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SEEDS OF FAITH

Written by: Surrett, Frederick R.    Posted on: 04/09/2003

Category: Sermons

Source: CCN

"SEEDS OF FAITH" A MEDITATION PRESENTED AT CENTRAL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH MILWAUKEE, WI ON JULY 11, 1993 BY:  FREDERICK R. SURRETT

    All  plants  begin  life  as  a  single  seed.  A  tiny,  almost insignificant  piece  of  living  matter.  That,  given  the  proper conditions,  can  produce  a  plant  whose  size  is  totally  out  of proportion to the seed that it developed from.     For example,  take the apple  tree. In my  hand, I'm holding  the seed I took from  an apple out of my kitchen. This  seed is only about 1/8" long.  But it has the  potential of developing into  a tree maybe twenty feet tall, that during its life time could produce thousands of apples, and  countless numbers of  new seeds. Each  one of those  tiny seeds has  the potential of  developing into a  full blown apple  tree itself. And so the process repeats  itself over and over again. And if conditions were always right, if the  soil and the weather were always perfect for  growth, the world would  be filled with apple  trees. But conditions  are usually  not perfect  for this  little seed.  The soil might be to  rocky. Other plants might interfere  with its growth. The weather might  be to bad,  to hot or  to dry. All  sorts of things can happen that  make it impossible  for this little  seed to grow  to its full potential.     Let's  face it,  the odds  of any  particular seed  surviving and growing to maturity  are remote. But if this one  seed doesn't grow to maturity, it doesn't really matter. Because  the tree it came from has thousands of other seeds. Each one  of which has the same potential to take root and grow  into a full blown tree. And the  odds are that one of them will.     When  we think  of seeds,  we usually  think of  plant seeds. But there are  other types of  seeds. Not tangible  seeds, not seeds  that grow into a  tree or a flower, but intangible  seeds. Seeds that begin as an idea, a concept, a  philosophy within the mind of an individual. Seeds  that can  grow and  grow and  ultimately change  the world.  For example,  Mahatma Gandhi,  who developed  a philosophy  of non-violent protest in  an effort to rid  his home nation of  its british colonial government. This seed he planted,  this concept of non-violent protest took hold and spread, until it  became a force powerful enough to make one of the strongest military powers in  the world at the time give up the rule of what it had considered to be its most important colony.     And  the  influence  of  Gandhi  didn't  stop  there. The seed he planted spread around the world, influencing people like Martin Luther King Jr.,  who used it  as his main  tactic in his  efforts to improve civil rights for all minorities in our nation.     Not  all people  accepted his  ideas. The  seed he planted didn't take root  in all who  had been exposed  to it. But  it did in  enough people to influence the course of the 20th century.     Of course, not all sowers  spread seeds that are beneficial. There have been those  like Adolph Hitler, Pol Pot  of Cambodia, Maximilian Robespierre of  revolutionary France who  sowed the seeds  of hate, of discord,  of evil.  Those seeds  took root  too. But  the plants  they produced  were poisonous,  and eventually  withered and  died. But not before doing incredible damage to  the world. Fortunately for us, those seeds of evil did  not take root in all who heard  them, or the plants they produced could have strangled the whole planet.     In our  gospel reading today, Mat  13:3-9 & 18 -  23, Jesus talks about  the sower  of the  seeds, and  the obstacles  the seeds face in taking root and developing.     Jesus was  sitting in a  boat, a little  way from the  shore, and addressing  a large  crowd. One  of the  commentaries I  read before I prepared this meditation suggested that  Jesus may have been feeling a little discouraged. He may have been  upset that his messages were not being as well accepted  as he had hoped. In verses 3  - 8, Jesus tells how some  seeds fall along the  path. A trail going  through the field that has  been walked on  so often  that  it is packed  down hard. The seeds just lie on the ground,  exposed in the open, where birds can see them and  eat them up.  Some seeds fall  on rocky places.  Not ground covered with small stones, but shallow soil on top of solid rock. They begin to take root, but because  of the underlaying level or rock, the roots don't grow deep enough to provide enough moisture to sustain the plant. So  when the sun comes  up, the plants are  scorched and wither away, because they  weren't rooted firmly enough into  the ground. Then there are those  seeds that fall among the  thorns. Weeds really, that black  the  suns  rays,  compete  with  the  newly  sprouted plant for nourishment, and eventually kill it. But some seeds, some seeds fall on good soil,  where they produces a  crop 30, 60, 100  times larger then what was originally planted.     In the  parable, jesus himself  was the sower,  planting the best seed of all,  the word of God. The  good news of salvation to  all who accept Jesus as the Messiah.     But not everyone  who hears the good news  immediately accepts it. To some, it's a case of in one ear, out the other. They hear the word, and immediately  reject it. These are  like the seeds that  fall on the path. Some hear  the word, and initially accept it  with joy, but only superficially. They  are shallow, the  opportunists who try  to latch onto  what  they  perceive  is  a  good  thing  without  having a full understanding  of  it.  