Sunday June 17, 2018 (Proper 6 B)

Ezekiel 17:22-24
Thus says the LordGOD: I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of a cedar; I
will set it out. I will break off a tender one from the topmost of its young twigs; I
myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain height of Israel
I will plant it, in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit, and become a
noble cedar. Under it every kind of bird will live; in the shade of its branches will
nest winged creatures of every kind. All the trees of the field shall know that I am
theLORD. I bring low the high tree, I make high the low tree; I dry up the green
tree and make the dry tree flourish. I theLORD have spoken; I will accomplish it.

2 nd Letter of Paul to the Corinthians 5:1-17
For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building
from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we
groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling— if indeed, when we
have taken it off we will not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we
groan under our burden, because we wish not to be unclothed but to be further
clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared
us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are
always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we
are away from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we do have
confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the
Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For
all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive
recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil. For the love
of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore
all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for
themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. From now on,
therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once
knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if
anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see,
everything has become new!

Gospel of Mark 4:26-34
He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the
ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and
grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the
head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in
with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”
He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable
will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is
the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes
the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air
can make nests in its shade.”
With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear
it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in
private to his disciples.
+ + + + + +

Jesus entered a traditional Jewish environment claiming prophetical
promises. The religious leaders of his time relied on imagery describing Israel as a
gigantic cedar tree planted by God on a lofty mountain. As Israel’s prophets
foretold, all will see and be amazed at the diversity of God’s creation benefiting
from the fruits and protection provided from God’s unique tree. Haughty and
powerful nations will be brought low, for they can never be compared to the tree
providing for the needs of all creation. As God speaks through the prophet, “ All
the trees of the field shall know that I am theLORD” (EZEKIEL 17:24).
Jesus told stories that came alive for those who would listen. Since he lived
within a society dependent upon commonly known agricultural methods, he used
that imagery in his parables. Today we hear Jesus telling two parables concerning
the Kingdom of God. Both stories convey truths through familiar imagery.
He speaks of seeds scattered by a farmer, and then miraculously growing
into plants to be harvested for food. Also, Jesus speaks of tiny seeds inconceivably
growing into robust bushes providing shelter for birds. The message Jesus conveys
is ironically in contrast to the ancient prophets.

Rather than God working through the nation of Israel, whose religious
leadership had abandoned key prophetic warnings concerning the necessity of
showing justice, mercy and compassion to all including the oppressed, widows,
orphans and foreigners, Jesus gives a new perspective of God working in more
subtle ways in order to make known God’s presence and power.
Due to the Jewish religious leadership of his day, misunderstanding God’s
Laws, and thereby oppressing and misguiding God’s people, Jesus proclaims: no
longer will Israel be the strong cedar tree providing God’s blessings and
necessities. Instead of a cedar tree, God will grow bushes smaller, hardy and
invasive. These bushes represent God’s Kingdom providing for whoever will pay
attention, for all are welcome.
While some people will continue looking to the lofty for whatever they
crave, God’s Kingdom will be creatively and perceptively active in the world,
as God’s people acknowledge their responsibility and participate in acts of justice,
mercy and compassion. These actions are like seeds planted. God will give
growth to seeds planted for the intention of providing for the needs of God’s
people.
Jesus shares two poignant thoughts within these parables. First, we must be
aware that we are responsible for planting God’s seeds. Second, God alone causes
the healthy growth of the seeds we plant.
This past Thursday evening about 30 of us gathered in our Parish Hall and
enjoyed a delectable 3-course dinner. Accompanying dinner were 4 short but
informative introductions about Harvest for Hope Garden in Dayton. Its beginning
was simple. A thought turned into a vision. A vision transformed into a passion.
Passion propelled action. A seed was planted and a garden grew.
Melissa and Jeff shared passion for feeding hungry children and adults in
Dayton led Melissa and Jeff to purchase and donate a 3 acre plot of land in the
northern part of the city for a community garden. The land is surrounded by an
established neighborhood located within one of Dayton’s food deserts.
Since its beginning only a little over 2 years ago, Harvest for Hope Garden
has made a tremendous impact in feeding the hungry of Dayton. As mentioned on
their Facebook page:
“2017 was an exciting year, our fresh produce giving exceeded 1,000
pounds. That's over a half a ton of fresh, organically raised food for the
hungry in our community.”

St. Paul’s ecumenical Summer Youth Mission Project participated at the
garden last year, and will do so again this year. With every seed we plant for God,
God promises to give growth that will impact the lives of God’s loved ones.
Unfortunately, the converse in also true. Whatever deeds we do or words we
share, we plant seeds. Our seeds are either planting healthy seeds for God to grow
blessings or our seeds are planting weeds that distract, choke and impoverish
God’s people.
While our nation struggles with the complicated issue of immigration
reform, I believe our nation’s leaders are irresponsible in their decision to
separated parents from children and thereby planting seeds that are divisive, hurtful
and hateful. We cannot allow this behavior to continue!
The reality is that seeds will only produce whatever has been sown. You
and I, and everyone on this planet sows seeds each day: seeds of suspicion or seeds
of trust; seeds of selfishness or seeds of kindness, seeds of hate or seeds of love;
seeds of welcome or seeds of division.
What seeds are you and I planting? What seeds are we planting for God?
Today is Father’s Day. We are reminded that Fathers (and Mothers) plant
seeds within their children. Will those seeds produce lives enjoying God’s love,
confident in God’s purpose and blessings?
Also, today we welcome Roy Voorhies Browning and Kingston James
Maxwell into the Church, the Christian Family, through the Sacrament of Holy
Baptism. Through baptism, we will plant in both children God’s seeds of grace,
forgiveness, love and new life that engages God and others in healthy ways. God
will give the growth in each of these dear children. Yet, it is up to the parents,
godparents and all of us to ensure that these children, and all of God’s loved ones,
experience through us examples of planting seeds of justice, mercy and
compassion for God – providing for the needs of God’s people.
What seeds are you planting for God? What seeds could you plant for God?