The Parable of the Sower

A parable (Greek for “turn around or turn aside”) is a story that leads you to an unexpected conclusion and a different way of thinking about something.  It usually has a shock value.  If the parable that you hear in the Bible doesn’t shock you, then I think you don’t fully understand it.
In this parable, there is a story, but originally (at least for me), there is no shock.  I hear it and go, ok, I get it.  We all do different things with the grace we have been given.  So where is the shock?  As a farmer in Jesus day, they grow a crop and careful divide a portion of the harvest to save for seed next planting season.  You don’t want to place too much seed aside and have some left over, because you could have sold it and made money.  You don’t want to place aside too little and jeopardize the size of next year’s crop.  So, you want to make a thrifty decision with what seed is going to be saved for next year’s planting.  When next year comes, the sower is very deliberate and stingy with the precious seed.  He certainly does not want to waste any.  Yet this sower is careless with the seed and throws it on a path and rocky ground.  This carelessness would have gotten the ire of the farmer’s listening.  Why wouldn’t the sower just sow only on the fertile soil?  The carelessness of the sower would have driven the sowers that heard this “crazy.”
Jesus is saying that he gives everyone a chance to get the seed and to grow.  He is generous with his seed. The seed is his responsibility and the growing is our responsibility.  He may even know that the seed might be wasted, but Jesus will give us a chance with the hope that some crop will grow.
Pastor Gerry
The Gospel Reading: MATTHEW 13:1-9, 18-23

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!”

“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Come Unto Me…

This picture is of those that are weary with heavy burdens.  These people have been devalued, displaced, with nowhere to go.  They have only what is on their backs and what they are carrying which isn’t much.  Worst yet, they can’t see the future being good for them. Everything we can see from this picture and what we know tells the tale of extreme outside pressure that weighs these people down.  Through no fault of their own, they are caught and they can’t get out of it.  I think this is the extreme of being weary and with heavy burdens. 
These people cannot change their fate.  What happens to them depends on the saving grace of other people.  They need someone to step in and help them.  Someone that will give them rest and a new start.
Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and with heavy burdens and I will give you rest for my yoke is easy and my burden light.”
            From the extreme situations of these pictures, we can see the people’s burdens thrust upon them and we can understand the need for grace from others.  That is the point for us this morning.  But this pattern is not just for such extreme situations.  We are all captive to sin and cannot free ourselves.  We can fool ourselves that we are pretty good, but we have an inherent selfishness.  Some people think because of their success or accomplishments that they are above and beyond sin. Today we hear St. Paul talk about this and Jesus offer a promise of grace for us.  This promise lightens our load.  It gives us hope.  Let’s see.  

Pastor Gerry

The Gospel Reading: : MATTHEW 11:16-19, 25-30

 Jesus said to the crowd, “To what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,
        ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”
At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
       “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Our Role in the Kingdom of God

As we know what the Kingdom of God is, how it works and that that it has the ability to be visible through us, what is it that we are supposed to do?  Is just being in the Kingdom of God enough?

I think that if we see the Kingdom of God and are part of it, then it is pretty hard to keep this discovery to ourselves.  We can’t go around like pious angels and say we are worthy because God has revealed himself to us.  We can’t be satisfied that God is here and we all are happy.  Frankly, I do not think God would be satisfied with that either.  In fact, biblically, Jesus says so—a zillion times.  Today, Jesus tells us to go be fishers of people.  We think of the happy pictures of a great catch and we think that it is all fun and joy.  We may even think if we don’t catch a fish that we are not cut out to be a fisher of people.  But what is fishing like really and what do you think Jesus said and the disciples understood about fishing for people?  Today we may find out a little more and we hope it makes us be better fishers ourselves.

Pastor Gerry

The Gospel Reading: : MATTHEW 4:18-25

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

KingdomOfGod, Virginia… Where is it?

The Kingdom of God is within you.
To be clearer, maybe we should say the power of the Kingdom of God is revealed through you.  Yes, God works through all of us to reveal his kingdom.  Sometimes we know it.   Sometimes we don’t.  Most of the times it is after something happened that we look back and say, “What just happened there?  That wasn’t my intent.  That wasn’t me that made that happen—there were too many other factors.”  That is the power of the Kingdom of God.
When we realize that we are the vehicles that the work of God gets done, we pause and we start asking questions.  What is God doing through me now?  What is it that God could do through me?  How do I make myself ready to do what God needs to spread the gospel?  These are all the tough questions that prime us for our next mission whether we know it or not.
Today, we talk about the parable of the mustard seed ( an underestimated parable of the Kingdom of God)  to lead us in an understanding of the power of the Kingdom of God within us.

