Good soil doesn’t make itself good; it is lovingly prepared by its gardener.
So how does God do this when the Seed of Love, whose name is Jesus, is planted in us?
One of God’s favorite gardening techniques is telling parables— simple stories with a twist. Parables spark our curiosity, surprise us, and turn our hearts toward Jesus. So let us listen to the story about the Sower and the Seeds and watch the gardening God at work!*
Mark 4:1-9 Pastor Suzanne‘s VBS Version (inspired by and largely based on the Easy-Read-Version)
A Story About a Farmer Sowing Seed. Sowing seed means to plant it by kind of tossing it on the ground.
One day, Jesus was teaching by the lake, and many, many people came to hear him. They stood all around him and it was hard to really hear him and see him. Jesus got into a boat so that he could sit and teach from the lake. All the people stayed on the shore near the water.
Jesus used stories called parables to teach people many things.
One of his teachings included this story:
“Listen!“, he said, „A farmer went out to sow seed. While he was scattering the seed, some of the seed fell on the road. The birds came and ate all that seed.
Other seed fell on rocky ground, on gravel, where there was not enough dirt. It grew quickly there because the soil was not deep. But then the sun came up and was shining real hot and the plants in the gravel burned. They died because they did not have deep roots.
Some other seed fell among thorny weeds. The weeds grew and stopped the good plants from growing. So they didn’t grow big and strong and did not make grain.
But some of the seed fell on good soil. There it began to grow deep roots and it grew tall and strong, and it made grain. Some of those plants made 30 times more grain, some 60 times more, and some 100 times more.”
Then Jesus said, “You people who hear me, listen!”
This year, instead of a traditional VBS, we decided to try out ReNew, an environmentally-focused VBS program with the mission to inspire kids and adults to grow in faith, have fun, and change the world as they practice stewardship of creation! And yes, the VBS was for kids – but today all of you are part of this VBS and our hope is that you will be inspired, too.
God’s creation is a gift we all share. We all live in it together and depend on it together. Caring for creation—together—is both a good work and collective act of faith. The Bible is filled with stories and teachings that reveal our dependence on God through the bounty of the earth. In fact, you could hardly tell the story of the chosen people or hear one of Jesus’ parables without the water, trees, wilderness, animals, and weather that form their backdrop.
Paul tells the church at Corinth that one died for all and therefore all died. Since Christ died for all, we should no longer live for ourselves, but instead live for Christ. Paul discusses our earthly and heavenly necessities and concludes the brief passage by telling us that “if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come.”
And, there is an urgency here and now to find our way toward the new creation, to life in a new and different way, to live in harmony with creation. We needs this earth. Our children and our children’s children, and all generations to come need it. Now is time for heightened awareness and change.
Our environmental stewardship is part of our being with Christ and being part of the new order. When we create piles of waste we are not being good stewards. Our waste pollutes water and the land and, as our children learned, it kills animals, fish and birds.
Recycling is one of the many ways we can show care for the environment. Recycling is also part of nature and an important part of the concept of sustainability. Recycling programs mimic the recycling that goes on in nature, where nothing is wasted and everything, even things that die, serve a useful purpose.
In addition to recycling, people can install fluorescent bulbs instead of incandescent ones in order to consume less electricity and save money. Grocery and department stores now encourage the use of reusable shopping bags in order to lessen the use and waste of plastic bags. Parking cars in the shade reduces fuel evaporation, and carpooling decreases the amount of fuel consumption. There are numerous steps we can take daily to protect the world. You will need to discern the right ones for you – and right does not necessarily mean convenient.
Plastic is one of the most convenient but also damaging things that we use. It never fully breaks down but leaves behind tiny particles, eaten by fish, turtles, and other creatures, thinking that it is food. Our oceans are filled with straws, bottles, and more. Plastic straws and plastic bottles are hard on the environment and easy to replace – and so it is my hope that we will all reconsider the things made of plastic that we can replace with other items or stop using altogether. That includes body wash, liquid soap, and liquid detergents.
So – let today be a start, a beginning – to a new, sustainable way of living.
So – let us pray together to our God of renewal - that our hearts and minds may be renewed and that our lives will show our love for all of God’s creation by the way we use, reduce, recycle, and renew things.