Sermon Seeds: To Build and to Plant
Sunday, August 21, 2022
Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost | Year C
(Liturgical Color: Green)
Jeremiah 1:4–10 and Psalm 71:1–6
Isaiah 58:9b–14 and Psalm 103:1–8
To Build and to Plant
In and With: Treasure in Heaven (Click here for the series overview.)
By Teña Nock
Our focus text this week centers on God’s word being spoken to and through someone. In this case, it’s the prophet, Jeremiah. I think about what was going on Jeremiah’s day. His time was rife with injustice and self-serving leaders. The people were apathetic and comfortable in doing what was convenient. Doing what was convenient most often did not equate to doing what was just. I believe that this is why Jeremiah was hesitant about what he was being called to say and do.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. We are living in a time rife with injustice, and we are surrounded by self-serving leaders. The masses appear to be apathetic and are committed to doing what’s convenient for them and not what is just for all. These conditions cause all of us to hesitate like Jeremiah when God calls US to say and do things.
God calls Jeremiah and then commissions him. Jeremiah is hesitant to respond, and when he does, he offers reasons why he is not the one God should use. Jeremiah’s main point is that he doesn’t know how to speak because he’s so young. God tells him to stop making excuses and to not worry because he will be given the words to say. God empowered Jeremiah to build and plant, among other things, through the creative power
What if I told you God empowers us to do the same? We don’t have to be “prophets” to flow in the creative power of the prophetic word.
The prophetic word about the future is not spoken to speculate about or to predict the future, but to make known God’s word for the future. The prophet tells his listeners of God’s intentions, and his words set in motion the process of carrying out those intentions. The prophetic word acts to make things happen.Linda B. Hinton
God shares his intentions for Jeremiah in Jeremiah Chapter 1:10 (NRSV):
“See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.”
I think those intentions are the same for us, we just might refer to it as “speaking truth to power” and just like Jeremiah, we get a little scared. We are called to build Beloved community and to plant seeds of Kindom, in a world that often does not seem ideal to do either. It can be hard at times, to remember that the Creator spoke things into existence and empowered us to do the same. It is easy to be deterred by human-imposed barriers such as race, gender, orientation, and even religion. If we remain silent, structures of injustice will continue to be built, and seeds of discord will continue to be planted. The Divine speaks to us and can speak through us, even when we’re afraid.
“Have no fear for giving inJohn Mayer
Have no fear for giving over
You better know that in the end
It’s better to say too much
Than never to say what you need to say again”
Let us sit with the knowledge the God is the original builder and planter. He tells Jeremiah the following in verse 5:
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born, I consecrated you…”
The Creator formed (built) Jeremiah and planted him in his mother’s womb. God did the same with us. All of us were consecrated from the womb, to build communities founded on principles of love and justice. We were and are commissioned to plant seeds in the spirit and in the natural that yield nourishment for the inhabitants of creation, be they great or small. I often think about how we have been taught to pray “thy kindom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” and how we are literally calling Heaven to the earth. These words can compel us to act if we let them.
The creative power of God’s word spoken to us and through us brings into focus things that we might not pay attention to, or we might overlook. It also reminds us that our voices can be used to sound the alarm when necessary, and they can be instruments that facilitate peace. It’s a both /and situation as many aspects of life occur simultaneously. We’re building and planting while plucking up and pulling down. We are trying to experience the treasures of Heaven while living on earth. We are often being called and commissioned to operate in the prophetic without being what we would define as prophets. Some of us are definitive prophets, but most of us are not. And yet, God speaks to us and through us.
“Give to us prophets who will bring hidden horrors to ourAlicia. T. Crosby
who cast vision for a better way of being,
so that when we pursue liberation
our freedom-seeking is communal and complete.”
Our world is not yet what it is intended to be, and we are not yet all that we are going to become, so we have to keep listening as God speaks to us. We have to keep saying what God gives us to say whenever God gives to us. We have to keep going wherever we are sent, whenever we are sent. In doing so, God’s intentions for all to experience, love, peace, justice, and wholeness, can be made manifest and heavenly treasure can be accessed on earth. The key to all is an open heart, listening ears, a willing spirit, and courage.
“Even if your hands are shakingJohn Mayer
And your faith is broken
Even as the eyes are closing
Do it with a heart wide open, a wide heart
Say what you need to say
Say what you need to say”
Hear it, speak it. Build it, plant it. We were made for this.
Reflection from Voices of People of African Descent
The 33rd General Synod adopted a Resolution to Recognize the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent (2015-2024). As part of its implementation, Sermon and Weekly Seeds offers Reflection from Voices of People of African Descent related to the season or overall theme for additional consideration in sermon preparation and for individual and congregational study.
