“Sow and Sow” by Pastor Rosanna McFadden
Good morning! It is good to be back with you, and great to have an extra hour to sleep in and prepare for the day. Tim and I had a relaxing week away in Florida; a perceptive person asked me about the fall colors on the drive home and when we started to see the trees turn — of course I knew the answer to that. The colors in southern and central Indiana were beautiful! It may not be New England with spectacular colors spread across the hills, but it’s good to be home.
I am going to leave tree imagery behind — reluctantly — because our text from 2 Corinthians is working a different metaphor; its one you can hardly avoid in Northern Indiana, even if you have never been a farmer. It certainly would have been a familiar concept in the 1st century when Paul was writing to the church at Corinth. Chapter 9 verses 6-10 is part of a longer section of Paul writing to thank the Corinthians for their financial support of his mission and the young church in Jerusalem. I like how verse 6 begins, “The point is this . . .” those should be encouraging words to hear in any letter or any sermon, because it means that the author or the preacher is actually getting to the point. So here’s the deal: if you don’t plant anything, you’re not going to harvest anything. I am not a farmer, nor even much of gardener, but this a concept even I can grasp: You get nothing from 100% of the seeds you don’t plant.
Of course, Paul doesn’t stop there, and I’m not going to either. It stands to reason that the more you plant, the more you are likely to harvest. But notice the qualifier there, because this is where the agricultural metaphor gets a little shaky. Of course, the more you plant the more you are likely to harvest. But any farmer knows that this isn’t a guaranteed process. You can plant a lot of seeds and have a drought year or an insect infestation or a labor shortage and not get much of a harvest at all. So in verse 7, Paul kind of leaves the whole planting thing behind and adds something different to the mix. What if our harvest depends not only our planting, but on our attitude? I’m pretty sure that farmers come with all different personalities — although I’m sure that patience is a quality which wears well — but whether you are cynical or optimistic or resigned about the seeds you plant doesn’t really make a difference in the harvest.
Not so for a harvest of righteousness. In fact, in God’s field, how we plant may be as important as what we plant, and how we plant will have a big effect on what we harvest. I don’t know how many of you are reading or using the Grateful devotional journals: I have heard from some of you who are and been part of a discussion in the New Life Sunday School class, and I am so pleased and touched by the responses you have shared. I don’t expect you to be reading ahead, but if you get as far as this coming Tuesday, November 9, you are going to encounter part of these same verses and this question: What kind of giver are you? Actually, you’ll be asked to fill in the blank “I am a _________ giver.” This is not a simple question for many of us. Maybe you’d rather give time than money; maybe you don’t have money to spare; maybe you’re mad and aren’t going to give anything at all until the preacher stops talking about money all the time. Of course, Paul doesn’t go into all that, he says, “Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a (?) cheerful giver.”
We are going to have our fall congregational meeting immediately after worship this morning. I hope you will all stay, whether you are a member of this congregation or not. Let me assure you, no one — not me, not Larry our Board chair, not Gene our moderator — is going to compel you to give anything. As if we could. But what I would hope you have considered or will consider is what our congregation is planting, how we are planting it, and what we hope to harvest. You have reports from most of our long-term ministry teams about what they have done and are doing. Some may be planting corn, some beans, some squash, some tomatoes (!), but all of these ministries are intended to yield a harvest of righteousness: good things for our community — both the community inside these walls and the community outside of our building. You may have opinions or suggestions or helpful critique about what these folks are planting or how they are doing it. That’s fine — we welcome those comments and want to make our ministries as robust as they can be. And I can tell you, those comments will be even more welcome if you are willing to get your hands dirty and work out in the field, rather than just telling other folks how they should do the job.
But most importantly, I want to say something which I am uniquely positioned to tell you, because I am standing behind the pulpit. And that is: Thank you. We are so grateful for your commitment to Christ and the church. We are grateful for your financial gifts to support our ministries and to maintain this building. We are grateful for your giving over and above our budget to help pay down our mortgage. We are grateful for the many, many hours that you spend in service to this church: teaching Sunday School, making food in the kitchen, working in the garden, paying bills and balancing books, trimming bushes and pulling weeds; creating screens and running cameras — and this is just a sampling, I know I haven’t mentioned everything. We are grateful for the unique gifts which each person brings from their own field, and we pray that be working together, we would discover and encourage gifts you didn’t know you had. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
And here is the reason we should give cheerfully: are you ready — so God can give us more. God gives us more so that we can give even more and get more. That is how abundance works. No one ever experienced abundance by holding on tightly to what they have. You can accumulate a lot by holding on tight, but that is not abundance, that is hoarding. God doesn’t love a cheerful hoarder — I don’t even know if those two words can go together. Hoarders are motivated by scarcity, not abundance. Hoarders keep things, and givers — well, they give things away. God gives us every blessing in abundance, so that by having enough of everything we can share abundantly.
People give cheerfully — that is, they sow seeds with abandon — when they have faith in the outcome. Maybe that outcome is not of direct benefit to them; in fact, it takes more faith to plan for an outcome that we may not see. Planting trees is a different commitment than planting radishes. We do not minister in the name of Christ so that we can get more people inside this church who will tithe toward our programs. A harvest of righteousness is more complicated than that: sometimes what we plant causes us to grow. Ask anyone who has been involved in our community ministries. It is not only our crops, but we who flourish when we give and work cheerfully.
Thank you again for your giving and the good work you have done in the name of Christ. There will always be more work to do, but those who sow bountifully will also reap bountifully. May God bring forth a harvest of righteousness for us and for our neighbors. Amen.