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Rev. Brennan Hurley
Associate Pastor, First United Methodist Church in Taylorville
Pastor, Stonington United Methodist Church
A seasoned pastor once told me as a young, know-it-all, 20-year-old preacher, “God may be calling you into the ministry because God wants to use you to change just one person’s life.” When you’re going into your first church, secretly hoping that someday you’ll be a megachurch pastor with thousands of people in the building and changing the lives of thousands more across the globe, that’ll knock you down a peg or two. One of my seminary professors told our class that we’d preach – give or take – 52 sermons in a year, and if we were lucky, each one of our folks would remember one of them. Down another peg. It’s a good thing that I’ve had people telling me these things, right?
Jesus often spoke of gardening. “Plant a mustard seed” or “scatter some seeds” or “sit back and watch some fruit grow.” Hardly seems all that interesting. But of course, Jesus’ wisdom far exceeds my own. As Christians, we spend a lifetime scattering seeds, giving away our treasure here, showing up at the food pantry there, sharing our faith here and smiling at somebody at the grocery store there. Most of these seeds will amount to nothing, or at least very little. The Christian life is a lot like taking a handful of seeds and throwing them into a grassy field in the wrong climate with no water and the incorrect amount of shade. People are often unwilling to receive love. People take advantage of our good will. People frequently don’t reciprocate generosity.
But sometimes in the course of life, God says to us “I want to use you today.” As that same know-it-all preacher (now seven years older), my not-always-living-up-to-it aspiration in ministry has been to live the words of John Wesley’s covenant prayer: “Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed for you or laid aside for you, exalted for you or brought low for you. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, or let me have nothing.” Maybe ministry for those of use who don a clerical collar and for all Christians is simply showing up each and every day and scattering seeds, praying that God will use us. Most of them won’t sprout. Perhaps, even, the vast majority won’t do anything. But there comes a time in our life when God looks at us and says “I’ve made you for a time such as this. Now, go.”
If you turn on FOX News or CNN, you may be convinced that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. That may be true. I’m not sure. But I am convinced that if each of us makes it a priority to show up each day and to love others as God has first loved us, then the world is going to be OK. If we wake up and say “God might want to use me today,” then we will scatter seeds with purpose and with love. Most of them won’t sprout. But one could. And you or I – in spite of our faults and failures – might just be on God’s list today. If in the course of our lives, each of us changed the lives of just a couple of people for the better, if we scattered thousands of seeds and only a few sprouted, then we will have done our jobs. And the world will turn out fine. God is God, and we are not; most of us can’t radically change the course of the universe, but we can change someone’s life, today. Maybe that’s the point of scattering seeds.