Pastor Gerry

KingdomOfGod, Virginia

Kingdom of God, Virginia
On Sunday June 18, June 25, and July 3 we will have a Sermon Series on the Kingdom of God. The reason that I picked this topic is that I think that we need to be reminded that the presence of God is around us and part of us---or at least part of what we are trying to do individually or as a church.  If we understand that God is trying to show himself in his kingdom, here in Leesburg, VA through us that may help us in our self-understanding as we begin our planning process.

What is it like?

More than anything else, Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is like….this.   But it is still so fuzzy.  We feel the need to ask the come down to earth questions: Who? What? Where? Why? And How?  That is because Jesus doesn’t give us a tangible picture.  Why is that (oops!)?   The next Three weeks we will talk about that. We will explore how God works among us and how God is revealed to us in all the Kingdom of God moments that we experience.  
This week, we will be talking about what the Kingdom of God is like.  Where is it? How do we see it?  And maybe it is more tangible than we thought.  So maybe the Kingdom of God will be near this Sunday morning, you won’t know unless you see for yourself.  Let us find out together.
Pastor Gerry

What is the Holy Trinity?

Did you ever think about what the Holy Trinity is?  Yes, we know it is the God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Yes, we know that it is three persons in one God.  But really, besides that what are they?  They are the way God reveals himself to us.  We see Him in the result of creation.  We see Him in our Savior, Jesu Christ, and we see Him in the good that surrounds us.  God is everywhere.  Always coming, always breaking out, always finding new ways to reveal to us that something else besides ourselves is going on.  Also, in the Trinity, the most important characteristic about God is revealed: Relationship.  God enjoys and thrives in the eternal relationship of God in the Trinity.  Perhaps that is a good example for us as we enjoy and live in our relationships too.
As we celebrate our Holy Trinity birthday party, think about what the Holy Trinity mean to us.  What is about the Holy Trinity that guides us or grounds us?  What do we have in the guiding light of a name for our community as Holy Trinity Lutheran Church?

This is Pentecost Sunday

People from the crowd said, as Peter and the Apostles spoke, and people from every land understood them, “How is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language?”  What does this mean? 

Let me take a guess: Maybe God wanted others to hear about His Son, Jesus and the love God has for all of us.   There are so many dividing lines between peoples and nations.  Even today, there are so many barriers to just sitting down and enjoying each other’s diversity—or maybe enjoying what we have in common---our faith in Jesus Christ.  Maybe we all have something to learn from each other’s witness to God.  The ELCA has given each synod three sister synods from around the world so that we can do just that.  We partner with Estonia, a breakout of the Russian block; Namibia, the survivor of a segregated Africa; and El Salvador, one of the deadliest countries in the world.  When we witness to each other, we all are made stronger in faith, and our world gets smaller.  The fire of the Holy Spirit spreads.     

Sermon Series: TheKingdomofGod, Virginia

“Fella, don’t you know, you are in God’s country now!” Many people would say that Virginia is God’s country (most of them live in Virginia. I suppose that the same is true for Leesburg people as well.) We may have something special here, but in God’s eyes, we have something special everywhere. It is called the Kingdom of God.

Jesus talks of it coming, it being near, and now it is here! In fact, Jesus talks about the Kingdom of God more than anything else. So, I guess it is important enough to focus on and talk about for a three week series.

  • June 18: What is the KingdomOfGod like?
  • June 25: The KingdomOf God is within you
  • July 2: The KingdomOfGod, Leesburg, VA

There will be specific readings, prayers, and hymns that direct us in this great message of Jesus. We are part of the Kingdom of God. Let’s talk about it.

Pastor Gerry

Getting to Know You…

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

My Mom was a singer and an organist for a church. Growing up as a kid she would sing a favorite song all the time. I never really paid much attention but as an adult some show tunes are permanently programed in my head. One of her favorites was “Getting to know you” sung by Julie Andrews featured in the musical: “The King and I.”

“Getting to know you, getting to know all about you. Getting to like you, getting to hope you like me. Getting to know you, putting it my way, but nicely, you are pre- cisely, my cup of tea.”

Alright I admit it, as corny as it is, that tune has made its way to my consciousness right now. Thanks Mom.

