FEED AND SEED
SCRIPTURE: Genesis 18:1-15; Matthew 9:35-10:8
In the name of the God who creates us, redeems us, and gives us life. Amen!
††††††††† My first visit to a feed and seed store in Sherman, Texas was a real eye-opening experience. The store is your typical feed and seed store, metal siding that had been made a long time ago. One end of the building was a huge triple car garage type door that rolled up to allow tractors or semi-trucks to pull into to the area and unload pallets of feed and seed.
††††††††† When I went in, there was a big table right inside the front door, piled high with red bandanas. The sign said, ď12 for $5.99.Ē I thought, ďWow! Thatís great. Twelve handkerchiefs for six bucks. You canít pass that up. Then I thought, ďWhat am I going to do with twelve red bandanas?Ē Andreaís grandmother gave me a monogrammed handkerchief as a gift before Andrea and were married and I havenít used many sinceóespecially not 12 of them.
††††††††† There were other items for sale. There were farm implements, all kinds of stuff that you would need for working on a farm or ranch. What really impressed me was the distinct feed and seed store aroma. The combination smells of feed, seed, fertilizer, petroleum products was just great.
††††††††† What I especially remember about this adventure was that the sign for the place with its full name, Garnerís Feed and Seed Cooperative Store. It was on an old sign that was probably seventy years old. The sign was hung on the wall. It originally was a co-op.
††††††††† This is what I want to preach about this morning, how is it that we feed and seed in co-op (cooperation with God). Our two scripture passages fit this image well. The idea of feeding and seeding has a time continuum included in it. Feed is for right now. You buy feed to give to your animals now, but seed you buy for planting so that you will have feed later on in the days and seasons to come. Thatís what we see in both of these scriptures. We see feeding now, but we see feeding for the future as well.
††††††††† In the passage from Genesis, Abraham and Sarah demonstrate the height of hospitality. This is a Middle Eastern hospitality story, but it is also so much more. The scene is the middle of the day, and the desert heat is intense. We know that in the Holy Land the desert temperatures can easily reach 120 degrees or more.
††††††††† Abraham is sitting in the entrance to his tent. Hopefully a little breeze might be passing by. He looks up and sees three strangers. He does not know that one of them is God. They are strangers to him. His response is to jump to his feet and run to them. When he reaches the strangers he bows down before them not only as a sign of peaceful welcome, but also humble service. He invites them to enjoy the shade of his tree. He offers to bring water for their weary, fiery feet. He offers them bread for their hunger. They accept his invitation.
††††††††† Both Abraham and Sarah scurry about preparing the meal. The meal is much more lavish than what he had offered. They make choice cakes. Abraham captures his best calf and grills it to perfection. He offers curds and milk as well. While the three strangers eat, Abraham stands by as a dutiful waiter. They do all this for strangers. It is truly a picture of hospitality. Itís a great picture of a great feast.
††††††††† The first feeding is the story of God feeding Abraham and Sarah with the Divine Presence. God comes to them and they are fed with Godís presence in their midst. Their response was hospitality. It is their response of hospitality that enables them to receive the Divine Presence. Hospitality is always rewarded. There is always a payback.
††††††††† When Abraham and Sarah offer hospitality to God and the two attending angels, they are rewarded. Dare any of us consider how many times we have passed by strangers and not acknowledged them, or said anything to them, or even acted like they existed? How many times have we passed by co-workers, maybe someone we really donít care for, or someone with whom we have had disagreement, and we look the other way? How many times have we turned our back on nosey neighbors, or walked away from relentless relatives, and thus not experienced a divine encounter? God feeds us in our daily encounters. God feeds us through the presence of other people. It is in our experiences with them that we know the presence of God in life.
††††††††† The seed element here, that continuation into the future, comes about in the promise of a son to Abraham and Sarah. The seed of Godís promise was given many years before and many miles away, but itís coming to fruition. That which has been anticipated for years by this couple, now we are told is coming due.
The seed will grow in Sarah. Sarah will bear a son, what she has hoped for all her life. Upon hearing this news that she will have a child, she laughs. Most likely we would have laughed too, had we been in her condition. Abraham laughs in the chapter before this when he is told that Godís promise will come true. Their laughter is an expression of honest disbelief. It is understandable. It is very clear that God understands that this is honest disbelief too, because there is no punishment for their disbelief.
The entire story of Abraham and Sarah is a story of cooperating with God. Itís a story of feed and seed in cooperation with God. That which is promised will come to fruition. There is a future. There is a promise. There is hope. There is good news for the couple.
In Matthewís passage we see something very similar. We are told that Jesus is traveling into every village. As he travels, he teaches, he proclaims the good news of the kingdom, and he cures everyone he sees, he heals every disease. He shows compassion on the people, because they appear to be sheep without a shepherd.
Jesus is giving. Jesus is feeding. It is a marvelous image, and it is an image for us as well. Every Jew hearing the reading of this Gospel, ďThey appear to be sheep without a shepherd,Ē would have remembered the same words from their history. Six times this phrase appears in the Old Testament. The most prominent is in the book of Numbers where Moses is transferring authority to Joshua.
We are told he does this so the people will not become sheep without a shepherd that as they enter into the Promised Land, there will be one who will lead them and guide them. Matthew picks up the phrase, and he says this time, this transition, is equally as important as that one so long ago between Moses and Joshua. This is equally as important between Jesus and his disciples.
Look how Jesus transfers leadership and authority. He invites his disciples to pray first. Then when they respond, they are not just acting on their own initiative, they are acting on the call of God. They have prayed that God will send workers into the harvest, and now they are responding to Godís call. It is God who has called them. It is God who has authorized them. It is God in Christ who sends them.
Notice that as Jesus summons them to himself they are called disciples, but in the very next verse they are called apostles. They move from being learners to those who will lead. Jesus seeds for the future. He provides for a broadening and extending of his ministry, even beyond his own life. The call is not about Jesus. He doesnít call them to himself for him; he calls them to himself for the will of God.
There are two dimensions in this story that are very important. First of all, Jesus restricts their work. They are not to go to the gentiles. They are only to go to the people of Israel. The disciples are on a trial run. They are going to their own people, the people who would have known their stories and their background, those who would have understood.
There is a second element that is most important for us. It is another restriction. Jesus does not give them the authority to teach. Why is that? Jesus does not give them authority to teach because they donít know the whole story yet. The rest of the story comes through Jesusí suffering, death and resurrection. It is only after the resurrection that they know the whole story and are able to teach others. It is after the resurrection that the risen Lord appears to these same disciples and dives them full authority to go into the whole world to baptize, and to teach, and to know that God will always be with them in the person of the risen Christ. Itís a story of feeding and seeding in cooperation with God.
According to Matthew, and his understanding of Jesus, that which is of ultimate importance is how we take care of each other. Do we feed and seed each other, especially the poor and the needy in our midst? The ultimate question is what have we done to help someone else grow in the Christian faith?
G.K. Chesterton said that the problem for modern people is not that we have lost our way. People have always lost their way. The problem for us is we have lost our address. We donít know where home is. Home for a Christian has to be somewhere near the intersection of feed and seed.
We are to be fed by God, we need to feed others, and we need to seed with Godís grace for the future. Our calling is to feed and seed in cooperation with God, and for that calling we say, thanks be to God.
MAY THESE THOUGHTS GIVE YOU STRENGTH