June 13, 2021

Prayer of the Day

O God, you are the tree of life, offering shelter to all the world. Graft us into yourself and nurture our growth, that we may bear your truth and love to those in need, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen

1 Samuel 15:34–16:13

34Samuel went to Ramah; and Saul went up to his house in Gibeah of Saul. 35Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death, but Samuel grieved over Saul. And the Lord was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel.
16:1The Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul? I have rejected him from being king over Israel. Fill your horn with oil and set out; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons.” 2Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears of it, he will kill me.” And the Lord said, “Take a heifer with you, and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to the Lord.’ 3Invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; and you shall anoint for me the one whom I name to you.” 4Samuel did what the Lord commanded, and came to Bethlehem. The elders of the city came to meet him trembling, and said, “Do you come peaceably?” 5He said, “Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord; sanctify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” And he sanctified Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.
  6When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord‘s anointed is now before the Lord.” 7But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 8Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. He said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 9Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” 10Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.” 11Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” 12He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lordsaid, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” 13Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.

Psalm 20

1May the Lord answer you in the | day of trouble,
  the name of the God of Ja- | cob defend you;
2send you help from the | sanctuary
  and strengthen you | out of Zion;
3may the Lord remember | all your offerings
  and accept | your burnt sacrifice;
4grant you your | heart’s desire
  and prosper | all your plans. 
5We will shout for joy at your victory and unfurl our banners in the name | of our God;
  may the Lord grant all | your requests.
6Now I know that the Lord gives victory to | the anointed one;
  God will answer out of the holy heaven, gaining victory with a | strong right hand. 
7Some trust in chariots and | some in horses,
  but we rely on the name of the | Lord our God.
8They collapse | and fall down,
  but we will arise | and stand upright.
9O Lord, give victory | to the king
  and answer us | when we call. 

2 Corinthians 5:6-10 [11-13] 14-17

6So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord—7for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.
  [11Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others; but we ourselves are well known to God, and I hope that we are also well known to your consciences. 12We are not commending ourselves to you again, but giving you an opportunity to boast about us, so that you may be able to answer those who boast in outward appearance and not in the heart. 13For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. ] 14For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. 15And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.
  16From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 17So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

Mark 4:26-34

26[Jesus] said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground,27and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”
  30He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
  33With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

Sermon – Pr Meggan Manlove

In her article, “Religion after Pandemic” Diana Butler Bass proposes that we are experiencing four different kinds of dislocation: temporal, historical, physical, and relational. She suggests that religious communities need to be about the work of relocation. What does she mean? Finding what has been lost, repairing what has been broken, and re-grounding people into their own lives and communities. 

What does dislocation and relocation have to do with our passage from Mark’s gospel this morning? Perhaps Jesus’ first Kingdom of God parable about the seeds can help us think about temporal relocation. 

But first, let us reflect on our own temporal dislocation. How often have you thought: What day is it? Or, what time is it? Did I miss an event? What month are we in? All of those examples are about temporal dislocation. 

On the one hand, there may be aspects of time that we want to retain from pandemic life. Some of us may have found the slower speeds of the last eighteen months life-giving. We found, as if it was lost, time for walks, phone conversations, game nights with family, or picnics. 

On the other hand, some of us, especially the more social, felt like time crept along at a snail’s pace. Still others, teachers and healthcare workers, were busier than ever pivoting and keeping up with information and now are in need of a week at the beach or a big party.

I am working with the assumption that all of us, to some extent, need some recalibrating this summer. Though maybe it will take on different forms. What a gift then to live in a geographical climate with seasons, including a long growing season. This is where we turn to Jesus’ agricultural parable about the seed growing.

The parable of the seed growing secretly relates events we all understand.  Someone scatters seed on the ground, goes to sleep and rises daily, the seed sprouts and grows and the planter does not know how.  

People plant seeds and wait for them to grow. We don’t need to know or worry about the science of germination and photosynthesis. Assuming the environmental conditions are right, we can go about our lives and let nature do its job. 

However, it is also true that seeds do not instantly transform into mature plants. They grow. Jesus knows that part of the joy and anxiety of planting involves observing that growth. Any child who has planted beans in plastic cups can speak with enthusiasm about the anticipation reflected in verse 28, “The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head.”  

A few weeks ago, we had two trees planted at Trinity, a Spring/Snow non-fruit bearing Crabapple and a Sensation Maple. We will bless them during today’s worship service. Like vegetables or flowers, the trees will grow and we will observe their growth together. The natural world gives us both a way to mark time, but also a way to participate. 

At least for the first month, our trees will be watered weekly. For those of you with gardens or rows of flowers, how often do you water? How often do you pull weeds? Maybe you celebrate when you see buds or blossoms. 

