One High Calling

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When my grandfather was a young man, a fellow came up with a great new snack that he got rave reviews on from his friends. He became so excited about this product that he decided to go into business marketing this snack food to the public. Unfortunately for him, it was around this time, at the turn of the 20th century that lots of other products were being invented and introduced. Competition for any product was fierce. So the inventor decided to try something new.   He decided to market the product to an, as yet, untapped market . . . kids . . . And the way he decided to entice the kids into buying the product was to put a prize in every box along with a catchy slogan . . . “The More You Eat the More You Want”. Well, once the kids heard about the product and found out there was a toy for them in every box, they started bugging their parents to buy the snack . . . probably for the toys. Soon the parents were hooked on it too, and everybody started buying it. Excitement for this product became so great that the factory couldn’t keep up with the orders, and even to this day, Cracker Jack is a favorite of millions, including me. It was in fact the first junk food ever invented.

            When I was little, saving box tops was the way manufacturers sold cereal. Because with 25 cents and two box tops, a six year old kid could fulfill all his dreams. I still remember the day I saw a picture of this giant submarine on the back of a new kind of cereal box. The label read that if I had a quarter and two box tops, I too, could be captain of this baking soda powered submarine. Well, I asked my mom to buy me two boxes of that new cereal, but she told me she would only buy me one this week, after all, it cost thirty-nine cents and she wasn’t sure I would eat it all. So, for one of the longest weeks of my life I sat every morning eating my cereal dreaming of the day that I could get another box of it while gazing with longing eyes on that submarine that hopefully soon would be mine. Well the day finally arrived when I took my envelope with the two box tops and a whole weeks allowance and walked down to the mailbox assuring myself that the next day, I too, would be the captain of a great toy submarine. But my day of waiting turned out to be a week, then two weeks, then three weeks, and as time went on, I thought every day that ‘this might be the day’ until one day, it came. And even though the submarine wasn’t quite as big as it was in the picture, it was one of the greatest days of my life to be able to fill this little ship with baking soda and watch it sail and dive in my own bath tub. A truly remarkable experience. And you know, to this day, when I eat KIX I still remember that wonderful little toy.

            So, you are probably wondering . . . what do Cracker Jacks and KIX Cereal have to do with the lessons this morning? Well, it seems to me that some of our greatest preachers work on Madison Avenue as salesman, getting us all enthused on everything from hairspray to bug killer. They do it by planting seeds, and they make millions of dollars doing it because we buy the products that they are convincing us that we need. They do it by piquing our interest, by giving a little hope here and creating a little faith there, letting the enthusiasm for their products grow, until everyone in America wants to jump like Michael Jordan, or look like Katie Holms. The people at Madison Avenue are in the business of spreading their good news to create a favorable marketing impression.

            The Church too, is in the business of spreading the Good News, but sometimes it falls woefully short on delivery.    

            As you know, Jesus used parables . . . little stories . . . that were meaningful to the people of his time to pique the interest of his listeners. Today he told them about a planter who walked around planting seeds everywhere. Now, the farmers he was talking to knew how to plant seeds; and it wasn’t by throwing them around anywhere, because if you didn’t clear the soil of stones, pull out the weeds and till the ground and make it fertile, it would be like one big waste of time. Sure, you might get some good plants in the long run, but the seeds falling around the weeds and rocks and pathways would not do well and they knew it. It is only natural.  

Obviously, this sower wasn’t much of a farmer to plant in this way. But Jesus wasn’t actually talking about farmers, he was talking about his disciples. He was telling them that spreading the Good News in the world will seem at times like a complete waste of time.   You may never, ever see the seeds you plant grow. You will tell your story to as many as will listen, but it will be up to God to make it take hold and give it root and water. You will plant seeds where you know you have not tilled, leaving it up to the Spirit to bring forth the fruit. In this way, it will be God Himself who will be glorified in your work.

            The farmer in today’s story is not Jesus, but his disciples . . . it is YOU and it is me. All of us are here to be dumb farmers planting seeds every day as part of our Christian walk . . . . we are to be about planting seeds of the blessed hope of a New Jerusalem, of the coming of Christ into our lives, and the message of our salvation to a dying and sinful world through acts of kindness, love and compassion. That is THE PLAN . . and it is the only plan. Many think that the plan of Christianity is to open and support a bunch of church buildings where we can come and worship for an hour each week. But Jesus did not come into the world to build buildings with the hope that you would come and fill an envelope every week. Christianity is really not about candles or altars or pews or vestments. The church building and all of its adornments is here simply to bring you a holy focus to your faith. The Church exists only to resound with the call to holiness—the call the Lord makes so clear—and then help those who respond to the call to live their lives in a way that is pleasing to the Lord (rather than pleasing to the world and the flesh). Anything else is just another social club, something that more and more of our churches have now become. The preacher is here to . . . hopefully . . . give you some direction; to help give you some enthusiasm to spread your message. The Church’s purpose is to recharge your batteries every time you come here; to give you something to say and to think about as you go about your daily tasks of working and playing and loving and praying. The leaders of the liberal mainline churches think that by slouching toward the world, the Church will thrive and the world will become holier, purer, and more godly. But it’s precisely the other way around. This week, Magyn Kelly, on Fox news made the comment that the Catholic faith is not for ‘wusses’ . . . and I would most heartily agree with her. To be a catholic takes courage and it takes guts.

The Christian faith really is about YOU. YOU are the reason Jesus came into the world, so that a seed might fall and take root and flourish in a land untilled, and become a great tree with many branches and bear much fruit. And, that on the last day “all the trees of the field might clap their hands” for . . . YOU are the trees of the field from Isaiah, and YOU will be those who will rejoice with song. For on that great day when you see the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven, you will see the culmination of the work of the Spirit in the hearts of all the faithful, and you will know that you had a part in the grand design, the Good News that God and Man are once again united in love . . . and that my friends is the blessed hope that we celebrate each and every week . . . at least in this church.

            Finally, I have been driving to Niagara Falls every day for the past twenty years. And on each trip I have become accustomed to seeing a dandelion growing on the very top of a tall chimney at one of the abandoned plants up there. Well, every spring a dandelion appears in green leaves, then blooms into two or three flowers, and then turns to seed like dandelions do. The winds, which I assume are fierce at the top of a 40 foot chimney carry those seeds probably farther than any other dandelion seed ever travels . . . to parts unknown . . . to places unseen. But as that dandelion grows by itself in the crevice of the bricks at the top of that chimney, depending only on God for water and sunlight, it does more for the ‘dandelion cause’ perched up there in that desolate and precarious place than the thousands of dandelions that grow in the grass at the bottom of the chimney. I have learned from that dandelion that when I feel alone in the world at my job or in my neighborhood, I try to think of myself as God’s own dandelion spreading new life as best I can through acts of kindness, of love, and compassion to parts unknown and places unseen. In the week ahead, think on this, for spreading the gospel message really is your one high calling in a life in grace through Jesus Christ. Amen

This sermon is part of the ministry of the Word at Saint Nicholas Anglican Church in West Seneca, NY in the United States and a Continuing Church in the Anglican Tradition. If you have been helped by any of the sermons or thoughts expressed on this sermon blog, we would love to hear from you at anglicanchurchofsaintnicholas.org .

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