"Sowing Seeds, Then Letting Go"
Sermon Preached By Rev. Richard E. Stetler - January 7, 2007
Psalm 72:1-7; Matthew 2:1-12
This morning I want us to consider a characteristic found in the three astrologers featured in Matthew’s gospel – they stayed focused on their mission. They arrived in Jerusalem where they assumed they would receive the most accurate information regarding the birthplace of a child king. They noted with astute clarity that Herod was quite disturbed when they asked, “Where is the baby born to be the king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and we have come to pay him homage.”
These three were not worried by Herod’s response or by the potential threat to his political career that their question evoked. They merely wanted specifics about where the child was to be born. Herod summoned his staff to research their request and supplied the answer. Micah 5:2 says, “The Lord says, ‘Bethlehem, you are one of the smallest towns in Judah, but out of you I will bring a ruler for Israel, whose family line goes back to ancient times."
Herod the Great was well known throughout the ancient world. His reputation would not have escaped being known by the three men. He was a great builder, who built the Temple in Jerusalem. He was generous. He often suspended taxation during challenging economic times. He even used his own gold on another occasion to purchase food for the starving Jews during a severe famine that took place 25 years before Jesus was born.
No doubt, the astrologers also knew about the major flaw in Herod’s character. He was insanely paranoid about everyone in his court. If there was even a hint that others were undermining his authority, he had them eliminated. He murdered his wife and her mother. He put to death three of his own sons. Caesar Augustus was so disgusted with Herod that he once remarked, “It was safer to be Herod’s pig than Herod’s son.”
The three travelers knew of the expectation that a mighty ruler was about to come into the world. Such a consciousness was rampant everywhere. Even Roman historians were aware of this. For example, Vespasian wrote, “There had spread over all the Orient an established belief, that it was fated that men coming from Judaea would rule the world.” Tacitus wrote, “There was a firm persuasion that at this very time the East was to grow powerful and rulers coming from Judaea were to establish an empire of universal proportions.”
Having seen the sign in the heavens, knowing that the time was at hand for the coming of a ruler, and having secured the appropriate city where the child was to be born, they made the journey to Bethlehem and found Mary and the baby living in a house. The three reached the goal of their quest, deposited their gifts and went home, completely vanishing from the pages of recorded history.
The remarkable characteristic of the three astrologers was their ability to stay focused on the purpose of their journey. They were not interested in being entertained by Herod the Great. They were not impressed by his opulent surroundings. They were not persuaded by Herod’s deceptive nature that he, too, wanted to honor the future king. Nothing detained them from achieving their purpose and mission. They sowed their seeds and vanished from history.
When it comes to making our discipleship visible and staying focused on our mission, I am always reminded of a quote given to me by Bill Haddock some years ago. He told me, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” These words remind us never to forget our primary purpose for being here.
How many times do alternatives come into our lives that present us with detours? I hear executives comment all the time, “I came to work this morning with a list of projects to complete and I have yet to start work on the first one.” We have all had those days.
One of the most useful skills we can develop is to remain focused on our purpose for being here. The astrologers had mastered this. There will always be people who try to tell us how we ought to be spending our time. There will be people whose ideas will attempt to sabotage our plans by trying to convince us that their life-issues are more important. Herod said, “Go and make a careful search for the child; and when you find him, let me know so I too may go and worship him.” We may choose to persevere until our expectations are met or our preferred outcome is reached. None of these responses interfered with the mission of the three kings.
We live in a world where numerous voices call out to us. Attitudes within others can kindle the growth of resentments in us. Values far distant from our own can tempt us to reflect darkness. The behavior of others may try to pull us into a web of consequences that their decisions have created.
Many of these voices can become extremely seductive, particularly when they come from friends, family members or people holding powerful positions. When we energize those voices with our choices, we often place ourselves into circumstances where we are made to feel responsible for solving the problems that other people face.
We have not come here for that purpose. The people who are being challenged by life issues can only resolve such patterns by changing how they think or respond. Like the astrologers, we have the privilege of honoring God with our gifts.
In case we have not noticed, God does not micromanage our lives. God does not untie the knots with which some people have stitched together their days and weeks. Instead, throughout the ages, God has offered instruction that can prevent us from tying those knots in the first place. When we emit darkness to those around us, it is our decisions, our attitudes, our behavior and our drama that have done so. When we honor God with our gifts and that becomes our purpose, there can be no darkness. We sow our seeds and let God do the creating.
Having a singleness of purpose aligns us with the loving energy patterns that come from God. This alignment gives us a warm, caring bedside manner. It provides us with a firm leadership style. It offers a role model that others can adopt for themselves. It also allows God to create through us instead of our deciding what is best for God – a major flaw in the Church through the ages.
Like the astrologers, we have been given the privilege to come into history, honor God with our gifts and go home. This is what Jesus did. Look at what God did with Jesus’ three scant years of being in ministry. When we honor God with our gifts and ignore the voices that try to divert the direction of our purpose, we become willing participants in creation. Amen.
THE CONGREGATIONAL PRAYER
Loving God, we know that our lives are as an open book to you. You can sift through our thoughts and know the secrets of our wills. You can see the areas where the child in us has not grown, where our attitudes reflect the hurts of another day and where our vision of discipleship has been obscured by self-interest. You inspired Jesus to teach so that our choices might become the leaven for the loaf. Cleanse us from thoughts that are unproductive and from emotions that make visible our unresolved conflicts. Loving God, help us to integrate the many cross currents in our lives, so that our energy flows in a direction that reveals a spirit that desires healing and peace. Amen