When I was a child, life was not easy. My dad worked two jobs to try and support my mom and me so that we could buy a home, have nice clothes and enough to eat. He wasn’t home very much, and when he was home he was usually sleeping because he was so tired. I never really got to spend any time with my dad until I was grown up.
My mom worked hard, too. She didn’t have a job but she was always busy cleaning and cooking, and when I was six years old my mother had a baby and another arrived thirteen months later. Then she was incredibly busy and didn’t have much time left over for me. I felt pretty lonely.
One day I went for a walk, by myself as usual, and I went by the church. In those days the church rectory was next door to the church and as I passed by I saw my minister out in the yard digging. I walked over to him to say “hello” and he put down his shovel, sat down in the grass and began talking to me. He didn’t talk at me, he didn’t give me a sermon, he just sat with me and listened to me talk. He asked me all about school and my life in general. We must have sat and talked like that for at least an hour. He did not know it, but those few moments with him changed me. For the first time in my life, I felt like I was special. I felt worthy of having someone listen to me, I felt treasured and cared about. My minister had no idea how much those few moments meant to me. But that day so long ago, he had planted a seed within me.
Thirty years later, I called him on the phone. I had to search through a clergy directory to find him for he had long since moved away to another church. I called him to ask him to preach at my ordination to the priesthood. I told him about that day so long ago when he had changed my life. I told him that one of the things that I felt called to do in my ministry was to take time to listen to people, to value their opinions, to be interested in their lives, to share love and joy with them. I told him that my experience with him had revealed the love and acceptance that God feels for all people. I wanted to be able to reveal God’s love and acceptance to others just as he had for me. My minister had planted a seed, and unknown to him, God had nurtured and grown that seed within me and led me into the ministry. Now I was asking him to help reap the harvest of my call to ministry and share in that moment of ordination with me.
The seed that he planted was tiny, and for years there was no sign of growth, but over the years God nourished that seed, fed it through the church where I worshiped, and watered it as I read the scriptures and said my prayers. And then that seed bloomed to life within me and my life was changed forever.
A SUBSCRIBER SAYS: “Dick, thanks for the very good service. I reshape, toss out, wonder what you were thinking of, and come up with a much better sermon because I have your resource.”
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Today is Father’s day. A day when we celebrate the gift of life that has come through the seed our father planted. Some of us have had wonderful fathers; some of us have not been so blessed. Some dad’s have been very present in our lives, involved in our nurture and growth; some have been invisible or non-existent. Some of our fathers have taught us about life and love and have made us feel valuable and special. Some have loved us unconditionally. Some have ignored us, hurt us or rejected us. No father is perfect. They have all fallen short of giving us all that we need. But no matter how wonderful or awful our father might have been we all have one father, God almighty, who is the perfect parent. The one who does love us unconditionally. Who is never too busy to listen to us. The one who forgives all of the wrongs we have done. The one who never abandons us but always walks beside us in good and bad times.
God has planted a seed within us all: the seed of love. We can nurture and water that seed by attending worship, reading the scripture and saying our prayers. We can help that seed grow by reaching out to our neighbors who are in need. God plants the seed. God wants that seed to grow. God wants us all to flourish.
We have a choice. We can allow God’s seed to grow and thrive, or we can smother it. Bury it too deep inside to be able to reach the surface. We can ignore the seed as it starts to grow by rejecting the urges to step out in faith, change the way we are doing things, reach out to others in need. We can keep the seed from growing by cutting off its supply of water and sun when we don’t worship, pray or study God’s word.
God plants seeds within us all. For long periods of time those seeds may lay dormant. In my case thirty years. But if we look deep within ourselves, if we examine our lives in prayer and study, if we trust that God truly has something wonderful in store for us then we can bloom. And if all of us allow what God has planted within us to bloom, imagine the glorious garden of peace, love, and joy that our world can become.