We Have the Seeds We Need: How Can We Create the Garden We Need?
Rev. Thomas Cary Kinder
United Church of Strafford, Vermont
July 12, 2020 Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Romans 8:5-6; Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
[You can watch a video recording of this sermon at the end of this text and you can see the entire On Line Service by clicking here. This is the third in a series of three teachings on this topic in the July 12th service.]
On May 5th fifty years ago I was a freshman in high school sitting in the balcony of our assembly hall. I was eager to hear the speaker. He had spoken the day before as well—Pierre Salinger, the former White House Press Secretary for Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.
Salinger said he had a talk he really wanted to give, but something had just happened that had to be addressed. He held up the front page of the Boston Globe with the headline, “4 Dead at Kent State.” He told us that nothing he could say could be as important as our response to the shooting of students who were protesting the escalation of the Vietnam War.
Salinger turned the assembly over to us and stepped off the stage. I listened as seniors stood up at their seats and made impassioned speeches, choked with both anger and fear, a month away from being eligible for the draft. I remember especially the African-American voices who spoke as people doubly oppressed.
We came out of that meeting deciding as a school to go on strike. We dedicated the next several days to education and action relating to ending the war.
We could feel ourselves making history and shifting the course of the nation, and even though we failed in all that we were trying to accomplish, it gave us a sense that change is possible, that our actions are not meaningless no matter how small, and that something can happen to move us suddenly closer to the ideal world.
More than anything else I learned how powerful our yearning is for an ideal world. I believe it was on both sides at Kent State. Today we have a seemingly irreconcilable, polarized division in this country, and yet on both sides hearts are longing for a world they would call good, a world where they can have what they need to flourish.
That shared yearning is the feeling of the seeds of the Spirit of life, the drive that all life has to attain the conditions necessary to survive and thrive and evolve.
We may be mistaken in how to cultivate them, but we have the seeds we need to make this world the realm of God on earth. The question is, how can we create the garden that we need?
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said a year before he died, “Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter—but beautiful–struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the [children] of God, and our brothers [and sisters] wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard…? Or will there be another message, of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.”
King gave eloquent expression to the longing for an ideal world, and to the urgency that we create the garden of God on earth now before it is too late. He told us in the same speech how to make it happen.
He said, “We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.” He said we needed to restructure our society so that it conforms to these values, and he defined them saying, “This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all [people]. This…has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of [humanity]. When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response. I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life….” (“A Revolution of Values,” from A Testament of Hope, pp 240ff)
We need that supreme unifying force of love working through us in order to make earth the garden we need to survive, and that means we need people who are making their hearts the gardens where the seeds of that force can grow and bear fruit.
As Paul said, we need people who will set their minds on the Spirit and live according to the Spirit because to set our mind on the Spirit is life and peace, it is to live and serve the unifying principle of the universe, the law of love.
As Jesus said, to make our hearts such a garden we need to be intentional, we need to make sure the soil of our heart is deep and rich, we need to clear out the competing weeds and thorns that are not only the values of materialism, militarism, racism and environmental-destructionism but also the ego’s self-concerns, compulsions and addictions that keep us from giving our all to serving this force of love.
We need people who will fulfill their innermost callings, who will take the seeds that the Spirit has planted in their lives and tend them to bear fruit a hundredfold. We need to contribute in the ways Gus Speth has identified for the transformation of human consciousness to a new level of oneness and love: spreading awareness of the calamity that is unfolding around us; offering wise leadership; effectively communicating a new narrative and vision; joining as one movement with all who are working for a sustainable world of social, economic and environmental justice; and creating models of a way of living by those values.
I am saying to you as Pierre Salinger said to me fifty years ago, nothing is more important than that we address this moment in history, and that you search your heart and soul for how you will respond, how you will shape the garden that is your life and the garden that is this beautiful, beloved, fragile world of God’s creation— how you will play your part.
Let us listen for the Spirit speaking within us as we pray in silence…