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Newaygo United Methodist Church
Wednesday, April 14, 2021
Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors

Sown On Good Soil

Sown On Good Soil
Matthew 13:1-9,18-23
I tried downhill skiing once. I was young and thought I could conquer the world, or for that moment I was convinced by my friends that I could. Winter was on the decline and the day was perfect, not too warm, nor too cold. No trouble getting my skis on, and I maneuvered the ski lift perfectly. No bunny hill for this adventurer! I was going for the big one. Well, at least I was persuaded by my friend to go for it. I will admit I was a little nervous, no terrified was more like it. I started down the hill and found I could stay up on the skis and was beginning to enjoy the ride down when it hit me. No one had told me how to stop when I got to the bottom. All the good feeling of flying down that hill vanished as I thought about what I could do once I reached the bottom and it was coming mighty fast. I saw the hay bales and knew I was doomed. Perhaps I could avoid them, then sit down on the skis and work my way to a stop. That was not to happen and I found myself hitting one of the bales, launching head over the bale and landing with a definite stop face down in the mud puddle caused by the melting snows of late winter. That might not have been so bad if I had been alone, but a crowd was beginning for form, I hoped to check if I was alright, but the laughter that the sight of this mud covered spectacle brought told me differently. Even my friend showed no mercy. I can laugh about it now, but I never put on skis after that. I was through with that form of entertainment and exercise. I had started out believing I could ski and perhaps if I had tried again I would have come to enjoy the sport. But I did not have the courage to get the skis back on or get back up that hill and try again. 
Our faith comes to us in many different ways. Some of us have walked in faith from the early days of our lives, growing up in good faith families, both in our homes and in our churches. Sometimes we cannot say when we first believed in God or in Christ. Others of us come by our faith suddenly and quite dramatically, experiencing the aha moment when we knew for sure, when we were born again as some would say. But no matter how faith comes, it comes where we are planted, sometimes on good soil, sometimes on rocky soil and sometimes on the path where it would seem nothing could grow. The likelihood of faith producing much is greater when we are in good soil. In a good community of faith we can produce much for the kingdom of God because we are surrounded by people of good faith, we share our faith, together we do much for our communities and the people in them. Sunday mornings we are on good soil as we sing together, as we pray together, as we fellowship together and as we hear the word together. We have a greater opportunity to grow in strength and courage to share the good news.
But some of us come from families of little faith, where faith is not important at all, where talk about God is scoffed at, where we might be ridiculed for believing in God. What we are able to produce in that environment will be very little. We might be laughed at or silenced when we talk about our faith. So what do we do? We give up on trying to help them hear the good news and walk in faith. 
And some of us find ourselves in situations that test our faith, in circumstances that give us doubt about our faith and discourage us so much that we walk away from our faith. Sometimes we are so caught up in our difficulties that we forget God altogether and try to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other to make it through those trying times. If we go without God long enough we aren’t sure how to put the skis back on and walk in faith again. And many times church becomes just a habit or something we are supposed to do on Sunday morning. We kind of give up on growing our faith.
Not too long after my disastrous attempt at downhill skiing, a serious turning point came in my life of faith. I had walked in faith for most of my teen life and an older woman in the church had nurtured me in that faith. I had grown to love her and saw her as a second mother. When I went to college, Ohio State by the way, this woman would come to campus to pick me up to take me to church every Sunday morning. One Sunday after church she dropped me off and I was to learn later that two blocks from my apartment she was killed in a car accident. I was devastated. I turned my anger on God and vowed I would never step foot inside a church again. I stopped praying, stopped reading my bible, and walked away from my faith. I gave up on God. I did not understand my faith well enough to let it help carry me through my grief!
Unfortunately that happens all too often. Our faith has not taken root deep enough to help get us through times of anger, disappointment, bitterness, depression, hurt, turmoil and obstacles in our lives. Surrounded by a community of faith, good soil, we are more likely to get through those times. But when we are surrounded by a non caring community of non faith we will struggle and are likely to give in to our doubts. 
But there is good news even in those circumstance. God remains with us! This God who created the universe and yet counts every hair on our heads remains faithful. This God of the whole of creation turns over every leaf and stone to get us to see what we are not seeing in any circumstance, even if it takes years to get us to pay attention God keeps trying. It was years before I allowed the door to be open to God again. The seed that for awhile had been replanted in rocky soil was replanted in good soil once again. And as I looked back on those long empty years I could see the places where God had been trying to get me back. Sometimes He was in a friendly gesture of good will, sometimes He was in an overheard conversation about faith or God. Sometimes it was in a sign in someone’s yard, or a cross hung about someone’s neck or a story from a book or even driving by a church parking lot and seeing cars parked on Sunday morning, all reminders of what I had lost.
So what we do when we leave this place on Sunday morning matters. God uses what we offer of ourselves in the name of Christ to bring people the good news, to draw people to him, to bring those who have lost their way back. We never know what the effect is that we have on people in any given time or place. 
It’s not always about proclaiming the good news with words, although some of us are called to do just that when the opportunity arises. It’s more about living the life of Christ in all our interactions with others. It’s about living from our heart for God, from our understanding of what God is all about no matter how limited we may feel our understanding of God may be. It’s about welcoming others into our space with God’s love and grace abounding in us so that others may see the light that is in us. It’s not about thinking we are going to change their way of thinking or believing, it’s about letting them see who we are as children of God and letting God do his best work within them. 
My father was one of those people who would hot step foot in church if he didn’t have to. Weddings and funerals were his only door into a life of faith. But one Sunday as they were visiting and knew I was going to preach. I was completely dumbfounded when I saw my father walk through the doors of the church. My mother said that he had come down the steps from the bedroom back at the parsonage with his suit on and said, “Mammy, get your britches on. We’re going to church!” It wasn’t anything my mother or I had said to encourage him to go to church. We just knew it was useless. It was God who prompted him to go hear his daughter.
Sometimes we think that it is up to us to get people to come to church or to believe. But all we really have to do is invite and act as if God really matters in our lives and God does the rest. Sometimes we forget that God is the principle actor in this world, even excluding God from our plans to “save” the world. And when we seem to fail at what we think we needed to accomplish we kind of give up and become complacent in our faith. But we never know how much of our “failures” God has used for His good purposes. We may never know what heart has been drawn to God because of what we have done or said. 
So it’s up to each one of us to produce what kind of fruit we can no matter what kind of soil we stand upon and it’s up to God to use that fruit for His own purposes. So we can go from this place and share the love of God in whatever ways we know best to do that. God will do the rest! 

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