Sermon 11-23-2014 ‘Overflowing with Thanks Giving’
II Corinthians 9:6-15
Pastor Ruthie Tippin – Indianapolis First Friends Meeting
Most of us go out into the fields of our lives to plant – to sow. To plant blessings. Some peace here. A bit of kindness there. A lot of love. Some joy. It’s awfully hard to plant patience, but we try. A field full of blessings. But when it comes time to harvest, the crop we’ve sown can look awfully dry and dead. Maybe a few plants survived, but so many look hopeless. Why did we expend all that energy, take all that time, work with our hands, our bodies, our… everything we had to encourage growth… only to see so little come of the blessings we had sown? We feel frustrated. We feel disheartened. Empty.
A few years ago, I did something I’d never done before. I rode in a combine! Brian and Herb Espensen had had a long-standing invitation for me to ride in a combine during harvest time, and I was finally able to do it. Harvesting corn. Wow! It was amazing! I met Madeline at the house, and she took me out to the fields in the pickup. I met a guy named Steve, who jumped into the tractor with the cart, while I climbed up into the combine with Herb. Brian was off getting gas in the semi. Herb wheeled that combine around like it was a Volkswagen Bug, and we headed up into the standing corn. It was a gorgeous, sun-filled, brisk Iowa day. Beautiful. The corn looked awful. It stood tall, brown, and dead – very dead. The stalks were as dry as a bone, and were talking to one another in the wind, in that corn-crackly way that happens out in a field in autumn. The stubble was rough, and we had to watch out for wash-outs. We made it across, and Herb lined up the head of the combine, lowering the fingers so they reached their snouts into the cornrows like long pointed fingernails, painted green. The color of John Deere.
Off we went down the rows, at about 5 1/2 miles per hour. The dry stalks were chopped off lickety-split, and flew up against the head, augered into the combine, ears a-flying. (Did you know that there’s only one ear of corn per stalk? Maybe two if the stalks are on an outside row.) Some ears were shucked as they flew, but none got too far before being pulled into the machinery. It was amazing to sit above it all, watching it happen – all so quickly. And then Herb said, ‘Turn around, Ruthie’. There, out the back window – just like looking out the back of a pick-up truck – was a flume of gold. Kernels of corn, dropping like jewels, tumbling over themselves in a hurry to get to the hopper. Nothing dry – nothing dead about that! This was rich, lovely, life. Gold. God.
Hidden in all that crackled dryness was life – and life that would give life. This grain would be used in all kinds of ways: feedstock, products, materials, employment, sustenance… life giving gifts.
Who are you to say that what you’ve sown will not reap blessings? You reap what you sow. If you sow blessings, you will reap them. You may not recognize them at the time, you may never see them, but you are promised the blessing of reaping a harvest of blessings.
Paul, in his first letter to the people of Corinth reminded them that someone may plant, another may water, but it is God who causes things to grow. Not you. Not me. But God. Do we trust that God’s plan will come to fruition through us? Or do we lose heart?
“I was never cut out to be a farmer.” “I knew those seeds were old.” “You know… the weather just wasn’t going to cooperate.”
Wait for the harvest! Wait for the reaper to move through the field! Wait to discover what it is that God intends to be your yield. What appears to be death, may very well hold life. (There’s a lot of Easter in Thanksgiving!) Remember the promise! “The one who sows bountifully will reap bountifully.
When you turn around to look out your back window, and see all that God has done… all that God has brought out of the seemingly desolate places in your life… rejoice. Rejoice in the harvest. Climb down from the combine, and rejoice! Gather round the table for a celebration with friends and family. Some folks I know enjoy Oyster Stew. Some have turkey and stuffing. Massasoit and the Indians with him brought five deer and the Pilgrims there brought wild fowl. Rejoice!
What does the produce of your life produce??? What does this bounty of blessings we receive bring us? That’s what this Thursday is all about. That’s what next Friday, last Tuesday, next Wednesday, a week ago Monday… that’s what every day should be about. An overflowing of thanksgiving. The kind of thanksgiving that reveals a full ear out of a dry kernel of corn. The kind of thanksgiving that reveals abundance out of nothingness. The kind of thanksgiving that reveals life, where only death seemed possible. An abundant, overflowing thanksgiving to God.
“God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.” (Verse 8)
Rejoice. Give thanks. And then give.
Ann Kendall spoke last Sunday, out of the silence, with the thought that this season brings us two of the most beautiful words there could be – ‘thanks’ and ‘giving’. We “city folk” are often far removed from the harvest, and forget the rotation of crops, the rhythm of seed, stalk, flower, and fruit. We too often take for granted the bounty of the harvest, as we stroll through Kroger’s or Marsh. And, in these times of economic divide, we forget that many persons rely on food donated, or distributed by others in order to eat each day.
What does the produce of your life produce??? Enough. Enough. “God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.” We give. And we give thanks.
It’s been exciting to walk through the choir and classrooms this past few weeks, and see the burgeoning boxes full of food for the hungry. It’s been good to hear the reports that come each month about the numbers of people who come, receiving help from the MidNorth Food Pantry. I know some of you volunteer in other Food Pantries, as well. This morning, I took time to flip through the office copies of this past year’s Friend to Friend… it’s amazing what people in this Meeting have given….
Give out of your enough. Out of your abundant enough.
“He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through others.” (Verse 10)
· Offer thanks to God, that God, in abundance, has provided you with enough.
· Offer giving to God, for you have enough again to share with others who have not yet seen their harvest.
· If you don’t have enough, let your needs be known so that others might hear and help you meet your needs, by learning to give from their abundant enough.
Will you trust God with the harvest of your life?