Pentecost 6: When you feel like dirt

Prelude:Make Me a Servant,”
Call to Worship:

Blessed be the holy Trinity, +one God, whose steadfast love is everlasting,                            whose faithfulness endures from generation to generation.  Amen

Confession and Forgiveness:  Blessed be the holy Trinity, ☩ one God, whose steadfast love is everlasting,whose faithfulness endures from generation to generation. Amen.

Trusting in the mercy of God, let us confess our sin.  Reconciling God, we confess that we do not trust your abundance, and we deny your presence in our lives. We place our hope in ourselves and rely on our own efforts. We fail to believe that you provide enough for all. We abuse your good creation for our own benefit. We fear difference and do not welcome others as you have welcomed us. We sin in thought, word, and deed. By your grace, forgive us; through your love, renew us; and in your Spirit, lead us; so that we may live and serve you in newness of life. Amen.


Beloved of God, by the radical abundance of divine mercy we have peace with God through ☩ Christ Jesus, through whom we have obtained grace upon grace. Our sins are forgiven. Let us live now in hope. For hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Amen

 Gathering Hymn: ELW 533 Open Now Thy Gates of Beauty

Greetings: The grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. And also with you.


Have mercy on us, Lord, and hear our solemn prayer. We come to hear your living word; it saves us from despair.

Have mercy on us, Christ, and wash away our sin. Pour out your grace and make us whole that new life may begin.

Have mercy on us, Lord, make sun and shame depart. Renew us with your saving pow’r, create in us new hearts!

Prayer of the Day: Almighty God, we thank you for planting in us the seed of your word. By your Holy Spirit help us to receive it with joy, live according to it, and grow in faith and hope and love, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

 Selection of the Faithful: ELW 55 Break Now the Bread of Life


Gospel Acclamation:  Alleluia. The word is very near to you;* it is in your mouth and in your heart. Alleluia. (Deut. 30:14)

First Reading: Isaiah 55:10-13

10For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
12For you shall go out in joy,
and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall burst into song,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial,
for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

Psalm: Psalm 65:[1-8] 9-13

[ 1You are to be praised, O God, in Zion; to you shall vows be fulfilled.
2To you, the one who answers prayer, to you all flesh shall come.
3Our sins are stronger than we are, but you blot out our transgressions.
4Happy are they whom you choose and draw to your courts to dwell there! They will be satisfied by the beauty of your house, by the holiness of your temple. 
5Awesome things will you show us in your righteousness, O God of our   salvation,
O hope of all the ends of the earth and of the oceans far away.
6You make firm the mountains by your power; you are girded about with might.
7You still the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the clamor of the peoples.
8Those who dwell at the ends of the earth will tremble at your marvelous signs; you make the dawn and the dusk to sing for joy. 
9You visit the earth and water it abundantly; you make it very plenteous; the river of God is full of water. You prepare the grain, for so you provide for the earth.
10You drench the furrows and smooth out the ridges; with heavy rain you soften the ground and bless its increase.
11You crown the year with your goodness, and your paths over flow with plenty.
12May the fields of the wilderness be rich for grazing, and the hills be clothed with joy.
13May the meadows cover themselves with flocks, and the valleys cloak themselves with grain; let them shout for joy and sing. 

Second Reading: Romans 8:1-11

1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, 8and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

Gospel: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9Let anyone with ears listen!”

18“Hear then the parable of the sower. 19When 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. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet 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. 22As 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. 23But 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.”
Children’s Sermon: Naaman is a famous general in the Old Testament who Jewish tradition has it as supposedly shooting the random arrow that killed King Ahab of Israel. We know he had leprosy and the little Jewish girl he brought home to serve his wife, told her that a prophet in Israel could cure Naaman of his leprosy. Naaman went to the king who wrote a letter of introduction. Naaman was sent to Elisha and Elisha told him to dip seven times in the river Jordon. Naaman, insulted, was not going to do it but was convinced by his soldiers that he should. The seventh time he dipped, he came up clean with skin like a baby. He was so grateful, he offered Elisha great rewards but Elisha refused. The story closes with Naaman begging two mule loads of dirt to take home “for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the Lord.” Two mule loads of dirt. What was that about? Let us pray.


         Our text today is about dirt. At the beginning of Pentecost, Jesus looks at the crowds and has compassion for they are like sheep without a shepherd. So he sends forth his disciples and us with instructions for sharing the good news, the kingdom of heaven is near. Last week Jesus reflects, “To what shall I compare this generation? They are like children dancing in the marketplace.” Sheep, children and now today’s text Jesus continues by telling the parable of the sower spreading seed that lands on four types of soil. Sheep, children, and now soil/dirt in which God’s word is planted.

