We live in hope. Today we pray that we “may know and understand” what we “ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish” God’s will in our own lives. The prophet Isaiah tells us that God’s word “shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” St. Paul tells us “here is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” And we hear both Jesus’ Parable of the Sower and the explanation of that parable.
The Parable of the Sower is explained as a parable of soils – the hard-packed road, rocky ground, thorns, and finally good soil that bears much fruit. A friend has a compost pile; we put in garbage and she gets out good black dirt for her garden.
Our lives include all the kinds of soil. Parts of our lives are as spiritually hard as a well trodden dirt path in a drought; parts of us are full of rocks; much of us is prickly with thorns. But in every one of us there is the potential of good soil bearing fruit. None of us are naturally good soil, but by God’s grace working in us we can become so. Our spiritual task is to increase the good soil in our lives, digging out the rocks and thorns, breaking up the clods, softening the ground with the water of tears of repentance, digging in the compost and digging out the weeds with the hoe of faith and good works.
When we are honest with ourselves all of us know from personal experience that we “have all sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Despair is always an option. We can look at our own lives and see our missed opportunities, see how our misbehavior has influenced our present situation. We can look around us to what appears to be increasing political conflict and nasty behavior. It is sometimes hard to hold on to the conviction that those with whom we disagree are simply wrong, but they are not evil. The temptation of pride is strong - to think that we are moral and they are immoral degenerates. That temptation is a false one. We are all sinners saved by grace.
The good news that by his death and resurrection Jesus has set us free from the need to sin and given us a new life. And St. Paul rejoices, “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” He ends, “he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.”
An alternative to despair in our personal and political lives is hope. Isaiah wrote that God’s word “shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” We know from St. John’s Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men.And the light shined in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” The darkness of despair does not understand light, does not understand hope, and the darkness cannot cover the light, can never put out the light.
Jesus did not return empty to the father. He returned with the only man made things in heaven, the marks of the nails in his hands and feet, the wound of the spear in his side, but the hands and the feet and the wound were healed wounds. And at Pentecost Jesus sent his Holy Spirit to all who have faith in him. He is the spirit of truth and the spirit of power.
This morning we pray that we “may know and understand” what we “ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish” God’s will in our own lives. We have the assurance of guidance and power in the Holy Spirit. We can live in hope.
So what do we do? We pray, opening all our lives to God and asking the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit. And we listen. We listen to God the Spirit working in our minds and in others who know and love us. We read the Bible and seek to learn God’s will there revealed. We confess our sins to God and we receive the spiritual strength of the sacraments. And having done all, we stand. We stand up straight in faith, in trust, and in hope.
A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds . . . fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”