planting flowers or growing vegetable.
When I was growing up we had a man that would help Mom and Dad with yard work on occasion named Nick White. Nick was an elderly gentleman who could tell people where to plant plants. He would dig around in the yard – getting “soil samples” as it were – then would announce:
“You can plant here. It’s good dirt.”
Sometimes you just need good dirt. What makes for good dirt? A proper balance of nutrients to start with, some fertilizer can’t hurt, maybe a little Miracle Grow, then some water and sunlight. These things can help plants grow. But frist you have to have good soil – or as Nick would say – good dirt. To have healthy plants you have to start with good dirt. And you have to be willing to get dirty.
The Parable before us today is a story Jesus told about a farmer who sowed seeds, the different types of dirt the seeds fell into, and what happened in each type of dirt. Now most of you know I am by no means a person of great horticultural skills, which is say I am no farmer. But even I wondered at the farming practices of the man Jesus told about in His story. But these were normal practices for the farmers of the first century. First century farmers usually broadcast the seed by hand as they walked through their field. The fields were small by today’s standards, and the sowing very imprecise. It was natural that some seed would land in unproductive areas. Many times pathways interlaced the fields, and were packed hard by many feet. Much land had a shallow layer of soil over a stone base. The rock would absorb heat during the day, releasing heat to the seed during the night, causing the seed to spring up quickly – as happened in verse 5 of our text. Then there was the problem of borders of the fields that would be infested with thorns, and the seeds would blow onto this soil instead of the freshly plowed ground. The farmer would not be able to see them, but in time they would sprout and choke out the good seeds the farmer was sowing.
The hard ground, the rocky soil, the weed infested soil. Problems every farmer in the first century had to deal with. Problems all of Jesus’ listeners could relate to. But then there was the good soil. The good dirt. But Jesus had more in mind when He told this story than telling a tale of a farmer and what happened to his seed.
Why do you think Jesus told this story? I believe that Jesus knew that, as His disciples and others were doing His work , not all “soil” or not all “dirt” would be “good soil” or “good dirt”. Not everyone would believe in Christ. Things would interfere with the growth of God’s Spirit in their lives. Some wouldn’t even listen. Others would, but not let it “take root”. Still others would listen but let the world choke it out God’s Spirit out of them. And there would be other “seeds” that others would spread that at times would seem to take root quicker and be more productive than the “Gospel seeds”. But sometimes there would be seeds that would land in the “good soil”, the “good dirt”, and these would take root and bear fruit, and God’s work would be done.
We know that still holds true today. We can do everything we can, We can be as faithful as we can be, but there are still those who don’t listen as we try to spread the Good News of God. There are still those who don’t let the Good News of God’s love make a difference in their lives. There are still those who let the concerns of world choke out the message we try to give them about God and God’s love for them. There are still others spreading other seeds that are not the love of God and sometimes these seeds seem to take root and be more productive than the “Gospel seeds.” But then there are still those who let God’s love make a difference in their lives and change their lives! We live in a world where a lot of different “seeds” are being sown. Some are seeds of hatred and violence. We see evidence of these seeds being sown every day. Some are seeds of addictions. We see the results of the sowing of those sees also. Some are seeds of poverty, hunger, homelessness, loss of jobs and despair. But there are others who are sowing seeds of hope, of love, of God’s love – as a response to these other seeds that are being sown. Even though these do not always bear fruit, we can sometimes see what happens in people’s lives when they do and can work to continue spreading those seeds of God’s hope and love in the world.
Let me give you an example of 2 people who spread God’s seeds – “Gospel seeds” in the world – in a place where it was dangerous to do so – but continued spreading the seeds. In 2002 Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer were workers in Afghanistan trying to bring Christ into that war torn country. One of the families they showed the Jesus film to betrayed them to the authorities. They were arrested by the Taliban, but freed when our forces drove the Taliban out of their area. They still hope to return to Afghanistan to continue their work there. When asked if they would do anything differently next time, Dayna Curry said: “I know particularly that we did not have that many people praying for us the day we were arrested. Normally we did, but on that one day we didn’t. If you are going to do something like show the Jesus film, make sure there’s a whole lot of prayer coverage” Dayna and Heather are examples of faith, and knowing that sometimes it may seem your work for God is unproductive, but you can’t give up because that productive time, that good soil, that good dirt, is out there, you just have to make sure the seed gets to it.
Every day we have to spread the seeds and share God’s love with the world. Certainly some will take root and produce fruit and some won’t. But we still have to spread the seed.