But  when  trouble  comes,  when  faced  with persecution because of  what they profess to believe,  they fall away. These are like the seed that fall on the rocky ground. Then there are some who hear the word and  accept it, but become preoccupied with the things of this world.  They pursue wealth, material possessions, power. And in the  end, these things kill the faith  that was there. And then there are those in which the condition  is right for the seed to grow. They hear  the word, and  accept it with  sincerity. They don't  allow themselves  to become  so consumed  by the  things of  this world, the worries, and the quest for material  gain, that the divine deed of God is allowed to wither and die. Instead, it grows, and produces a bounty of more seeds,  completely out of proportion to  that which was planted to begin with.     We too are sowers of the seed. We have been given a commission to go  forth, and  make believers  of all  the nations  of the world. And let's face it,  it's not an easy job.  We live in a society  where the open expression of  religious views are not really  encouraged. And in fact in many cases can set you up for ridicule, and even oppression.     And on a deeper level, how many  of us really feel adequate to the task. In those  secret recesses of our own hearts,  how many of us have said "I  don't know my  bible well enough"  or "I'm not  a good enough speaker", or "I'm not a good enough christian"?     And how  many of us,  after putting forth  our best effort,  have become discouraged because  we haven't seen the results  we wanted from our efforts at evangelizing?     Standing before  all of you  here today, I  want to confess  that I've been  guilty of all these  things. I have felt  inadequate in both the knowledge and skills that I felt were necessary to be effective in my ministry. And I have felt discouraged, deeply discouraged enough to want  to quit  in my  efforts sometimes,  when even  after all my best efforts, I have not seen the results I have wanted to achieve.     But  I've  come  to  realize  lately  that  I'd  been wrong in my judgements about myself. And I was wrong for two reasons. One, because I had  thought that  the only  way to  spread the  word of  God was to preach it.  And two, because  I believed that  everyone who hears  the word of God would instantly convert. That the truth of the word was so self-evident  that any  reasonable person  would instantly  convert on hearing it, and join the Christian faith.     To spread the seed of the word of God, one cannot just preach it. You have to act it out. Live it.  Show by example what it means to be a Christian. This lesson  was really driven home to  me during my time as a  chaplain at St. Luke's.  I saw how my  best ministry occurred not when I  wiped out my  bible and quoted  scripture, but when  I sat and held the hand of someone who was alone. Who felt abandoned. I saw that by  sharing their  problems with  them, not  as a  chaplain, but  as a friend who was  christian, I was able to  help strengthen their faith. And  in some  cases, plant  the beginning  of the  christian faith in someone  who  had  no  believe  at  all.  I've  seen  that  same thing demonstrated time and time again here  at Central. How many of you are here  now,  and  have  had  your  own  faith  strengthened, not by the superiority  of  the  preaching  at  Central  (sorry  Jim), but by the atmosphere  of  christian  love  and  care  that  exists  in  this congregation. When you were new  here, people introduced themselves to you, invited you to stay for the coffee hour, asked you to join choir. That personal interest is one of  the things that helps plant the seed of faith. And to see how the people at Central, both individually, and as  a congregation,  are willing  to invest  time, labor  and money in projects that  advance the cause of  Christ. To cloth the  naked, feed the  hungry, shelter  the homeless.  This shows  that we're doing more then just talking the talk. We're putting our faith into practice. And that's  the type  of thing  that plants  the seed  of faith in people, because it  demonstrates what christianity  can be like.     Jesus in his  own ministry did more then just  preach the word. He lived the  word. He, and his  followers, showed what it  means to live life  the way  God wants  us to.  It was  his example  that drew  many followers  to his  cause. It  was his  ultimate example  of faith  and obedience to God, of allowing himself to be put to death on the cross, that allowed  christianity to take root  and spread.     I don't  want to downplay  the importance of  preaching. Far from it, because it is  a vital activity to teach the word  of God. But, in my own life, I  had put to much emphasis on it.  I've grown to see how important acting out ones beliefs can be implanting the seeds of faith in others. It's  something I can claim for myself,  and that I want to claim for all of you here today.     As to being discouraged sometimes, yah, I still do occasionally. But  I take  comfort in  the  fact  that Jesus  himself said  that not everyone will accept  the faith. That for one  reason or another, many people  will  reject  it.  But  we  mustn't  give  up.  No  matter how discouraged we get,  we must keep spreading the  message, we must keep sowing the  seeds of faith. Because  even though many of  the seeds we plant will  not grow, some will  take root, and grow  to maturity. And these seeds will give a bountiful harvest, the size of which we cannot even conceive.

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