But first I want you to appreciate the irony that I, raised on the Los Angeles freeway, am speaking about farming to Hoosiers who have farming in their blood, about. Please forgive my ignorance for I am not a farmer but…. I did live in Africa. The parable shares that the sower’s seeds fall on four types of soil: the path, the rocky soil, the thorny soil, and the good soil. Each type of soil presents a challenge to the seed.


The seed that fell on the trodden path was eaten by birds. Jesus compares this to the words of God falling on people who do not understand and so the evil one is able to steal the truth from them. I would suspect we all know people who have been so beaten up by life that no matter how many times we tell them we love them, that they are valuable or talented, they just are not able to receive our words. You can almost see the words go in one ear and out the other. If the sower is God and if the seed is his word, I find it encouraging that God does not avoid throwing seed on the path, the downtrodden. He does not label the path, hopeless. He does not deny the truth that for some, it is very hard to receive truth and love. And yet his sun shines on that path, the rain hits that path, and we know paths do get reclaimed as grass, as weeds creep in and as the path is less worn down. It takes time and it takes work to change a path into a garden. Perhaps you have seen pictures of that tree that has grown in the cliff or I had a tomato plant that grew in the crack in the driveway and gave lots of tomatoes. I think of Moses struggling with the stiff-necked Israelites. At one point he told God that if God would not go with them and bless them then he, Moses wanted to die. God promises that his word does not return void but accomplishes his purpose and we can claim that promise. Perhaps the seed will lie dormant but one day, it will accomplish its mission. Hard soil needs lots of work, extra manure, plenty of water and care, but it is not impossible. Prayer and faith are needed for that path.


Rocky soil makes me think of England. The soil was so rocky there that they built walls and houses out of rocks removed or pushed to the side. Stone Hedge is one of the famous sites. Jesus says rocky people, unlike those who are hardened by the trials of life, are those who are just shallow. There is a sense of faith but when trials come, they do not run to church. Perhaps it is like a vaccination when a small amount of the virus is given to prevent the disease. I had a patient in the hospital once who shared about how as a child watched on the front steps of the church as the priest kicked his father out of church because his wife left him. He never returned to church. How many stories have we heard about no faith because God did not show up and answer a prayer as desired. That person turned his back on religion or faith. People who pray for a father to return from the war, an alcoholic to stop abusing them…terrible, terrible scars we inflict on each other and prayers that are not answered as we think they ought. The result is rocks within our soul that prevent faith from growing.        Those rocks have to be dug out. I think we call that process forgiveness. Old offenses are like land mines in our soul that explode under certain conditions and block faith. Forgiveness is hard work and we need God’s help.


Seed thrown on thorny soil is like people who hear the word but concerns about the world, about wealth choke that faith. In Kenya, farmers would first slash the weeds, the thorns but just removing the top of the plant does not deal with the roots under the surface that will cause that dandelion or weed to regrow. Slashing deals with the surface but then the soil must be tilled to sift out roots and remove and expose the undersoil. It makes me think of Paul’s admonition, “See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and through it many become defiled. Heb 12:15” Roots of bitterness defile not only the person but also the community. Roots are similar to rocks in that they block faith but unlike a rock that might be a single incident corrupting faith of a person, roots have tenacles and travel under the surface spreading distrust, “remember how so-and-so” did “such and such” and the bitterness spreads and defiles many. Gossip is the most obvious symptom. Passive resistance and silent skepticism can undermine faith as effectively as outright rebellion.

Rocks require forgiveness but I think that probably roots of bitterness require a world view change. A book on dealing with anger, likens anger to planes circling an airport tower that the controller does not allow to land. The author suggests that the story needs to be rewritten so that the person becomes the hero of the story and not the victim. For example, instead of saying I was abused by my father so I cannot…., the person would choose to present themselves as a survivor of abuse, willing to pray with someone struggling.        Stories of faith like in the Bible help us rewrite our stories as we recognize the hand of God and as we normalize our experiences seeing similarities to theirs. Faith allows us to put situations in God’s hands and trust him to give vengeance where vengeance is needed, to bring a good ending to an incident we see no good in. We give up the responsibility of dealing with everything and trust God with the future.


            “23But 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.” Good soil! I went to w.w.w and discovered there are three types of good soil in Indiana: Mississippi soil, sandy soil, and clay soil. Because Indiana is in the Ohio River and Mississippi River basins there is a lot of soil good for winter wheat, soybeans, and corn. But I know from Kenya that you need sandy soil up near Lake Michigan to plant peanuts and watermelon and other food that needs water drainage. Clay soil is very compact so needs to be broken up and a lot of organic material added. Each soil is receptive to different types of seed. “Good soil” may be touched by the laments of the Old Testament while others like the more didactic teaching of Paul. Good soil is not uniform.

