Homily 10/8/17

Fr. Richard's Sunday Homily, October 8, 2017
Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Small Seeds Nourished by Christ and the Holy Spirit

Epistle: 2nd Corinthians 9:6-11  
Gospel: Luke 7:11-16  

Saint Paul talks to the Corinthians and to us today, about the importance of generosity in giving. They were collecting money for the Jerusalem Christians to help them get through a period of famine there in Israel. And Saint Paul uses the analogy of sowing seeds to encourage their generosity. If you plant a lot of seeds your harvest will be much greater. So I am struck by that idea of the small seed, which in the end will produce a large plant and then usually a very large number of seeds. One small little seed contains the potential for a huge production, many times larger and greater than itself. One little seed.

Now we generally are the people who prefer the big and the bold over the small and understated. If you have the choice of riding to Portland in a Mercedes-Benz or a Volkswagen Bug, which car will you choose? If the same price gets you a hotel room with a twin bed or a king size bed, which would you choose? Offer a child a piece of banana or a whole banana, and which will he choose? We’re geared toward loving the larger and the bigger, even though we know that what is larger and bigger may not always be better. Sometimes even the smallest of things, words, or actions can have a bigger impact than we might think. Once I was at an amusement park and every so often a vendor or an employee would say, “hello, how are you, good morning” and just a few words made me feel welcome. When you are out in public and someone smiles at you, doesn’t it affect your attitude for the better, such a small thing? If someone really bumps into you somewhere by accident and you start to get angry because you feel abused, when they then tell you they are so sorry in a sincere way, don’t those few words pull the plug on your anger? Last week I was on a street corner and heard a small thud; looking around I saw a young woman get out of her car and go to look at her back bumper. A young man in the car behind had obviously bumped into her car, and he also got out to look for damage. They exchanged some words and then the young man opens his arms wide and she draws closer and he gives her a little hug. Then they both get back in their cars and drive off. The smallest, sweetest, and cheapest insurance settlement claim satisfaction I ever saw in my life.

We tend to prefer big and bold. Jesus raising a young man back from the dead. Great story. But how many days were there between that miracle and the next miracle, where Jesus was simply teaching the apostles and preaching to the people in a very plain and simple fashion? The great miracles had their place, but it was in the regular daily routines of Jesus’ mission that gave the disciples their foundation for believing. Jesus performed miracles but He did not come to us to be known as a Miracle-Worker, but rather as Teacher, Lord, Master, Son of Man, Son of God, Savior and Lover of Mankind—and these truths were learned primarily in the day to day routine of being with, and listening to, and asking questions of, and observing the behavior of Jesus. The miracles were wonderful, but the smaller and unspectacular events of day to day life with Jesus were the basis for the disciples’ understanding of Who He was, and the truths He taught.

Now we would tend to prefer the big and bold in our spiritual lives. A big dramatic conversion, a great unexpected healing, the sudden change in a weakness toward a certain temptation, a big warm feeling of faith in God. But I think, like the single seed, our spiritual life often grows from the small daily things we say and do, our not very flashy daily attempts to live in faith and to do better, and be better, than we were the day before. We would love to see miracles and dramatic improvements in our spiritual lives, and, of course, those would be great. But we should remember that, like the apostles and disciples, the real change and growth in our lives is found mostly in our day to day faithfulness, our regular daily routines, struggles, problems and successes as we walk with Jesus. Each small seed we plant with our prayers, our good deeds, our sacrifices, our generosity, our loving kindness and consideration, with our faith—each small seed that we water with the grace of God has given to us—each small act, each routine, each turning away from temptation, each choice to do a little bit more, to be a better Christian, to love Christ and our neighbor—each such small thing planted and watered, again and again is never a wasted or unimportant effort. It is, in fact, the primary way by which we grow in Christ. If we look back one, two, five years ago, when we were planting, we can see today that those seeds have grown, and are growing, even if they are not yet fully mature.

Let’s not discount our smaller and even our routine daily efforts to live as better Christians, to follow Christ more closely. They are the pathway to grace and heaven.

We live in a world that promotes the idea that you’re either an “American Idol” or you’re nothing. You’re either wealthy, famous and beautiful or you are just a nobody in the crowd, hoping to be that person in the spotlight. But the deliberate, daily attention that we pay to what seems to be planting small and insignificant seeds, that deliberate daily effort we make is watered by Christ and nourished by the Holy Spirit—and it will produce, it is producing a great and extraordinary harvest for us that will be seen on judgment day.