MAKE IT A BETTER PLACE
Hosea 14: 4-9
MARK 4: 1-9
June 6, 2021
It starts with a child’s voice … it tells us that we can heal the world and make it a better place. The voice says “The generations say we want to make it a better place for our children.” In a song … in a dream … but friends, as we move forward out of the pandemic that continues to keep most of the world shut down until they receive the vaccines that we have been blessed to have … as we move forward … the challenge of our days as Christians is whether or not we want to make our world a better place. A better place for our children … for future generations or whether we don’t care.
As Christians … as people who claim Jesus Christ as our Savior with some of us also proclaiming Jesus as the Lord of Lords of our lives … we have a very specific instruction guide that should be our daily focus and our daily challenge rather than a set aside for the few moments in our weeks when we don’t want to sound like the world.
Today, as we approach the Table of the Lord … for many of you it’s the first time you have taken the bread and cup in church in more than a year. For those worshiping online you get to experience the very Holy moment in your homes or backyard settings … together we will be allowing God to transform simple elements into much more. We heard from the prophet this morning what God’s plan is for those of us who are truly faithful in our lives. The Lord God proclaimed, “I will heal their faithfulness and I will love them freely.” We know that God who created the universe is faithful and just to forgive our sins and each week we pray asking for forgiveness from God in the same manner in which we forgive others; we know that God will be true.
As an aside, we need to remember that God’s people when that statement about God’s healing was written had been unfaithful. They had joined the mobs of hate and turned their backs on God’s directives because they felt that the world and its leaders could somehow reward them more than God could. They took on frustration rather than accepting peace … they chose anger and vengeance over love and forgiveness. They hid and ignored the lessons of the Holy Scriptures … God’s declaration encased in the Torah to love all neighbors and not even have a grudge against them. To care for the poor and not even collect interest from those who borrowed from them.
Immediately after God issued God’s declaration of healing and love; God reminded God’s people that God’s “anger had turned from them.”
We know from Scriptures that God does get angry … God also get pleased … God gets disappointed in God’s humans … God does love … God does offer this amazing grace that saved even a wretch like me who I am sure on many occasions has disappointed God and perhaps even made God angry.
I know I come to the Table of the Lord knowing in my heart and soul and yes even in my mind that once again on Sunday June 6th in the year 2021, I am a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness; what about you? Do you need God’s healing? Are you able to recognize your actions, your words and your thoughts that might have satisfied you and your associates in the neighborhoods you hang out in but have actually saddened, disappointed or even angered God? Are you anxious to taste the bread and the cup this morning? Do you want to experience God’s healing from the weight of your sin?
In the reading from Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is using the parable of the farmer to explain to those listening to Him along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, that beautiful lake that was a background for the life journey’s of our Savior, He was teaching them and teaching every subsequent generation of self identifying followers of the Son of God that even though the Word of God has been heard by many … even though the lessons of Easter beyond the bunny have been heard; EASTER’s reality that after the painful death on the cross Jesus was put in the tomb but on that EASTER the women declared HE IS RISEN <<HE IS RISEN INDEED>> even the loving lessons of Easter that are the only church moments some get in a calendar year fail to bring Jesus into their lives because otherwise if Jesus mattered they’d be rushing back to worship God week after week.
In today’s lesson from Jesus, we are told about a farmer who was planting his seeds so that his family could have food and he could sell the rest of the crop to cover his family’s living expenses.
Now, in that lesson I find two clear messages …
The first is the one most of us have been reminded of for years. The seed that the farmer was sowing, Jesus said, landed all over the place. On the pathway where birds ate it, on rocky ground where it burned up, amongst thorns that choked the seeds, and finally on good soil. Only 25 percent of the seed produced fruit, which meant the other 75 percent went to waste. Even though that 25 percent produced a wonderful harvest you have to wonder what would have happened if the farmer carefully planted all of the seed instead of merely scattering it.
But, today on this Sunday when we are gathered together did each of us hear the final statement of Jesus Christ because this was his call to any person who has been exposed to the GOOD NEWS … “WHOEVER HAS EARS to listen SHOULD PAY ATTENTION!” And, the text includes an exclamation mark indicating that Mark in his Gospel wanted us to know that Jesus was emphasizing this remark. Have you paid attention? Are you paying attention? Are you seeking Jesus words daily?
