Every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer and invite God’s kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven, we are engaging in an act of imagination and visioning. Any time that we claim something of the prophetic vision or embrace a kingdom/kin-dom image of how we could be living in beloved community together, we are imagining a new reality.
This is a disciple’s task. We are called to see more than simply what is—not that disciples ignore the world as it is. We are not called to be “so heavenly minded that we are not earthly good”! No, we do live in the world that is. But we also hold out hope, a living, driving, motivating hope for what could be. For what is promised. We lean into the promises of God with joy and with confidence, even as we recognize how far we still must go to reach that mountaintop.
There is optimism to the disciple’s path, a destination always in mind and heart as we move through the world. These aren’t rose-colored glasses that make things look better than they are, but a certainty that the church is still a force for good in the world, that justice is still within reach as hearts and minds and behaviors are changed. And that there is a God who will bring the new reality into being in and through us and sometimes despite us. That means we work for the winning side. Just think, what could we accomplish if we were certain we wouldn’t fail? What invitations could we issue, what hope could we offer, what joy could we share if we could see the new reality God has in store for all of creation? It all begins with the ability to imagine a new reality.
This familiar parable can easily be interpreted, mostly because Jesus gave us the clue in our text for this week. We don’t have to hunt around for meaning this time. Instead, we look for applications. Or rather we learn to live into the parable. There are many directions that we could take with this for worship this week. The theme for this part of the “Path of the Disciple” series invites us to look at potential. We are asked to imagine fruitfulness and then to work for that in the whole ministry of the church. We look for seeds— and not just at the dirt. We look for potential and not just for limitations or barriers. We move from “if only” to “see what God is doing in our midst!”
Let worship be a celebration of ministry no matter what stage of development and planning. It may be fully formed and producing fruit obvious to all, or it may be embryonic, just a seed planted and not yet grown into what it will be. Both, all, are worthy of celebrating and giving God thanks for what is happening through the labor of your hand and the investment of the Spirit. And maybe there could be a call to the seed casters who have not yet even begun, saying that God is calling and investing in you, in us, the church. Where can the seed of the word be thrown in your community, and who will join with those who are sowing those seeds of faith and of love? This would be a good week to launch something new and bless those who are working in the seed-casting ministry. Or to thank those tireless workers who continue to give of themselves to the mission of making disciples in your local context.
There is also discernment in this parable. Some soils simply won’t produce the fruitfulness God requires. The decision to stop doing ministries that aren’t working is one that can be stressful for a local congregation, and worship isn’t really the setting for making that decision. However, worship can be a moment to bless the effort and to say thank you to those who had labored, even as you are setting aside certain programs or ministries. It can be a grace-filled moment that can help with the grief of letting go.
As we worship, we celebrate the kingdom, or the kin-dom, that is being called into being through us. What does that look like for your community? What does producing a hundred-fold of the fruit of discipleship look like? What impact will you have on your neighborhood, on the children and youth in your midst? Dream a little bit this week. But let your dreams grow from the seeds that you are planting right now. See beyond the dirt to the fruit God will bring.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.