A shoot gradually develops into a plant over time. Jesus’ parable this morning includes no discussion of weeds, frost or pests hindering growth—only relentless, certain progress toward the harvest. His point? The kingdom of God is coming.

The parable underscores the certain emergence of the fullness of God’s rule in our lives and our world. The parable instructs us toward patience and hope. The agricultural representation of God’s reign reminds us that God alone will bring it to pass.  

What I love about the parable of the seeds is that it tell us about God’s time while simultaneously nodding to the fact that we live in a world shaped by earthly time. Both are good for God created them both. We can live in patience for the fullness of time, God’s time. But God also created the sun and moon and stars, which help us keep time. God rested on the sabbath and commanded us to keep in holy. Some time is for work, some for worship and holy rest. 

I cannot prescribe for each one of you the best way to relocate yourselves temporally in this new time. Maybe you need just two minutes each day to drink your morning beverage and remind yourself what month and day it is. Or maybe you need to check in with a friend in another state each Saturday. Perhaps you need to journal a few lines of gratitude each Friday as the work week ends. Or you could need a walk on the Nampa Greenbelt to observe the changing seasons, or a drive through the country to watch the crops grow. 

The church has its own ways to mark time and help you relocate. Maybe singing the familiar hymns and sharing the Lord’s Supper will help you relocate yourself temporally. We will slowly be reading our way through several books of the Bible this summer: Mark’s Gospel, 2nd Corinthians, Ephesians, and also First and Second Samuel. Reading through any of these on your own could be a way to mark time and get just a little more grounded.

Remember that it is incredibly natural to feel a bit out of synch, temporally dislocated. Please continue to give yourself grace as you reach into the toolbox and experiment. Summer 2021 will hopefully offer ample opportunity for rest, reflection, and relocation. 

The good news, or great news, is that our parable confirms that we hope for a future promise that is based on both the past and present. Jesus has already described the beginning of his reign. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news.”  

Seeds have been planted and have germinated. They are growing, even now in our midst. Do we see them? A growing plant might look the same to us on consecutive days, yet it grows. We are called to discern signs of God’s fostering such growth in our midst. We will be better equipped to do this as we relocate ourselves in our present reality.

The final question we ask today is, do we have a role at all in God’s kingdom, in God’s time? Well, Jesus calls us to participate in his ministry. As Jesus’ disciples, we share in his ministry of proclaiming the reign of God. The fullness of our kingdom hope remains in the future, but we enact it, in part, in the present, through God’s power, following the contours of Jesus’ ministry as a model. This ministry attends to all aspects of human vitality, laid out in the visions of seeds planted and plants and shrubs growing.  

This is never clearer than in the sacrament of Holy Baptism.  We are witnesses as the individual declares how he or she will live out the faith.  Together we welcome them into the Lord’s family saying, “We receive you as fellow members of the body of Christ, children of the same heavenly Father, and workers with us in the kingdom of God.”  

In one baptismal hymn we sing this welcome: “In the water and the witness, in the breaking of the bread, in the waiting arms of Jesus who is risen from the dead, God has made a new beginning from the ashes of our past; in the losing and the winning we hold fast.”  What will happen next? We cannot be sure. 

We come to the feast of bread and wine, marking time, and witness God’s gifts of life and forgiveness. We pray for God’s kingdom to come even as we know it is already here. Then we wait patiently, knowing that God is the one responsible for growing the kingdom. Because of this we have hope.

Prayers of Intercession

Let us come before the triune God in prayer.

A brief silence.Holy God, you plant the seeds of faith in every nation. Enliven your church, so that the good news of your grace may root and grow throughout the world. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

Creator, even the trees, shrubs, and flowers delight in your goodness. From the depths of the soil to the highest mountain, bring forth new plants. Restore growth to places suffering drought. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

Judge of nations, we pray for our leaders and those in power. Grant them the ability to regard those under their charge with humility, dedicating their lives in service to others. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

Divine comforter, you show compassion to those in need and provide relief to those who call on you. Bless all who suffer, especially people trapped in cycles of poverty and homelessness. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

Sovereign God, this house of worship belongs to you. We give thanks and pray for our church musician(s) (especially). We dedicate to you the joyful noise that comes from this place; the cries of children, the melody of voice and instruments, and the songs from our hearts. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

Here other intercessions may be offered.Eternal God, we give thanks for our ancestors in the faith who are now at home with you (especially). We look forward to that day when we are reunited in your new creation. Lord, in your mercy,hear our prayer.

We lift our prayers to you, O God, trusting in your abiding grace.Amen.

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