July 1, 2012: We’ve waited a lifetime 4 this!

Posted on : Jun 28th, 2012 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

We’ve been much more patient than our Israelite ancestors.  They started rebelling against God just a few months into their journey from slavery into liberation [from Egypt to the Promised land].  Their journey through the wilderness lasted 40 years.  Ours lasted [roughly] 38 years.  But we made it.  God delivered us and like our ancestors of old, we didn’t even know how good life could be until we got a taste of life in the kindom of God!

Last Sunday’s “Proud 2 b UCC Worship Celebration” was a transformational moment for every person who attended.  It was just a totally awesome spiritual experience to be embraced by the larger church.  UCC’ers came from all over Southern California to welcome us with open arms and to let us know how much they love us and how much they value our historical ministry –  a ministry that has always been about loving, valuing and including those who have been put down, devalued, excluded and not loved.

Personally, I have spent a lifetime educating and advocating for that kind of “Church” but I had not experienced it until we began exploring the United Church of Christ.  One person after another has said to me, “I have never felt so loved, valued or welcomed in a church in my life.  I didn’t even know this kind of Christianity existed.”  And that includes our heterosexual members as well as our LGBT members.  It is wonderful.  It feels wonderful.  It reveals the true nature of Jesus and the very essence of God.

For so many years we have had to apologize for the denomination to which we belonged (the Presbyterian Church).  It was agonizing and embarrassing.  In truth, at times it was hard to even tell people what church we belonged to – especially progressive folk.  It was hard, awkward, even painful at times to say we’re Presbyterian but “have different beliefs and values than our denomination.”  That never quite worked.  But now we have a new future ahead of us.  We are on “good soil – fertile ground.”

In one of his parables about what it’s like to live in the realm of God, Jesus uses the example of a “sower of seed.”  In Jesus’ day, they didn’t have massive John Deer tractors that tilled the soil, planted seed, and covered the seed with fresh dirt.  They tilled (loosened, “turned over”) the soil and then the “sower” tossed the seed to the ground.

Some of the seed was quickly eaten by the birds, some of it landed on the foot-path where the seedlings were trampled on.  Some fell on rocky ground, sprouted up, then withered because of a lack of water.  Some fell among thorns (briar bushes) and the seedlings were choked to death.  But some fell on good ground, grew up and yielded grain a hundred times greater than what was planted.

Now obviously Jesus isn’t talking about farming here.  He’s talking about how we encounter God and the realm of God – the way God intends for us to live.  As I reflect on this parable I think of our history.  We’ve planted a lot of seeds over the years but many of them have been “walked on, choked off or dried up in the heat of the battle.”  Now we can plant our seed in good, nourishing, fertile ground.  We can share our story with integrity because our story – the love that we experience here at WeHo UCC is the same as the love in the UCC.  We can take pride in now being part of “a church of firsts” even as we celebrate that we are “a church of firsts.”  We can tell our friends about WeHo UCC and speak with integrity when we say, “You, your family (however it is configured), and your friends are truly welcome here.”

We have entered a whole new spiritual experience.  My deepest hope is that our lives will be more nourished, our faith will not wither but flourish, our community will be strengthened and our welcome will be authentic and real enough that more people will come and be rooted here.  This is a new time of growth for us – both personally and as a community.  More about this on Sunday!

Blessings,

Dan

 

~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Luke 8: 1-15

Jesus teaches about seeds planted in differing soils:

Walked on

Choked off

Burnt up

Grew up

Now soon after this, Jesus journeyed through the towns and villages proclaiming the Good News of God’s reign.  With Jesus went the Twelve, as well as some women he had healed of evil spirits and sicknesses; Mary of Magdala, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza; Suzanna; and many others who were contributing to the support of Jesus and the Twelve with their own funds.

With a large crowd gathering and people from every town finding their way to Jesus, he taught with this parable:

“A farmer went out to sow some seed.  In the sowing, some seed fell on the footpath and the birds of the air ate it up.  Some fell on rocky ground, sprouted up, then withered due to lack of moisture.  Some fell among thorns, and the thorns growing up with it choked it.  But some seed fell on good ground, grew up and yielded grain a hundredfold.”

Whenever Jesus would say something like this, he would exclaim, “Whoever has ears to hear, hear this!”

The disciples began asking Jesus what the meaning of this parable might be.

He replied, “This is the meaning of the parable.  The seed is the word of God.  Those on the footpath are people who hear, but the Evil One comes and takes the word out of their hearts, lest they believe and be saved.  Those on the rocky ground are the ones who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy.  But they have no roots; they believe for a while, but fall away in times of testing.  The seeds that fall among thorns are those who hear, but their progress is choked by the cares, riches and pleasures of life, so they don’t mature and produce fruit.  The seeds on good ground are those who hear the word in a spirit of openness, hold it close, and bear fruit through perseverance.”

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