DATE: 13 July 2014
TO: Iglesia Hispana Chapel Hill
TITLE: Both/And in a World of Either/Or

Hebrew Scripture: Genesis 25 19-34 (verse 23)
The Message: Two nations are in your womb, two peoples butting heads while still in your body. One people will overpower the other, and the older will serve the younger.

La Biblia de las Americas: Dos naciones hay en tu seno, y dos pueblos se dividirán desde tus entrañas; un pueblo será más fuerte que el otro, y el mayor servirá al menor.

Dios Habla Hoy: «En tu vientre hay dos naciones, dos pueblos que están en lucha desde antes de nacer. Uno será más fuerte que el otro, y el mayor estará sujeto al menor.»

Gospel Reading: Romans 8: 1-11 (verses 5-8)

The Message: Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them—living and breathing God! Obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God. Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing. And God isn’t pleased at being ignored.

La Biblia de las Americas: 5 Porque los que viven[d] conforme a la carne, ponen la mente en las cosas de la carne, pero los queviven conforme al Espíritu, en las cosas del Espíritu. 6 Porque la mente puesta en la carne es muerte, pero la mente puesta en el Espíritu es vida y paz; 7 ya que la mente puesta en la carne es enemiga de Dios, porque no se sujeta a la ley de Dios, pues ni siquiera puede hacerlo, 8 y los que están en la carne no pueden agradar a Dios.

Dios Habla Hoy: Los que viven según las inclinaciones de la naturaleza débil, sólo se preocupan por seguirlas; pero los que viven conforme al Espíritu, se preocupan por las cosas del Espíritu. 6 Y preocuparse por seguir las inclinaciones de la naturaleza débil lleva a la muerte; pero preocuparse por las cosas del Espíritu lleva a la vida y a la paz. 7 Los que se preocupan por seguir las inclinaciones de la naturaleza débil son enemigos de Dios, porque ni quieren ni pueden someterse a su ley. 8 Por eso, los que viven según las inclinaciones de la naturaleza débil no pueden agradar a Dios.

Both/And in a World of Either/Or

Blessings to you! I bring you greetings on behalf of my home church, Manantial de Gracia in New Britain, CT and our Pastora, the Rev. Dr. Maritza de Gonzalez. I bring you greetings on behalf of my school, Andover Newton Theological School in Newton Centre, MA and definitely I greet you on behalf of The Franklinton Center at Bricks in Whitakers, NC where I am finally beginning to understand what it means to harvest God’s bounty.

So I greet you and thank you for welcoming all of who I am!

My home church knows that I enjoy telling stories, and today I would like to tell you a story you probably already know.

Today’s story comes from the Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 13, verses 1-9 and 18-23. Let me tell you the story:

Jesus was sitting on the beach when a crowd gathered, so he got on a boat and from that boat he told stories…

A farmer planted seeds, as he scattered the seeds,
1. Some fell on the road and were eaten by birds;
2. Some fell in gravel and grew fast but they dried up quickly because they did not have soil into which to dig roots;
3. Some fell in the weeds, and the weeds strangled them;
4. BUT some fell on good soil and produced a bountiful harvest.

“Are you listening to this? Really listening?” asked Jesus.

Then Jesus explained the story of the seeds being planted by the farmer in this way:
1. Seeds that fall on footpaths (on the road) represent people who hear about the kingdom of God but don’t understand. For these people, what they heard makes no lasting impression, it doesn’t stick;
2. Seeds that fall on gravel (walkways) represent people who hear about the kingdom of God and instantly respond enthusiastically. For these people, when their emotions wear off and times get hard, there is nothing to show for it;
3. Seeds that fall in the weeds (soil that has plants already growing—like peppermint, cucumbers) represents people who hear about the kingdom of God and have so much already eating through their mind that nothing comes from what they heard;
4. BUT sometimes seeds fall on healthy soil (soil that has been turned and watered and nurtured) these represent people who are ready to hear the good news and produce a harvest beyond their wildest dream.

The message is the same, but the person was different…

Before I continue, let us pray: …

This weeks sermon is titled: Both/And in a World of Either/Or

I don’t know you; so I don’t know if you are a first time visitor, long time visitor, a new member, or a long time member. I don’t even know if you are a believer or a non-believer. I don’t know if you are trying to figure out how you feel about being members of a church, or if you are struggling with how to grow a church. And to be honest, some of us may possess a few of these qualities.

According to some researchers, churches today are dying. Older people are still in the pews, but their children have stopped coming and their grandchildren have barely ever ventured into a church.

Some church members when asked to invite people to church simply extend an invitation to friends who already have churches. Some of my fellow seminarians want to learn how to evangelize to non-believers, but when I read this story about the farmer and his seeds, I realize that we are a both/and people living in a world that says we are either/or. In this story I don’t hear judgment. I hear a basic truth.

We like the harvest to be plentiful, we like the soil to be easy and the work to be comfortable. In this story of the farmer, we don’t hear mention of basic farm equipment and tools. The story doesn’t say that the farmer used a spade to turn the soil, or a shovel to dig some holes. There is not even mention of carving out space from the weeds.

I imagine a farmer walking with handfuls of seeds randomly throwing them wherever they land as he walks from his car to the yard. And so it should come as no surprise that as he walked through the parking lot and threw seeds on the road, birds came along and ate them. And that as he or she continued walking along a dirt road throwing more seeds down they grew for a while before they burned from too much sun.

Now, I imagine this farmer making it part way through the yard, never having cleared the soil, not knowing that some plants can take over your garden, plants that won’t allow anything else to grow. Just ask my mother about the handful of cucumber seeds that she had us spread in a back corner of her yard, by the end of the month the cucumbers had spread along the back fence from one side to the other and they had killed her tulips.

But just imagine that as the farmer walked all the way far back, she managed to through some seeds into that area where she had put new soil last year. That bit of earth that got enough rain and enough shade… that perfect spot that was meant just for that seed? Just imagine…

If you want the harvest to be great, the fruits to be plentiful, you have to plant in fertile soil. See, we can come to church every Sunday, but if our ears like the soil aren’t ready and prepared the word of God won’t stick.

If you want to know how to prepare, start with prayer. End with prayer. Realize that the harvest will be plentiful as long as the farmer is God and not man! We can teach, but God will provide the message. We can introduce, but God will feed the multitudes.

1. Sometimes you hear about God and you don’t take it in, it doesn’t hit you PERSONALLY;
2. Sometimes you hear about God and become enthusiastic, but there isn’t enough soil and when times get rough and the emotions wear thin, enthusiasm is not enough;

3. Other times you might hear a message with one ear and the rest of your body and your mind is so tired, overwhelmed, knocked down, kicked around that you just can’t…

4. But…when you are ready, when you have prepared a way into your heart through prayer, meditation, and more hard work, you will be able to hear that quiet still speaking voice of God at the right time and in the right place and the soil is so ready that BOOM! Harvest beyond your wildest dreams.

God has a message for each of us. If you have ears…hear!

Because the most beautiful part of the story is that all who came to hear Jesus speak that day at the beach, were welcome. He didn’t ask them to be anyone other than whom God had created them to be. And it is as true today as it was long ago. Amen.

Prayer (taken from “In Spirit and In Truth Prayers to the Holy Spirit”)
God, of grace and holiness, send upon us today your Holy Spirit as you sent the Spirit upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost, so that our prayers and our deeds may bear witness to this desire which possesses us: We wish to be one, Lord, so that the world may believe that we belong to you. Fill us now with your love [en sobre abundancia. Amen.]