The Torah in the book of Deuteronomy tells us “WALK in OBEDIENCE to ALL that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live.” Well, we know what Micah told us about the Lord our God’s expectations because I have repeated it over and over again this year, “He has told you human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you: TO DO JUSTICE, EMBRACE FAITHFUL LOVE OF ALL and walk humbly with your God.” Jesus clarified the rule book in answering the legal expert who had that group of Pharisees nudging him on. They wanted rules that people had to follow to the minutia of details and Jesus declared “Love God and love ALL of your neighbors because all the laws, rules, and prophets follow.”
So, again this morning … are you using your life, your words, your actions to make this a better place for God’s priorities? Do you want to make it a better place for everyone as we move forward from the pandemic? Do you want to share the GOOD NEWS of JESUS CHRIST … Do you want to grow the church of God in your lifetime … take on mission challenges using the talents and abilities that all of us have, do you want to? Or, have you decided to oppose each and every one of those ideas … rejecting the idea of faithfulness to God because you enjoy being in the sick sick world that has not been healed by faith and God’s love. Refusing to invite or encourage others to build up the church of God or even attend church or Sunday School or Bible study? To deny you can do anything to make this a better place from God’s perspective?
“Whoever is wise understands these things,” Hosea wrote more than 2500 years ago in one of the oldest recorded books of the Bible. “Whoever observes carefully knows them. Truly, the Lord’s ways are right, and the righteous will walk in them, but the evildoers will stumble in them.”
So, church both here in West Deptford and those worshiping around the world with us this morning … do you want to live again beneath the shadow of the Lord God and flourish like a garden?” Or do you have the idols of the world in your focus that God warned Ephraim about? “WHOEVER HAS EARS to LISTEN SHOULD PAY ATTENTION!”
It was last week when we were about to get in the car that Megan said, ‘dad, play Michael Jackson on Spotify please.” And, so as the car engine started the music on our radio began and the song was HEAL THE WORLD. As I noted as I began this message, the song begins with a child’s voice asking or challenging … “Think about the generations and they say we want to make it a better place for our children and our children’s children so that they know it’s a better world for them.”
Jackson begins singing “There’s a place in your heart and I know that it is love and there are ways to get there if you care enough for the living. There are people dying … if you care enough for the living make it a better place for you and me.”
And, so we come to worship God today … I hope you came to praise God and sense a closeness with God … but have you come with a prayer to be healed so that together we can make this a better place for the living because once we are gone there’s nothing we can do. We celebrated Bob Platt’s faith this week … but yesterday I celebrated the life of a woman named DeeAnn but nothing in her story said anything about God or Christ perhaps no one ever bothered to invite her in.
We cannot go backwards but we need to go forward and we each can make this choice … do we have the faithfulness deserving of God’s healing? Are we living lives reflective of God’s free love? Are we choosing to feel the comfort of the shadow of God that protects from the heat of the world so we can flourish or do we lust for the world’s idols whether they are people, symbols or points of view to get wrapped up in?
And, church as we approach the table I want to go back to that farmer that Jesus told us about. He wasn’t careful in sharing the seed … in fact he was careless like he didn’t have a plan and he was fortunate that 25 percent landed on good soil. I believe the second lesson of the parable is to the church of Jesus Christ … we need to go forward using our talent and abilities to tell the story of Jesus Christ to the nations beginning right here in our own communities. The Verga church is closing … the Wenonah church closed … yet we see thousands of people in our communities and we know the population is higher than when those church doors were open …
“We’ve a story to tell to the nations that shall turn their hearts to the right. A story of truth and mercy … a story of peace and light.” The kingdom of Jesus Christ of love and light.
Since 1858 this church has stood on solid ground … but we are in the year 2021 looking ahead in faith; seeking to be healed. And, hearing Jesus’ call to make disciples while also hearing the prophet this morning remind us, “whoever is wise understands these things. Whoever observes carefully knows them. Truly the Lord’s ways are right … THE LORD’s WAYS ARE RIGHT; we just need to live our lives for the THE LORD. AMEN? AMEN