As I look out to our garden, the soil may be good but it needs to be watered, climbing frames added, weeding and thinning. Growing healthy plants takes work even if the soil is good, hence the different yield for seeds sown on good soil. Growing healthy, mature Christians         takes work. Faith does not just happen. Relationship with husbands, friends, and God don’t just happen. Faith is not magic. A healthy church is more than Sunday morning worship service, as we said last week, faith with 0% interest. Every plant in the garden does not require the same treatment nor yields the same fruit. Good soil can produce a variety of plants

So I want to go back to my original question. Why did Naaman request two mule loads of dirt to take back to Syria? The answer sheds a different light on our parable today. In Naaman’s days, people believed that gods were territorial. Jehovah was the god of Israel but there was a different go in Syria, Naaman’s country. We see this in the challenge between Elijah and the priests of Baal on Mt. Carmel and Elijah taunts the 400 priests – “call louder, maybe your gods are in the bathroom. Maybe they are napping.” Similarly God tells Moses to take off his sandals at the burning bush for he was standing on Holy Ground. Wars among the gods were turf wars, fought on land. Naaman took the dirt to sacrifice on because he was now Yahweh’s person. He understood Yahweh was the more powerful God.

This speaks to me of the spiritual warfare we experience as we try so hard to be good soil. The soil of our lives is the battle ground where God is choosing to confront the lies of Satan. The war was won on the cross but God is building a kingdom and we are the soil he is using.

As we reflect on our lives today, I hear this text challenging us to examine our hearts and ask if there are hardened areas in our life, trod down by the scars of life, that need water, prayer and care? Are there rocks we need to remove with forgiveness and get rid of? Are there thorns creeping around that need to be removed? We are God’s soil. He breathes life into us. His sun shines on us and Holy Spirit is available to us. His will is that we will have life, life more abundant. Thank you Lord!

Hymn of Day: ELW 508 As Rain from the Clouds

 The Apostle’s Creed:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, the communion of  saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

Or you can listen to the Creed in vocal form:

Prayers of Intercession: Called into unity with one another and the whole creation, let us pray for our shared world.

 Gracious God, your word has been sown in many ways and places. We pray for missionaries and newly planted congregations around the world. Inspire us by their witness to the faith we share. Hear us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

Creating God, the mountains and hills burst into song and the trees and fields clap their hands in praise. We pray for the birds and animals who make their home in the trees, and for lands stripped bare by deforestation. Empower us to sustainably use what you have given. Hear us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

Reigning God, we pray for our nation’s leaders. Increase their desire for justice and equality. We pray for our enemies. Bridge the chasms that divide us and guide authorities to a deep and lasting peace. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.

Abiding God, care for all who are in need. For those who are doubting, renew faith. For those who are worrying, provide release. For those who are struggling, ease burdens. For those in fear, give hope. Hear us, O God.  Your mercy is great.

Renewing God, revive your church in this place. Nourish and nurture the seeds you have planted, that we might grow as disciples. Replace what has been depleted. Sustain our ministries of day care and the Community Garden and deepen relationships with the wider community. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.

 Eternal God, we give thanks for all who have died. Comfort us in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection. We especially pray your healing hand be on Marilyn Schnake. Hear us, O God. Your mercy is great.

Receive these prayers, O God, and those too deep for words; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 Peace: If you are worship with someone else, turn and share, “The peace of Christ be with you always.” Response, “And also with you.” You might use your finger to mark you children or loved one with a cross on their forehead. If you are practicing social distancing, put your palms together blessing of them. Peace!


Offering Prayer: God of goodness and growth, all creation is yours, and your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens. Water and word, wine and bread: these are signs of your abundant grace. Nourish us through these gifts, that we might proclaim your steadfast love in our communities and in the world, through Jesus Christ, our strength and our song. Amen.

 The Great Thanksgiving:

The Lord be with you. And also with you.

Lift up your hearts. We left them up to the Lord.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right to give our thanks and praise.

 The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come. thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those that trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

Communion: I invite you to talk a little piece of bread and eat it. Christ is as close to you as the bread in your mouth and stomach. Always remember. Now take a sip of your drink. Christ is as close to you as the blood in your body, strengthening you. Always remember.

Prayer after Communion:  God of the welcome table, in this meal we have feasted on your goodness and have been united by your presence among us. Empower us to go forth sustained by these gifts so that we may share your neighborly love with all, through Jesus Christ, the giver of abundant life. Amen.


Blessing: Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. God, the creator, ☩ Jesus, the Christ, and the Holy Spirit, the comforter, bless you and keep you in eternal love. Amen.

Sending Hymn: ELW 550 On What Has Now Been Sown

Dismissal: Go in peace. Christ is with you. Thanks be to God.





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