Sowing and Reaping
(Galatians 6: 1-10)
In my former life, I made a pretty good living off people who sowed the bad seed and reaped trouble by the bushel. No matter where I was, there was always a family or two that produced enough of a bumper crop of mayhem to keep the police and lawyers employed. I remember telling one Drug Court participant, upon their successful graduation, that we were going to have to lay off one deputy sheriff and a deputy prosecutor now that they were clean and sober. I used to say that no proud parent, at the birth of their child, ever proclaimed that they would one day grow up to be a menace to society. I’ve come to realize that mayhem is just in some family’s DNA. I even had one Drug Court participant tell me that nobody would hire him because of his last name. He was right. He was a product of his family’s generational farming practice of planting the bad seed and nurturing it through the juvenile system and into the adult criminal justice system. If that’s what you sow, that’s what you reap.
Taking responsibility for our actions, good or bad, is what the Apostle Paul is talking about in our scripture reading for this morning. He’s talking about being held accountable and doing what is right. He says; My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. You’ve probably heard it yourself when someone says; “I’m telling you this for your own good,” or “I don’t want to see you get hurt.” You cringe because you know what’s coming next or if you’re the one saying it, you’re anticipating a “mind-your-own-business” response. Or, as my daughter used to say: “you’re not the boss of me.” Like many of you, I’ve been on both ends of the conversation. Paul admonishes us to take care as to not be tempted ourselves but tells us that we must bear one another’s burdens and, if we do, we will be fulfilling the law of Christ by loving our neighbor as we love ourselves. Why wouldn’t we want someone to help us avoid making a costly mistake, one that could alter the course of our life for the worse? He says that everyone must carry their own load but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t help someone when their burden becomes too great and they are about to be crushed under the weight of a bad decision or lifestyle. Paul then says that those who are taught the word must share in all good things with their teacher. It’s a joint effort where you work in conjunction with the Holy Spirit.
At this point, the reader is probably thinking; “not a problem, I’m walking he straight and narrow,” “I’m keeping my side of the street clean,” “what I’m doing isn’t hurting anyone.” But then Paul says; Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. That had to get their attention, God is watching you and he will not be made a fool of. Paul then says; So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up. So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.
The family of faith. That caught my attention. Our immediate family of faith is our church, Community United Methodist Church, then the Puget Sound Missional District, then the Pacific Northwest Conference and so on up to the global United Methodist Church. Kind of like the concentric circles when you throw a stone in a pond and see the ripple effect as the action of that rock expands outward. I think that we, as a congregation, are committed to planting good seed with an eye to an eventually bountiful harvest where we produce good fruit. I know we’ve already produced some pretty good fruit and the prospect of a bigger harvest is a distinct possibility. Then I got thinking about how do we better nurture the seeds we’ve planted? So I turned to our United Methodist Book of Discipline for direction. Paragraph 161, The Nurturing Community, says that the community provides the potential for nurturing human beings into the fullness of their humanity. We believe we have a responsibility to innovate, sponsor, and evaluate new forms of community that will encourage development of the fullest potential in individuals. Okay, I thought, I think we are moving in that direction because we seem to be innovative in our approach to problem solving and we certainly sponsor several non-profits and we are constantly evaluating new ways in which we can encourage the betterment of the people around us through our efforts to meet their daily needs. The Book of Discipline goes on to say; We therefore support social climates in which human communities are maintained and strengthened for the sake of all persons and their growth. Through our mission efforts we are supporting entities like Habitat for Humanity, Bayside Housing and Services, The Recovery Café, and our two Food Banks and we are always looking for ways in which we can further impact change for the good. I have no doubt that we are a nurturing community of faith.
I then looked at paragraph 162, The Social Community, which said that the rights and privileges a society bestows upon or withholds from those who comprise it indicate the relative esteem in which that society holds particular persons and groups of persons. How sensitive are we to the plight of the last, the least and the lost? You know, the homeless, the mentally ill, the addicted, and the unemployed, the folks most people pretend do not exist. I think we are doing what we can with an eye towards doing more which, I think, means using our voice more to raise awareness to the problems and urging those in positions of authority to do what they were elected for as representatives of all people. The Book of Discipline continues by saying; We affirm all persons as equally valuable in the sight of God. We therefore work toward societies in which each person’s value is recognized, maintained, and strengthened. We support the basic rights of all persons to equal access to housing, education, communication, employment, medical care, legal redress for grievances, and physical protection. As Christians, we affirm that all persons are equally valuable in the sight of God, but what are we doing to work towards a society in which each person’s value is recognized, maintained, and strengthened? That, I firmly believe, is our challenge for the coming year. Through our extensive mission effort (SODS: Somebody Oughta Do Something) we’ve become painfully aware of the local magnitude of people living on the edge, or wishing they were at least on the edge. I think that, more than ever, we need to become more involved with the plight of those around us. Now is the time for us, as a United Methodist Church, to speak out and take a stand. The seeds of neglect, apathy, indifference and inattention that were planted years ago are about to produce a harvest of monumental human tragedy and it should be our call to action just as it was for John Wesley over two hundred years ago.
And, in light of our celebration of our nation’s birthday, I would be remiss if I didn’t ask; What, as a nation are we sowing? And what will we be reaping? Where we have been sowing hatred, divisiveness, racism, sexism, nationalism, and fear of the other, we should be sowing peace, justice, truth, righteousness, forgiveness, understanding, mercy and compassion. We are one nation under God and it is incumbent on us to do the work that will produce a bountiful harvest benefiting all of mankind. We do this with the understanding that it will take hard work in cultivating, fertilizing, pruning and nurturing as only a God-fearing people can do.
I know we can do this. It starts right here with us throwing that rock in the pond and watching the ripple effect. Just like our sign at the end of the parking lot says, we’ve entered the mission field and we are engaged. We have sown some seeds and are eagerly awaiting the harvest but, in the meantime, we know we have more work to do in cultivating, fertilizing, pruning and nurturing because we know that what Paul tells us, A man reaps what he sows, is true.
Please pray with me.
All loving and compassionate God, you created us in your image and through your son, Jesus Christ, you have charged us with sowing the seeds that bear good fruit that brings you honor and glory. Move us to be your community of faith, a community that is aware of the needs and wants of those who live among us. Keep us mindful that in serving you and your children that all means all. Guide us through the Holy Spirit to be a nurturing church that looks for opportunities to help those in need to develop to their fullest potential. Instill in us the desire and will to sow seeds of peace, justice, truth, righteousness, forgiveness, understanding, mercy and compassion and to stand in firm opposition to hatred, divisiveness, racism, sexism, nationalism, and fear of the other. In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.