This sermon was offered in the community of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT on July 11, 2021. It can be viewed on our YouTube Channel: Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC. We are in the final week of our Amos sermon series: Let Justice Roll Like Waters.
The texts were:
Amos 9: 11-15
Mark 4: 26-34
Young Friends Time: What do you want to do when you grow up? (Accept all answers) Those are all great ideas and I know that you can do those things if you want to! When I was younger, I wanted to do all kinds of things when I got older. Play my violin professionally, teach children, and I thought I knew what my life would look like and how awesome it would look! I could be the best violinist, the greatest teacher. I thought that as an adult I wanted to be awesome, famous, or infamous, and everyone would look up to me. It turns out that’s not true, and that’s not even a good thing most of the time. We think of growing up as getting taller and more important. We think that we need to be famous like movie and tv actors or bands or singers or dancers or authors. But God sees it differently. In our bible stories today, we hear that we are all important, but as important as a small seed. But you see, we matter, because God cares for us and plants us. God raises us, grow us up and God wants us to use our gifts not to be big and famous but to spread out, not necessarily up where people would look up at us, but grow so that people could see and connect with us. You see, if I was famous, I wouldn’t be here with you maybe, and that would be sad. God planted me to grow from CO to UT and planted you to join with me and all these people here who grew from different places, to cover the earth with what Jesus calls the kingdom of God, which are fancy words for God wanting us all to be one big family and help each other, share, make sure no one is hungry, lonely, living without a house. That’s what it means. God wants us to be like weeds that you can’t get rid of and keep growing. God is growing you, and God is still growing me too. We never stop growing up with God. We are going to talk mor about that.
I have to tell you; I don’t know what it really means to be grown up or to be a grown up. Our two young adult children call us periodically asking for help in what we call “adulting.” Which they have decided is overrated. Most of the time, we can field their questions as we’ve had a similar experience. However, from time to time, they hit on something that is new to even us. Such as this week my very employed daughter started getting mail to file for unemployment and we’re pretty sure someone is trying to steal or has stolen her identity. This is a new one for us. And Kayla was a little surprised I think when we admitted we had to research what to do. We were growing together. We had our children fairly young, in our early 20’s, and some people wondered about that, but I can remember my dad commenting once “you know, you just grow up together and that isn’t a bad thing.” Well, you may have to ask Kayla and Andrew if that is a good thing or a bad thing, but it was our thing. It wasn’t perfect, not always pretty, but we did grow together and our bond is remains close.
I was thinking about growing together in conjunction with our Amos and Mark texts and particularly in retrospect of the whole of the book of Amos. God was an unhappy parent with the Israelites and the Israelites didn’t even really understand why. God’s words were harsh, and knew that consequences, learning, was needed yet God never walks away. I can remember in seminary my Hebrew Bible professor telling us that particularly in the Hebrew Bible, we witness God learning to be well, God. God is growing up with us, God’s very creation and changes strategies with us when necessary.
God expels the first humans from the garden, yet clothes them. The people are living without healthy boundaries so God floods the world, yet saves some humans and creatures. Abraham and Sarah make poor choices, but God still makes them the beginning a people. David lies and kills and yet is still the king and the ancestral line for the Messiah. The people turn from God, and yes, God sends them into exile. The people align with the Roman Empire, and God sends Jesus, to end the cycle of separation and death once and for all. The prophets, such as Amos, proclaim this tension: yes, God will not turn a blind eye to the people hurting each other, blaming each other, silencing each other, exploiting creation, yet, God also won’t give up on raising us, growing us to something new. You see, God wants us to grow, but we think that we are the ones responsible for our own growing and we think that we know where we want to grow which, always gets us into trouble. Like Sarah, we laugh at the thought of new life out of barrenness. Luckily, God understands that our vision of growth is myopic, and stunted. We envision growth as being great by worldly standards whether that is status, fame, wealth, or power. God envisions our growth as far more tenacious and lasting than those things. God envisions our growth as connection, as tendrils of roots constantly searching for what is life giving, connecting, nourishing, healthy, and sustainable. Hence the seeds are insignificant and small yet can’t be stopped. Seeds that grow not necessarily the tallest or the most important, but seeds that grow to provide for others, seeds that grow to be a safe haven, protection and care for all who flock to it. God plants us as seeds not for our own growth alone, but for people to encounter us, connect with us and yes, maybe even be annoyed by our presence and tenacity.
Friends, we are growing. Maybe not the way we thought, maybe not how we thought, but God is growing us. It’s not about being the greatest but being in God’s care and responding to what we were planted to do. On Thursday I was part of a bush in the Kingdom of God hoping to invade the tall trees of government and capitalism to demand shelter for our siblings in need with the Coalition of Religious Communities in SLC. We unfurled our unimpressive leaves to provide cover for the people who are unseen and outcast, the people who live with mental illness, disabilities, are LBGTQIA+ and are called names and kicked out of their homes and communities, and the underpaid. I thought it would only be a small bush, but that bush was bigger than I had anticipated, and the roots had connected with the roots of power in the county government and they couldn’t ignore or irradicate us. God had grown us when we weren’t looking and together we were ready for the harvest.
God is growing us and growing with us through God’s kingdom come, right here, right now. We’re not being grown to get into heaven, we’re being grown to bring heaven to earth. When we pray “God’s will be done on earth as in heaven,” we’re praying to grow and more deeply connect to God’s root system. We don’t have to have all the answers, know exactly what to do and say, we need to keep taking that next step of the growth process in our lives as disciples and people of God’s kingdom. We need to be willing to grow, be weedy, hard to get rid of, and connect to God’s roots of love, mercy, hope and grace already infiltrating the world. Thanks be to God.