Rejoice! for God is working in the dirt and our seeds are beginning to spout.
Vicar Andrea Bonneville
The Third Sunday of Advent, year B
Texts: Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11; Psalm 126; 1 Thess 5:16-24; John 1:6-8, 19-28
Beloved in Christ, grace and peace to you in the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my whole being shall exult in my God; For as the earth brings forth its shoots, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations (Isaiah 61:10-11).
The prophet Isaiah proclaims the promise that God will cause sprouts of goodness and joy. This is exactly the hope that we need in this bleak midwinter.
We are together in our waiting and anticipation asking when God’s transformation will happen and wondering how it will take root. Transformation that will alter our personal lives and the world we live in.
This transformation makes me think of a poem that is accredited to Saint Oscar Romero. The poem says:
This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water the seeds already planted knowing that they hold future promise.
Being patient gardeners is what we are about. Tending soil and anticipating growth. It may be hard to imagine yourself as a gardener, especially in December, but you have already planted seeds.
As we heard in our Psalm for today, those who go out weeping [bear] seeds for sowing (Psalm 126:6).
Through our laments and through our crying out against injustice, we have planted seeds. Maybe it was last week, or a month ago, six months ago, ten months ago. We have planted seeds of prayer, action, and hope.
We have been tending to the seeds. Watering. Watching. Waiting. Aside from providing the seeds with care and comfort, the growing of the seeds has been practically out of our control.
We don’t know what is happening in the soil. For our seeds have been planted in God’s garden.
What do we know about the Triune God’s garden? That the Holy Spirit is at work in the dirt and the soil is rich in nutrients of healing, justice, and peace.
And now Beloved, God’s garden is doing what it is created to do. It is doing what it has done for many generations. God’s garden is beginning to sprout again.
The seeds that have been growing under the soil for some time now are beginning to reveal themselves to us. A sign that even in our waiting, God has been tending to the soil transforming our seeds into sprouts of joy.
Can you see them?
It is okay if you are having a hard time seeing them.
I must admit that I tend to have a hard time seeing sprouts of joy. When I look at a garden, I often think more about the seeds that have not sprouted, or focus too much on the weeds, or don’t know how to discern between a weed and a sprout. At times, I need the community of Christ to show me where sprouts of joy can be found.
The community has led me to Rejoice!
As creation has been healing. Many countries are reporting cleaner air, there is now a new plastic-eating super-enzyme that breaks down plastic in a matter of days rather than hundreds of years, and many near extinct species are making a comeback, such as the endangered blue whale.
as work is being done to create temporary shelters and support is being given to encampments around the city through mutual aid and more and more affordable and attainable housing is becoming available in our communities.
as we learn the COVID vaccine is about to arrive in MN and that the first priority groups will receive a vaccine before the end of the year, and that conversations are happening about how to build up our communities again in new and creative ways.
As leaders from minority communities are appointed to local and national leadership and bring their voice to places that never listened to them before. Leading and guiding to make change to some or our most destructive systems.
Rejoice! God is doing great things!
Like John in our Gospel reading for today, we must witness and testify. We must witness and testify to the sprouts of joy. Proclaiming that once the first seeds sprout, more seeds are going to sprout. And the sprouts are going to grow into plants. And by God’s grace and mercy, the plants will eventually produce a harvest.
We must not be disheartened that our sprouts are not producing a harvest yet. Of course, we would like to see the fullness of the harvest of God’s reconciliation and healing for all of creation. But we must put our trust in God who will bring forth a harvest greater than any of us can imagine.
As the poem attributed to Saint Oscar Romero reminds us,
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the [gardener]. We are [gardeners], not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future that is not our own.
We may never see the harvest of the seeds that have been planted, but God’s promise to us is that God will cause sprouts of righteousness and praise to spring up!
So let’s grab our gardening tools and get back to watering, waiting, and watching. For Paul reminds us that God who calls [us] is faithful and God will do this (1 Thessalonians 5:24).