July 6, 2020
You are the seed that will grow a new sprout;
you're a star that will shine in the night;
you are the yeast and a small grain of salt,
a beacon to glow in the dark.
You are the dawn that will bring a new day;
you're the wheat that will bear golden grain;
you are a sting and a soft, gentle touch,
to witness wherever you go.
Go, my friends, go to the world,
proclaim the great love of God;
messengers to tell the way of life,
peace and pardon for all.
Be, my friends, a loyal witness,
from the dead Christ arose;
"Lo, I'll be with you forevermore,
till the end of the world."
[With One Voice #753]
The readings for Sunday, July 12, 2020, the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, are as follows:
The Sower by Vincent Van Gogh (June 1888) Kröller-Müller Museum, The Netherlands
I have always been fascinated with the art of Vincent Van Gogh, and in particular, this one titled "The Sower."
According to blogger Jonathan Kantrowitz , nature was the defining subject of Van Gogh's art. Over the course of his brief, but turbulently complex life, Van Gogh studied and depicted nature in all its forms.
Van Gogh also had a brief venture into ministry, having spent some time as a missionary in Belgium, where he pastored a small congregation for about six months. His passion for religion was apparently a way of battling depression. But art was his true calling. And even though he wasn't a commercial success during his lifetime, some of his paintings are now among the most expensive in the world.
Van Gogh had a special interest in sowers throughout his artistic career. All in all, he made more than 30 drawings and paintings on this theme. I assume, because I didn't read it anywhere in the quick research I did, that his religious studies significantly influenced his art. And we are all the richer for it.
Over the course of the next several weeks, we're going to hear several parables from the Gospel of Matthew that have to do with growing, gardening, planting, and harvesting.
These passages, and its images of plants and weeds, seeds, and soil, teach us a lot about being disciples.
However, the challenge that we are faced with as modern-day listeners of Jesus' parables is that we aren't, for the most part, farmers or vineyard workers or fishermen or shepherds. We don't live in an agrarian culture anymore. For most of us today, our lives are lived indoors, not on the land, and our food comes from Giant Eagle, not from our back yard, and our gardening experience might include some landscaping, but not supporting ourselves with what we grow.
Despite the fact that we live relatively near some fair sized agricultural areas, this coming Sunday's Gospel reading on the parable of the sower still seems a little out of touch with modern times and our understanding of planting. We find it hard to accept that a sower can go out and indiscriminately scatter seed over the land with no concern about where it falls. Any modern planter would tell you in so many words that that is a waste of perfectly good seed. It flies in the face of the current economic crisis that has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic.
And so even though these parables that we are about to hear of seeds and plants and growing sound charming, we have to be extra careful that we understand them.
I see in this parable of the sower specifically, a word of encouragement for pastors and worship leaders. When you come right down to it, you've been sowing a lot of seeds over the last four months in all the work that you've been doing to prepare electronic worship services, whether live or pre-recorded; preaching to microphones in empty, echoey sanctuaries, not knowing whether anyone is really watching or listening. Planters are dependent on elements over which they have no control - the weather, rain, heat, sunshine. Likewise, you will never be able to truly quantify the results.
But the bottom line is that you are doing what God has called you to do. As the apostle Paul told Timothy, "Proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable." [2 Timothy 4:2]
And you have the assurance, as Isaiah states in the Old Testament reading for this Sunday, that the word that goes out from God's mouth shall not return to God empty, but shall accomplish that which God purposes, and succeed in the thing for which God sent it. [Isaiah 55:11]
My electronic meeting schedule this week is as follows:
Monday :        Staff meeting
Assembly Planning Meeting
Wednesday:   Conference meeting with Akron-Wooster, Eastern 
Rostered Ministers
Thursday:        Conference of Bishops Weekly Check-in
We continue with prayers calling for healing, understanding and reconciliation among God's people of different races. Today, this prayer of confession is from our full-communion partners in the Episcopal Church.
Almighty God, Source of all that is, Giver of every good gift:
You create all people in your image and call us to love one another as you love us.
We confess that we have failed to honor you in the great diversity of the human family.
We have desired to live in freedom,
while building walls between ourselves and others.
We have longed to be known and accepted for who we are,
while making judgements of others based on the color of skin, or the shape of features, or
the varieties of human experience.
We have tried to love our neighbors individually
while yet benefitting from systems that hold those same neighbors in oppression.
Forgive us, Holy God.
Give us eyes to see you as you are revealed in all people.
Strengthen us for the work of reconciliation rooted in love.
Restore us in your image, to be beloved community,
united in our diversity,
even as you are one with Christ and the Spirit,
Holy and undivided Trinity, now and forever.
+Bishop Abraham Allende