Monday, October 26, 2015

Scattered Seeds Yield Results

Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA, 14 June 2015
Proper 6 Year B: 1 Samuel 15:34-16:13; Psalm 20; 2 Corinthians 5:6-17; Mark 4:26-34
What seed do you scatter for God's kingdom?
What seed has Saul scattered so that God rejects him in our 1st lesson today? Responding to the seed of disobedience that Saul has scattered, God says earlier in today's chapter: “I regret that I made Saul king...he has turned back from following me & has not carried out my commands.”1
You may recall last week God's people insisted on having a king. They get Saul who does well in battles, denies disobeying God when Samuel confronts him2, shifts the blame, finally admits guilt & pleads with Samuel to make him look good to the people to avoid, as the Jewish Study Bible says3 public humiliation. He IS self-focused. We see 21st Century Sauls who hire handlers & image consultants to make them look good to the public.
What a contrast we see in the non-self-promoting David tending sheep. What a contrast we hear in Paul's discussing God's new creation: people – us – who no longer live for ourselves. What a contrast Jesus describes as he tells us about the person scattering seed, planting God's kingdom. God's kingdom, the universal church, offers a place for all to thrive.4
In God's kingdom, God's universal church, we can live no longer for ourselves but for Jesus who died for us, as we hear Paul say to the Corinthians – to us. In God's kingdom, we live guided by the Holy Spirit so that we can learn to see as God sees, as we read in our lesson from Samuel: not as mortals see [looking at outward appearances], but as God looks on the heart.
Seeing the heart is the skill of the master craftsman viewing his work & making adjustments – sometimes drastic adjustments like with Saul where there is total king replacement.
This reminds me of the hard work Charlie did creating the handsome deacon's bench that beautifies the Parish Hall. His keen eye saw that the stain he had applied was somehow wrong; like Saul, it was not right for the job. Charlie didn't just paint over the stain. He sanded it off completely & applied a new stain – a new “king” for Charlie's new creation.
New creation” is the term rabbis used for a convert to Judaism5. As part of God's new creation, you & I walk by faith, not by sight. We see Samuel walk by faith, not by sight, as he as he goes & anoints David. We see Jesus' kingdom spreading by faith, not by sight, as the disciples respond when Jesus calls them & as they carry on his work that has led to us being here today.
We gather to gain strength together at this Holy Table for the work we have of continuing to scatter seeds to grow God's kingdom. How do you scatter seeds? How do you force seeds to sprout & to flourish? We cannot. We can respond in faith, as Harper's Bible Commentary notes,6 living not for ourselves but for Jesus. Accepting life as a gift, we are freed from self-preoccupation, freed from frantic efforts to force a particular outcome, to force seeds to grow. We are freed for service to others.
What does this service look like? Do you always see its results? How does Charlie know what deep impact the beauty of that deacon's bench has had on someone? How does Charlie know about the refreshment a tired visitor has had sitting on that bench?
Much of our seed planting in God's field is like that. The underwear you gave on “Undie Sunday” is one example. We received tangible affirmation of your positive action in this note that arrived yesterday from Missy..., who wrote on behalf of Still Waters Shelter. She says: “The Still Waters House & all who enter in experience the impact of the ministry of the flock at St. John's Episcopal Church. From the supplies, to the food, to the financial offerings, to the “undie Sunday” provisions, we are very grateful. Your continual faithfulness has blessed so many precious people.
May God continue to use you all mightily for His kingdom purposes.
To God be the glory, great things He is doing in Bainbridge, Georgia. Please keep us all lifted in your prayers.
With love, Missy”
I am convinced that so much that you do sprouts seeds that flourish in the fertile ground of God's kingdom without your knowing it. I wonder how many of our guests & how many of you have been inspired seeing something beautiful here or in our beautifully refreshed Parish Hall – things that some of you have created.
Often we do our work thinking we are just doing what we normally do. I suspect sanding that bench was just normal for Charlie. When I asked him about it for this homily, he had forgotten having done it.
We – you – create beauty sometimes intentionally like Charlie, like Chris & Wayne whose creative gifts have given St. John's many beautiful items to inspire us [for example this small altar Wayne crafted along with its cross & aumbry, & Parish hall stained glass items Chris created].
Some of us find beauty that inspires us in icons, such as this one of Jesus written by Cathy [which graces our Altar].
When I saw  The House in Nazareth*, that shows Jesus, Joseph & Mary

at daily work*, I thought of Charlie's, Chris' & Wayne's work & the daily tasks you do that have such positive effect that you may never know about except through notes such as Missy's.
Perhaps this icon can serve as a reminder to us of the simple things we do that make a positive difference, scattering & nourishing seeds for God's kingdom. [Charlie, Chris, Wayne, please come & help me dedicate this gift to St. John's.]
Dedication of the Icon7
Charlie: Many there are who rely upon their hands and are skillful in their own work.
Chris: Prosper, O Lord, the work of our hands.
Wayne: Prosper our handiwork.
Priest: Let us pray. (Silence) O God, your blessed Son worked with his hands in the carpenter shop in Nazareth: Be present, we pray, with those who work in this place, that, laboring as workers together with you, we may share the joy of your creation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Wayne: Solomon beautified the sanctuary, and multiplied the vessels of the temple.
Charlie: Oh, the majesty and magnificence of God's presence:
Chris: Oh, the power and the splendor of his sanctuary!
Priest Let us pray. (Silence) O God, whose blessed Son has sanctified and transfigured the use of material things: receive this work of art which we offer, and grant that it may proclaim your love, benefit your Church, and minister grace and joy to those who see it; through Jesus Christ out Lord. Amen.
Chris: Christ is the icon of the invisible God.
Wayne: All things were created through him and for him.
Charlie: The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Priest: Let us pray. (Silence) Almighty God, whose Son our Savior manifested your glory in his flesh and sanctified the outward and visible to be a means to perceive realities unseen: Accept, we pray, this representation of Jesus, Mary, & Joseph working in the House of Nazareth, and grant that as we look upon it, our hearts may be drawn to things which can be seen only with the eye of faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.



Bennett, Jamey. “Should Orthodox Christians Get Their Icons Blessed?” Accessed: 13 June 2015.

The Book of Occasional Services 2003. New York: Church Publishing. 2004.
Handy Dictionary of the Bible. Ed.: Merrill C. Tenney. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House. 1965.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers. 1988.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary. General Ed.: Paul J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1971.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Lectionary Page. Accessed: 3 June 2015.
Matthews, Victor H. Social World of the Hebrew Prophets. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers. Inc. 2001.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Expanded Ed. Revised Stantard Version. Eds: Herbert G. May. Bruce M. Metzger. New York: Oxford University Press. 1977.

1 Chapter 15:10. Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. P. 287.
2 Note: Saul also builds a statue of himself Ch. 15:12.
3 Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. P. 590.
4 Paraphrase of The New American Bible for Catholics. P. 1070.
5 Ibid. New American Bible for Catholics. P. 1258.
6 Harper’s Bible Commentary. P. 1195.
7 Adapted from The Book of Occasional Services. Pp. 152, 211, 207. Note: Writing an icon is considered to result in its being blessed. “There is no written evidence of icon blessings in the Orthodox Church until the 17th century. During the 2nd Nicean Council icon blessing was discussed as unnecessary: “[M]any of the sacred things which we have at our disposal do not need a prayer of sanctification, since their name itself says that they are all-sacred and full of grace….” Bennett, Jamey. “Should Orthodox Christians Get Their Icons Blessed?” Accessed: 13 June 2015.

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