Sermon For Sunday, June 9, 2013

Joel 2:18-27 & Matthew 5:13-16

“Cultivating An Abundant Harvest; Shining A Light On A New Vision”

       or “God Is Still Listening: Shouldn’t We?”

Franklin Circle Christian Church (Disciples Of Christ)

Cleveland, OH 44113 ~

Allen V. Harris, Pastor & Preacher

Blog: ~ Twitter: @FranklinCircle

There is no podcast nor videocast for this sermon.  Our apologies for any inconvenience.

I find it odd that the God who created the atom and the neuron, who shaped the enigmatic innards of every black hole and the majestic exterior of the Grand Canyon, would worry so very much about simple seeds and humble harvests, about how good salt tastes, about cities and their viability and visibility, and about our little lights shining bright.  Don’t you find that peculiar?  When you think of it, the entire biblical drama wastes an awful lot of time the Divine Source Of Life could much better be spent out there doing mind-blowing and uber-sacred things.  Why does God spend so much time with us, a problematic (at best) and completely recalcitrant (at worst) bunch?

And yet from the first moments of the second creation story, at least, God pays a great deal of attention and gives over enormous power to this earthy creature, from letting the creature actually name the animals of the planet (and naming is no insignificant act in scriptural terms!) and walking in the garden with the earthling, to devoting enormous amounts of energy, time, frustration, compassion, hope, and joy to the ways and words of all of us women and men.  Ultimately, the one who made us has even given us the power, perhaps, to destroy the very earth upon which we exist.  Why?  Why would the creator of the universe and time itself focus on us so very much?

To put it simply: relationship.  Relationships are the essence of life.  There is no life if you do not have relationships.  That which we call the most sacred, the most divine, the most holy is ultimately brought to fulfillment in relationship.  Like it or not, our chief purpose in life is to be in relationship; with God and with each other.  So there.  ;-p

Joe Stanley "prepares the garden" while Colleen Munley reads the parable of the sower and the seeds.  [Photo by Don Hudson}

Joe Stanley “prepares the garden” while Colleen Munley reads the parable of the sower and the seeds. [Photo by Don Hudson}

That is why we have a God who is so worried about the seasons of life, including the mundane tasks of planting seeds, watering and nurturing them, and harvesting the fruit they bring to us.  Much like how God nourishes us, we nourish the earth and reap and sow the earth’s rich rewards – or not.  Joel’s epic vision of the restoration of the people of God is told in terms of the farmer’s care for the earth: “Do not fear, O soil; be glad and rejoice… for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit, the fig tree and the vine give their full yield.” (Joel 2:21)  God partners with us to make this earth fruitful.  It is our decision how well we will be stewards of the earth to complete this pact, this covenant, this relationship.

It is also why when Jesus came his parables were all about relationship and partnership.  Jesus, who himself was so identified with the light of the world in the first chapter of John’s gospel, “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world,” (John 1:9), isn’t content with simply being the light.  Jesus wants us to share the light!  You are the light of the world… let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works” and give glory to God.  From the dawn of time our relationship with God was meant to be a partnership.

This concept should stun us all with its ramifications:  God, who could do anything and everything without our help, chooses not to.  We, who ultimately cannot do anything on our own, are given the power to be in partnership with the very one who shaped life itself!!!

Pastor Allen praying at the annual Outdoor Worship & Picnic [Photo by Don Hudson]

Pastor Allen praying at the annual Outdoor Worship & Picnic [Photo by Don Hudson]

Our friends in our partner denomination, the United Church of Christ, are prone to say, “God is still speaking,” a testimony to the continuing revelation of God in our lives.  I agree.  But I would like to add, “God is still listening.”  Which is to say, what we do, what we say, what we think, and what we feel make a difference to God!  Is God all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present, yada yada yada?  Yes!  But God has chosen to make that power perfect in relationship, and the essence of healthy relationships is being willing and able and available to listen to others.

This has huge implications for our interpersonal relationships as it does for our spirituality.  How we listen to one another is a God-Act.  Do we listen only in order to make a point or a comeback, or do we listen to know and learn?  Do we listen only in order to reshape ourselves and please our partner, or do we listen in order to be responsive and helpful?  Do we listen with our mind and our hearts far far away, or do we listen because we know being present in that very moment is the most important thing we can do with our lives?

And this has consequences for our communal lives as well.  This summer your New Visioning Team will be crafting a set of questions in order to listen more fully to you.  This will come to you in the form of a questionnaire (digital as well as in print) and Listening Conferences.  The leadership of this congregation has chosen to be in partnership with the community – within its walls and around its walls – in order to more honestly and authentically respond to your vision of where this congregation should direct its efforts in the future.  Our efforts are seen in the time, money, facilities, energy, and staffing we invest in the coming years.

So be ready for lots of questions because we want to listen.  We want to be in partnership with you to hear not only your opinions, but to hear the God of the ages speaking in and with you as to how this historic and yet contemporary dynamic urban congregation can chart its course to best serve you, our neighborhood, the mission of Christ, the love of God, and the whimsical ways of the Holy Spirit.

Why should we care?  Why should we listen?  Because YOU are the salt of the earth!  Because YOU are a city on a hill!  Because you are the light of the world!  So let us shine before others so that they may see our good works and give glory to God who is the still listening God!  “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.  Oh, this little light of mine…”