The Third Sunday after Pentecost
Readings: I Samuel 15: 34-16: 13; Psalm 20; II Corinthians 5: 6-17; Mark 4: 26-34
From II Corinthians we heard, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away, everything has become new”. This passage is the center of the Angelus, the eight-minute devotion observed here on Mondays and Wednesdays at 12 noon. While St. Paul wrote, “there is a new creation… everything has become new” for those in Christ, I would agree with him. However, from my own experience, I would add, “but not all at once”. The remnants, the remainders, of the old life still linger. For everything to be renewed in Christ may take a lifetime and even beyond into the next life. St. Mark reminds us that the Kingdom of God, a life of faith, usually begins small, like the tiny mustard seed that when sown and with the proper care, with nurturing, with watering, with the right conditions, then will grow, and become, again quoting St. Mark, “the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air make their nests in its shade”.
In my life, the seed was planted at baptism at the First Methodist Church in Germantown, Philadelphia. The seed was then nurtured by my parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles among many others. Especially significant for me was for a week each summer, after third grade, attending Camp Fernbrook, outside of Pottstown, and then Camp Mensh Mill, outside of Boyertown. The young plant was encouraged by teachers along the way, and by the experience of Bucknell University, followed by teaching in the Peace Corps in Cameroon, West Africa. Returning from overseas, tremendous growth happened when I was the youth leader at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Glenside, PA. The Rev. Peter Camp and the Rev. Charlie Long were great mentors, and during that same time, my relationship with Leigh grew deeper and deeper. I give thanks to all those who encouraged and enabled my growth as the old passed into the shadows, and the new grew stronger.
I trust that you, too, can recall those who enabled you to move forward on your journey of faith and that you, too, give thanks for their presence in your life in ways that enabled the seed planted at baptism to grow. Today at the Prayers of the People I encourage you to include them, either silently or aloud.
Since most of us are of mature age, I need to ask who have you nurtured, who have you watered, who have you tended, as they have grown and matured along the path of faith. It is not easy being a follower of Jesus in this time of ours. It is not easy for any of us “walking by faith”. As the Prayer of St. Francis reminds us: we are to console, rather than seek consolation for ourselves; we are to understand rather than seek to be understood; we are to love rather than seek love from others.
We also know that some seeds when planted just do not get the opportunity to thrive.
In our first reading today, we hear of the first king of Israel, King Saul. Samuel and the people of Israel wished him to grow in his love of the Lord God, and the people wished him to grow in his service to the Lord God. Our text states that after his anointing, “Samuel did not see Saul again… Samuel grieved over Saul”. The text states that even “the Lord God was sorry that he had made Saul king over Israel”. It does not always work out as we plan, as we hope, as we dream.
As for David, Saul’s successor anointed as a young boy, it was many years before he ascended to the throne of Israel with many twists and turns, not all for the better, in his journey of faith.
In our walk of faith, in our journey of faith, it is good to note verse seven of Psalm 20. “Some put their trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will call upon the Name of the Lord our God”. We call upon the Name of the Lord our God to strengthen our will, our determination, and our courage, to love, to nurture, to care for, and to water the seeds of faith already planted in those around us.
Some may be still young and budding.
Some may have been dormant for a time.
Some may be struggling to survive in hard times.
Some may need support in windblown days.
Some may be broken down or drought damaged.
We can be lovers, we can be caregivers, we can be companions to them in whatever stage of faith we find them.
To conclude, may we always give thanks to God for those who have cared for us in past days, and for those who are by our side in this current day. To echo the words of St. Paul to the struggling congregation in ancient Corinth –
The love of Christ urges us on so that we may live not just for ourselves but for him who died for us and rose again. As we are part of Christ’s community, we see things differently, and we are a new creation, the old is fading and the new is rising up.
Let us rejoice, and let us walk with Christ and one another.