How do we spread the seeds of God’s love to the community around us? We can do this every day as we work to help those around us. We can spread seeds of God’s hope and God’s love as we reach out to those in need. We can do this through volunteering for organizations that help others or donating to organizations that help others or visiting someone who is sick. We can spread seeds of God’s hope and God’s love as we share a smile or a friendly word with a stranger. We can spread seeds of God’s hope and God’s love by working for legislation that helps those in need. We can spread seeds of God’s hope and God’s love by praying for those who are in need, those who need to experience God’s hope and love in their lives and for those who are working to bring God’s hope and love to others.
There are so many ways that we can spread God’s seeds of hope and love in our community and the world. The Lee County Presbyterian Youth Group is going to be doing this all over our community this week. The Mission Week to our community may not sound as exciting as going to Atlanta or Washington DC, but every day we will be touching the lives of folks in our own community and making a difference as we serve at the Br ead Basket or help out at CUOC. Every day we are going to be spreading the seeds of God’s love and hope to those whelement o deperate need it, right here in our community. Some of us are going to help the youth and their leaders by proving lunch on Tuesday.
Everyone is going to have an opportunity next Saturday to help distribute the Bags of Love to the homeless people here in town. What a on hands ministry that will be!
Sure, there will be those who don’t let the Good News of God’s love make a difference in their lives as we reach out to them. here will still be those who let the concerns of world choke out the message we try to give them about God and God’s love for them. There will be others who will be spreading other seeds that are not the love of God and sometimes these seeds will seem to take root and be more productive than the “Gospel seeds.” But I promise you that there will be those who will let the “Gospel seed” we sow take root in their lives and in whom the Gospel will take root and bear fruit. We just have to sow the seeds.
But there is another angle to this story we also need to consider. We do not only have to sow the seeds, but we also need to see what kind of dirt we have here! Do we, here in this Church, have an environment in which God’s seeds of love and hope that we plant can grow and be nurtured? Do we have an environment where the seeds God has sown in each of us can grow and flourish? Is our Church “good soil” – is it “good dirt”?
We need to have a “Dirty Church”! My apologies to all of you who work so hard to keep our Church clean but there are some respects in which our Church needs to be dirty! We need to be “dirty” in that we need to create an environment in which the seeds God sows in us can grow and flourish so we can go out and sow more seeds. What kind of “dirt” – what kind of “soil” do we have here? Is it the kind of soil that is like the path Jesus spoke of? Is it well worn and omfortable, traditional but not exciting and refusing to try new things God may be wanting us to try? A Church that is like the well worn path is a Church that does not give the seeds God plants within us a chance to take root. Or is our Church like rocky ground where the seeds God plants within us can quickly grow but not have any opportunity for nurture and no opportunity to take root and grow? Or is our Church like the thorny ground, choking out the excitement and enthusiasm God plants within us before they can begin to produce fruit? Or is our Church good soil, good dirt that promotes the growth of the seeds God plants within each of us?
We need to be a “Dirty Church” . We need to be a Church of good soil, good dirt that promotes the growth of the seeds of God’s love and hope that God places in us.
Earlier I mentioned some things that made for good soil – good dirt. Things like a proper balance of nutrients to start with – some fertilizer can’t hurt – maybe a little Miracle Grow – then some water and sunlight. These things can help plant seeds grow. What about God’s seeds? What about the seeds God plants within each of us? What makes for good dirt, good soil, for these seeds?
For these seeds to grow – they need things like Worship – Worship that is exciting and also inspiring. Worship that opens us up to what God may be saying to us – and the directions God may be moving us. These seeds study – study that is challenging and that opens us up to God’s word and God’s will for our lives. These seeds need service – service that helps us spread the seeds God has planted in us. these seeds need fellowship – fellowship that helps strengthen the bonds God has blessed us with – strengthen the love we have for each other and the love God has for us and helps the seeds God has planted within us grow.
These are the things that make for good dirt, good soil, where the seeds God has planted in us can grow and mature and produce fruit and from where we can go out and spread God’s seeds of love and hope in the world and the community.
Let’s be good soil. Let’s do what we can to be a Dirty Church. Let’s do what we can to be a Church that is good soil for the seeds plants in us can grow. Not a well worn path where no roots can take hold or a rocky ground that does not promote growth of God’s seeds in us or thorny ground where the seeds are choked out — let’s be good dirt – good soil. A Dirty Church that promotes growth of the seeds God plants in each of us and then let’s go out and spread more seeds for God’s glory in our community and the world. Amen.