Sermon: The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 10A, July 16, 2017, The Rev.Randall Hehr
What is God growing in your life? Your exploration of this question might begin with something that grabs your attention or a new interest that is developing within you. If you were to talk about God’s stirrings inside you, you might say, “I had a new idea that woke me up last night.” Or, “I want to make a difference in the world.” Or, “There is something missing in my life and I just have to find it.”
Sometimes such developments correspond with life cycles and appear especially at midlife or as we approach retirement. As I listen to people talk about their yearnings or desires or dreams, I believe these stirrings can come at any time in life. And this morning as we wonder about what God is growing in our lives, let’s also get comfortable with the word encore. You know what encore is all about! The artist returns to the stage after a highly inspired performance, and the audience wants to hear more! There is often great exhilaration in the encore experience. This morning I would like to invite you to believe there is an encore coming in your life. The curtain is going up on your next adventure, your next performance, or a new phase of life. Encore is also the name of an organization – encore.org – dedicated to providing help and resources as you and I explore that next stage of vocation, work or ministry.
What is God growing in your life? Remember that just 100 years ago life expectancy was 47. Now it is 78. Think of the years ahead of you and the opportunities that will unfold! Every summer I enjoy spending time with Lee, my 92 year old father-in-law who lives in Indiana. He is always pursuing a new project or new adventure. You may recall my story about the gravestones. Every summer another granite marker was leaning against the house. Lee is mindful of all the small cemeteries in his area of the state, and he considers it his mission to provide stones for many unmarked graves. As I trek with him through the fields and forests to place that stone, I ask him, “Do we know who owns this property?” I am picturing the owner standing nearby with a loaded gun.
What is God growing in your life? You will find many stories of new growth in the book entitled, The Encore Career Handbook by Marci Alboher. Here we meet the grandmother who at 50 went to law school because of the injustice she witnessed in the community. Or the advertising executive who became an art teacher. From my own archives of changed lives, I think of people who have been called to provide elder care or to work with children. Lots of people from diverse backgrounds sense a new call in their life, and they are often sparked by – listen to this – burn out in corporate world, crisis in work or family, the loss of a loved one, or the end of a job. Out of what has ended, something new is growing.
What might be growing in your life? What is that quiet quest emerging that you don’t want to put off or push away?
In part two of this sermon, let’s think about seeds. Seeds are planted in soil, as illustrated in our Gospel parable found in Matthew 13:1-9,18-23. They are scattered. Think of the seeds scattered in your life. Think of the ways people have commented on your strengths or skills or abilities. I remember the first person who ever spoke with me about becoming a priest, long before I was ready to hear such an idea. Seeds are planted inside us by mentors, colleagues, friends, and through experiences. An idea or suggestion may come to us at a point in life and we quickly dismiss it as totally impractical.
That makes me think about the different growing conditions presented in the Parable of the Sower. Different conditions exist inside of us according to our stage of life or our readiness to consider what God might be stirring within us. Some seeds fall on our path, and they are quickly lost. Others fall in rocky places within us where the soil is too shallow. Some seeds fall among the thorns and our cares, selfish aspirations, and preoccupations prevent them from growing.
The Parable of the Sower focuses our attention on the good soil where seeds can grow and flourish. For a new idea to germinate, it requires care and nurture. God the gardener teaches us how to help seeds grow within us. For example, when a new idea is planted, we nurture it with prayer. We ask God to encourage the growth and development. Or we meditate and read scripture. We write reflections in a journal. We have conversation with spiritual mentors. We track dreams, the conduit of the subconscious at work. We seek insight through scripture and study.
I want to make you mindful of the work of Lisa Jacobson, a career consultant and executive coach in Tampa. Her website is workplacesolutionstampa.com. She helps people look more deeply at what is growing in their lives. I met her when she offered help to the Career Transition Ministry at St. John’s, Tampa. For the better part of ten years, I sent people to Lisa for consultation. Then one day I called Lisa and said it was time for me to become a client. I sensed a shift inside me and some new seeds were growing. The conversations with Lisa led me to Holy Trinity in February, 2013. Now I am pleased to tell you that Lisa will be coming here on August 20 as we look further at the question, “What is God growing in your life?”
I believe this work is very important. The church is the resourceful place where we can learn more about the gifts God has given us. As we do, we are better prepared to be sowers. That means we learn more about planting and nurturing the seeds in others. Our goal always is to further God’s kingdom through seeds that grow and flourish, creating an abundant yield.