“Maybe what will really work is we all need to have a fear tree in our backyard or a small fear plant growing on our apartment windowsill. When we are feeling uneasy we pluck a few leaves and find the right place to put them. Champagne would be the number one choice but spaghetti works, too. Have a little fear at least once a week and you will build up your resistance. Like a vaccination. Then, when wars and hatreds come along you’ll be able to recognize that’s just another expression of Fear. No thanks, I’ve had my quota.”
— Nikki Giovanni
For further reflection
“Do not chase another human being. Instead, chase your curiosity. Chase your development and your goals. Chase your passion. Strive to work for something bigger than yourself, and instead of trying to convince someone that you fit within their world, strive to build your own.” — Bianca Sparacino
“We will go out into the world and plant gardens and orchards to the horizons, we will build roads through the mountains and across the deserts, and terrace the mountains and irrigate the deserts until there will be garden everywhere, and plenty for all, and there will be no more empires or kingdoms, no more caliphs, sultans, emirs, khans, or zamindars, no more kings or queens or princes, no more quadis or mullahs or ulema, no more slavery and no more usury, no more property and no more taxes, no more rich and no more poor, no killing or maiming or torture or execution, no more jailers and no more prisoners, no more generals, soldiers, armies or navies, no more patriarchy, no more caste, no more hunger, no more suffering than what life brings us for being born and having to die, and then we will see for the first time what kind of creatures we really are.” — Kim Stanley Robinson
“I think there are two types of writers, the architects and the gardeners. The architects plan everything ahead of time, like an architect building a house. They know how many rooms are going to be in the house, what kind of roof they’re going to have, where the wires are going to run, what kind of plumbing there’s going to be. They have the whole thing designed and blueprinted out before they even nail the first board up. The gardeners dig a hole, drop in a seed and water it. They kind of know what seed it is, they know if planted a fantasy seed or mystery seed or whatever. But as the plant comes up and they water it, they don’t know how many branches it’s going to have, they find out as it grows.” — George R.R. Martin
Suggested Congregational Response to the Reflection
Prophetic listening. Invite the congregation into a time of directed silence to ponder what needs building and planting in your faith community and/or the community beyond those borders. After a few moments, allow space to share what has been revealed during that time. You may consider receiving responses throughout the following week and sharing them at your next gathering.
Crosby, Alicia T. “How Can I Confess for My Nation?” Spong, Martha, ed. The Words of Her Mouth. Cleveland: The Pilgrim Press, 2020.
Hinton, Linda B. Cokesbury Basic Bible Commentary: Jeremiah and Lamentations. Nashville: Abingdon Press (Graded Press), 1988.
Mayer, John. “Say”. Los Angeles, CA: Aware-Columbia (Record Label), 2007.
A Bible study version of this reflection is at Weekly Seeds.
Jeremiah 1:4–10 and Psalm 71:1–6
Isaiah 58:9b–14 and Psalm 103:1–8
4 Now the word of the LORD came to me saying,
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” 7 But the LORD said to me,
“Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’;
for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you.
8 Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
says the LORD.”
9 Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me,
“Now I have put my words in your mouth.
10 See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.”
1 In you, O LORD, I take refuge;
let me never be put to shame.
2 In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me;
incline your ear to me and save me.
3 Be to me a rock of refuge,
a strong fortress, to save me,
for you are my rock and my fortress.
4 Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of the unjust and cruel.
5 For you, O Lord, are my hope,
my trust, O LORD, from my youth.
6 Upon you I have leaned from my birth;
it was you who took me from my mother’s womb.
My praise is continually of you.
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
10 if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
11 The LORD will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail.
12 Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to live in.
13 If you refrain from trampling the sabbath,
from pursuing your own interests on my holy day;
if you call the sabbath a delight
and the holy day of the LORD honorable;
if you honor it, not going your own ways,
serving your own interests, or pursuing your own affairs;
14 then you shall take delight in the LORD,
and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth;
I will feed you with the heritage of your ancestor Jacob,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
1 Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name.
2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and do not forget all his benefits—
3 who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
4 who redeems your life from the Pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
5 who satisfies you with good as long as you live
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
6 The LORD works vindication and justice for all who are oppressed. 7 He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel. 8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
18 You have not come to something that can be touched, a blazing fire, and darkness, and gloom, and a tempest, 19 and the sound of a trumpet, and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that not another word be spoken to them. 20 (For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned to death.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.”) 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
25 See that you do not refuse the one who is speaking; for if they did not escape when they refused the one who warned them on earth, how much less will we escape if we reject the one who warns from heaven! 26 At that time his voice shook the earth; but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what is shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us give thanks, by which we offer to God an acceptable worship with reverence and awe; 29 for indeed our God is a consuming fire.
10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11 And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” 13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” 15 But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” 17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.