"Planted Planters"

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MAY 19th, 2019                                                                                              PASTOR DON PIEPER 

Right On the  Mark                                                                                     1 COR 3:1-9/MARK 4:1-20 

 

                                                            “PLANTED PLANTERS

 

            God sure has a great sense of humor.  I’m reminded of that every time I see a sea otter at play, or get squirted at by a clam on the beach, or look in the mirror, for that matter!  I mean, what could God possibly want a guy like me to say about a story involving growing things?  

 

            Years ago it was suggested that I prune our raspberry bushes so that they'd produce more berries.  So I grabbed my clippers and went at it.  Strange - we never saw another berry!  

            When I was in second grade we grew a lima bean plant in a petri dish.  At one point I asked my teacher, “Teacher, why is everybody else’s lima bean plant so green and mine is so…yellow?” She told me that it wasn’t a lima bean plant.  It was a weed.  My lima bean plant had died and now it looked like the weed was dying as well.  I couldn’t even grow a weed!  

 

            Make no mistake: I may be all thumbs but none of them are green!  But I don’t need a green thumb in order to get this:  Parables like the one Jesus told of a farmer sowing seed are not so much about horticulture as they are about Christ's culture - word pictures that help us grasp what the kingdom of heaven looks like as it takes root within us and through us.  A few observations...  

 

            One, what comes out of the ground doesn't resemble what was planted in it.  The green shoots don’t look at all like the tiny seed from which they came.  Why? There’s been a kind of metamorphosis – a transformation. As Paul put it: “Jesus died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves but will live for Christ... This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person.  The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”  (2 Corinthians 5:15, 17)

 

            This is what Jesus is all about – to change us from the inside out – that we’d stop being so wrapped up in ourselves and would open up, like a green shoot, stretching, reaching out for the light of the Son – the Son of the living God – and like him, towards those in a world of hurt or confusion!  

 

            But Jesus’ parable of a kingdom of scattered seed isn’t limited to seeds that land on fertile soil.  Some, he says, fall along the path and never even enter the ground,representing hearts hardened by the enemy. Intellectual objections, media's mixed messages, emotional wounds and church baggage keep many from hearing the Good News as good.  Jesus says, they are “those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away.”  (Mark 4:15)

            The image reminds me of a video we watched about natural thieves....  

            [DVD clip from the film,                                 ]  Be wary of the enemy who comes to steal & kill!

 

            Other seed fell in shallow soil, never to take root, as the excitement of something new wears off and having never really plugged in, they disconnect when hard times come.  Still others wind up being choked by the thorns of busy lives and self indulgence.  Jesus’ parable suggests that we are all at risk.  

                                                                                      

            Jesus’ parable of sowing seed poses the question: what kind of soil best describes you?  Which soil are you?  Does your faith show, or is it undercover somehow?    Calvin illustrates...

Calvin:           Ahem. 

Mom:             Hi Calvin.

Calvin:             What’s the point of wearing your favorite rocket ship underpants if nobody ever asks to see ‘em?                                                                        (It's A Magical World, p.16)

                                                                                    -2-

 

            What’s the point of embracing Christ if no one notices enough to ask?  What’s the point of say-ing you believe in Jesus but no one ever hears about it or can tell the difference between you and those who don't believe?  Jesus’ parable poses an urgent challenge – and the challenge is two-fold... 

            One, how will you make sure your relationship with God gets planted in and remains in fertile soil?  Another way of framing that is to ask yourself, which of those first three kinds of soil best repre-sent my greatest vulnerability? Knowing that, owning that, will help you identify where Satan is most likely to have a go at you.  For me, it’s seed number three.  Allowing myself to get so busy..., or worse, immersing myself in self-indulgence, is my Achille's heel.  If I don't stay vigilant, the enemy will, as he has in the past, have at me. “Guard your heart, (we're told),  for it is the wellspring of life.”  (Proverbs 4:23) Make sure your heart is His, first & foremost, that no other desire supersedes your desire for him! 

 

            Second, how will you engage those around you who are at risk? How will you help others get more rooted in Christ as well?  Notice that the good soil is celebrated not because it’s more respected, or religious, but because it reproduces!  “The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God's word and produce an (abundant) harvest...!”          

            That is, it’s like the kingdom of heaven around here when deeply rooted followers of Jesus work together to reproduce “...thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”                                                                                                                                             (Mark 4:20)    

            That brings us to a crucial observation.  Jesus planted his love in our hearts not simply so we'd feel good about ourselves and about our relationship with him, which in and of itself is a wonderful thing to be sure; but more than that, Jesus planted his love in our hearts by His Spirit so that together, side by side, and in collaboration with the Holy Spirit, we may contribute to the kingdom of heaven Jesus is all about, keeping in mind that farmers can plant and water but without sunshine a plant will never grow.  As Paul wrote: “It’s not important who does the planting or who does the watering. What's important is that God makes the seed grow.  The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose and both will be rewarded...”   (1 Corinthians 3:7-8)

 

            The idea is to help others experience God's love, point to Jesus as the embodiment of that love, and help them come to a sense of belonging whether they yet believe or not.  Imagine if we all went around planting and water...!                       [run youtube video, 'Imagine If Everyone Of Us Did This?'