Each Easter we celebrate the life, death, and resurrec- tion of our Savior. And we get to know him once again. We get to know him once again and that sets us up for the rest of the year. It is all about getting to know him. When hardship happens in our life, circumstance forces us to look at him. When great joy fills our hearts, we turn to him and thank him. In fact, in all our human experiences, we are prodded to look his way. “Getting to know you….”

This Easter the words of “Getting to know you” has a different meaning as you experience your spiritual journey shared with me, your new pastor. While we focus on “Getting to know” each other, we also are prodded to look beyond that to see the workings of Jesus Christ, our loving Savior, in the development of our relationship and its direc- tion. So far, I have been blessed and amazed by what has happened to me. But I also know that there is so much more to come. I am excited about that.

Together with the Congregation Council, we are planning Cottage Meetings (evening meetings of church people in people’s homes) starting around May 20. They will be hosted by people in the congregation and one will be held in Leesburg, Ashburn, and Purcellville. We understand, you may be tired from work. You may need to get a babysitter. There may be a million ways to spend your evening. We ask that you help us by spending one evening with us. During that time, we would like to know your thoughts and dreams for this church community. In short, we are getting to know you, getting to know all about you. From these meetings, the council will have a planning retreat and follow up with a planning session for the whole congregation in late summer or fall.

I am amazed how vested people are in this community. We all want to do God’s work here (That is called growth), and we all seem eager to make that happen. It is all about the abundance of resources we share and how to effectively share them for the benefit of God reaching all he can. There is no better or more nobler challenge. But that challenge is all of ours together. We can’t wait to hear and share in the discussions about this community we love at the Cottage Meetings. So, please look for the sign-up and maybe bring a church friend.

A later verse of the song is: Sharing your spirit, sharing your tears and your laughter, hoping it goes on, hoping it lasts endlessly. You are completely, my friend you see. Let us all sing along: Lord, getting to know you—Friend: Getting to know you like me,

Have a wonderful Spring,

Pastor Gerry

Make a Joyful Noise

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

I have been overwhelmed with the greetings and enthusiasm that I have experienced in my first week here at Holy Trinity. Ok, one would expect that people would greet me and say something nice, like, “We are glad you are here.” But that is not what I am hearing. People are talking to me about their hopes and dreams and what we could do and be as this mission of Jesus Christ in Leesburg. You all have greeted me with excitement and eagerness in a way that makes me feel that this has all been worked out already. To say this another way, the Holy Spirit is somewhere in this process of transition, and truth be told---I am so glad to be here to be a part of it!

So, I had a little epiphany that I want to share with you. As you know, I was here in 1997 with Pastor Wuebbens. As a parting gift, he and Anne gave me a calligraphy picture of the first line of Psalm 100: “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord.” Both Pastor and I enjoy music, but that was not a big thing for us to share. So, the selection of this psalm was a little strange, but maybe it was the best-looking picture or he picked it for some other reason besides the joyful music message. I have always had that picture in my church office to remind me of him and my experience at Holy Trinity.

Then when I got the picture out to put it on the wall (Please come and see it!). I stopped in my tracks. It didn’t say make joyful music – it said make joyful noise.

What if the noise is not meant as music? What if it meant make a sound – make a difference – create some- thing that shares God’s glory – JOYFUL NOISE!

Suddenly that was not just a psalm anymore – it was a prophecy. We need to make joyful noise. I am so impressed with the skills and talents of the people here, especially the staff. I am so impressed with the devotion – you guys installed your own pipe organ. My goodness you have fire here. We have been making joyful noise and we are called to continue to make more joyful noise. To me that means that we need to make a difference in our lives of faith and in the lives of faith of others, the families in our preschool, the young adults of our families, our neighbors, Helen and Joe (from the sermon), our community, our schools, and whoever else God puts in our path. We need to make a difference.

I am so excited with that charge. I am excited to talk to the preschool families. I am so excited to visit aging members. I am so excited to talk to people in our community. I am so excited to connect with people that I knew for a year, twenty years ago. I am so excited to have the opportunity to do cottage meetings (meeting of a group of people in someone’s home for me to listen to their hopes and dreams). I am so excited to plan a Church Council retreat. I am so excited and energized with every meeting and conversation I have with the ministers (staff and leaders) that I share God’s ministry here at Holy Trinity.

“Make a joyful noise to the Lord.” Yep. We will do just that. We are on that already. Thank you for allow- ing me to be a part of something so exciting! The Holy Spirit is with you – I feel its presence. More joyful noise is on the way!

Pastor Gerry Johnson