This Easter, I received spinach seeds ahead of the planting season, along with a geoplanter, gardening gloves, and the right tools. So, after I heard the frost warnings had passed us by (a bit harder this season), we diligently planted our small spinach seeds in our planter and have been faithfully watering them each day. We are getting ready to plant our tomatoes and peppers next weekend. Small seeds from whom we hope big things will grow.
This Sunday is our last in the series as we look with our news media in one hand and our bible in the other, inspired by the Karl Barth the German theologian. We have been actively engaging our faith with bullying, mental illness, environmental responsibility, immigration, and this week, we will look at economic justice. (1) We have been taking seriously that our faith lives are shaped by understandings derived from tradition, reason, experience, and lean most heavily on scripture.
In this season after Easter, the disciples stayed close to Jesus hanging on his every word, as one who had been raised from the dead. And so, we find them, the burgeoning early church gathered around Jesus retelling the best hits. We can imagine that the parable of the sower was among one of the best hits. And the followers of Jesus leaned in close as Jesus told and retold the parable of the sower. (2) Jesus tells the parable of the sower in all three synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke. This gives us a real good sense that it is original source material. Jesus even goes on to explain further what he intends. This parable has described the personal, the communal, the church, and much more. And the disciples, wanting to get every last drop out of the meaning, hung in for how to it live out as told in community of Acts.
So, in Acts we hear about beloved community. This incredible community that is not only living together, but sharing together, distributing, and giving as all have need. How can you live this out? How could they live this out? Throughout history, various communities, religious and secular, have attempted to achieve communal living. Some of the most spectacularly failed experiments have been sought to do so based on the desire to achieve Acts 2:44-45.
Early followers who gathered their resources together. They sold their unnecessary resources and shared the proceeds. What could it look like for us to do that now? For such a time as this? A man name Muhammad Yunus wondered about this from the other side of the world in Bangladesh. As the third of nine children, he was part of a large family. He also knew the effects and implications of poverty. He was engaged and interested in reducing poverty in all of its insidious rooters. Yunus’ studies took him to economics and poverty reduction.
In 2006, Muhammad Yunus was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics for mircoloans. The following was said: “lasting peace cannot be achieved unless large population groups find ways in which to break out of poverty” and that “across cultures and civilizations, Yunus and Grameen Bank have shown that even the poorest of the poor can work to bring about their own development”. (3)
From the smallest loan or seed of hope, one can see that someone believes that they have potential. Someone has shared resources with them because they have value and meaning. This was the vision Jesus shared with the disciples. The early church caught this vision like wild fire. And we have been seeking to spread it ever since. Give seeds of hope to others. Share our resources in the form of missional giving. Microloans are just that. Intentionally small investments that connect the one receiving to the one giving, so that relationships are made and it will be paid forward.
Microloans are seeds that water dreams to grow into realities. Kiva is one organization that grows this into realities. West Grove also began this process. Through your generosity and impacting the world, we were able to contribute to two microloans. One for a teacher in Pakistan, trying to expand his classroom to include more students in his area. One for a laundress in Cambodia who will get a washing machine to expand her business.
Like all of our seed stories, my spinach story is not yet complete. Will the birds let the leaves grow to full leaves? I have more feathered friends join me on the deck each morning! Will the sun prove too much for the container? It can get hot come 10:30 or 11:00 a.m. Will weeds grow up among the spinach and take over the space? Or will I enjoy the spinach salad for which I have been preparing? Ask me again in another 20 or so days.
Sprinkling financial resources, microloans, and seeds of the gospel are just as risky as planting spinach seeds on the deck. The ways we share our Kiva loan with a teacher in Pakistan and laundress in Cambodia might have incredible returns. Students may learn mathematics and compassion, history and responsibility, scientific achievement, and courage. The laundress may establish a solid business and bring her family out of poverty allowing her own children to go to school. Or it may be that she defaults on her loan. All of this is at risk.
The parable of the sower reminds us that we are called primarily to share amply our resources. It is a biblical model to share what God has given us with others. Where is God calling you to share? Where is God calling you to take what feels like a bit and share so God can bless it?
This is the Gospel, the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ, thanks be to God, Amen.
(2) Crossan, John Dominic. The Power of Parable: How Fiction by Jesus Became Fiction about Jesus. 2013.
(3) Yunus, Muhammad. Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism that Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs, 2011.
New Testament Lesson: Acts 2:44-45
All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.
Gospel Lesson: Mark 4:1-9
Again Jesus began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”
Meditations For Your Week
Sunday, May 6 ~ Saturday, May 12
Sunday: “All who believed were together and had all things in common;” Acts 2:44. Be together today in worship.
Monday: “they would sell their possessions and goods” Acts 2:45a. Where is God calling you to consider your own actions?
Tuesday: “and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.” Acts 2:45:b. Consider God’s radical call to sharing with your neighbors.
Wednesday: “Again he began to teach beside the lake. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the lake and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the lake on the land.” Mark 4:1. Jesus taught ways that people could hear. How are you sharing good news so others can hear?
Thursday: “He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching, he said to them: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up.” Mark 4:2-3. Pray for those who are hearing God’s word.
Friday: “Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away.” Mark 4:4-5. Consider where in your life God is calling you to remove conditions that are rocky or scorching, so you might hear the word of God more fully.
Saturday: “Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.’ And he said, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’” Mark 4:6-9. Reread the parable today to soak in the word of God.