 

            What if we were to rediscover the role of the Holy Spirit in this?  What if we saw ourselves as collaborators rather than converters, more travel guides than door to door salesman?  What if the Holy Spirit was already active in the hearts & lives of those around us, touching hearts, provoking curiosity, convicting some and awakening others, and then offering us nudges and clues to plant seeds and water them in prayerful cooperation with others and in partnership with the Spirit of God himself?  

                                                                                      

            How can we demonstrate God's love!   Jesus’ message was that “the kingdom (or rule) of God is at hand”.  (Mark 1:15)  God is actively working to set things right, to heal what is wounded, mend what is broken, and restore that which has been lost.  If that's his mission, how can you plant seeds...?

 

            The message that he’s entrusted us with is not about who’s in and who’s out, who’s right and who’s wrong, but an opportunity to start afresh in life no matter where we are, that we come to see that we are either moving toward or away from the purpose for which we were created, to connect with God in a loving, ongoing relationship. It was to that end Jesus came to demonstrate and to declare.  As those entrusted with this Good News, we come along side others to embody God's love, point to Jesus and declare his reign in and among us: “Come and see!”  (John 1:46)  “(We) are God's field!” (1 Cor 3:9)     

                                                                                    -3-

 

            As Pastor Robby Dawkins puts it: “It's not about accomplishing what we want to see or about our version of success; it's about saying, 'I'm willing to be used by God in this moment, and the results are up to Him, not me.'  One way to think about it is that we are meant to be nickels in God's pocket, like loose change He can spend any way He chooses.  He can spend us on big things or small things.” 

                                                                                                                                    (Robby Dawkins) 

            His metaphor hits home in a funny kind of way with me.  I'm a regular patron at Metro Bagel and there's two women who regularly serve me – one about my age and the other, a young woman in her twenties.  One afternoon as I was leaving I sensed a God-nudge.  I sensed God say to me, 'humble yourself'.  I had the sense, that I was to witness to this young woman but I knew that Christopher and Claudia were waiting for me to have lunch so I left. The nudge grew stronger on the way home, so I had a quick lunch and high-tailed it back to the bagel store.  I went in, and with the loose change in my pocket..., I bought some chips and followed up on the nudge, explaining to her that I felt that I was to humble myself and admit that I couldn't remember her name. She laughed and went on to tell me of how another pastor had recently witnessed to her after criticizing her for her tattoos.  Sensing the open door, I told her about the Alpha Course and that we're a come as you are church.  

 

            She's yet to show up and she may never do so, but I felt affirmed in the Spirit.  It's not about my version of success, but about looking at faith as an adventure. The results are up to him, not me.

 

            “What's important is that God makes the seed grow.  The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose..., (for we) are God's field (of planted planters)!” 

                                                                                                                                    (1 Corinthians 3:7-9)

            Robby shares about a time he took a group of teens to a New Age shop in Fort Collins.  They  asked if they could bless the manager and pray for her to prosper.  As some of the teens mopped the floors and cleaned the toilets, others prayed for the manager:“Lord, bless this manager.  Overwhelm her with a sense of your presence and love for her.”  As some prayed and others scrubbed, the manager was shaken to the core.  “What's happening to me?” she asked.  “The Father loves you and you're feeling His presence,” Robby said.   

 

            Several months later Dawkins returned to the shop and was told that the manager had quit and was now working at a local Christian Book store. “Offering to serve people in some way often leads to spiritual conversation, which can then lead to seeing the Kingdom break into someone's life.”  

                                                                                                (from Robby Dawkins' Do What Jesus Did) 

            Not all of our efforts will have such visibly powerful results, but regardless, all of our efforts to plant seeds of love and witness to Jesus' reign, absolutely matter.  Kingdom success is not measured in how many people we lead to pray the sinner's prayer but how faithfully and how frequently we follow the Spirit's leading to plant and water seeds where and when God gives us opportunity. 

 

            The kingdom draws near as we collaborate with the Spirit of Christ, sometimes to demonstrate God's love through prayer or service, other times to give witness, other times to welcome or encourage - all in hope of seeing lives transformed and reproduced by the love of God in Christ Jesus, again and again – some “thirty, some sixty, others even a hundred times as much as originally planted!”  (Mark 4:20)  

 

            “What's important is that God makes the seed grow.  The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose..., (for we) are God's field (of planted planters)!” 

(1 Corinthians 3:7-9)