Spreading the Imperishable Seeds

I Peter 1:17-23

Spreading the Imperishable Seeds

May 8, 2011

 This past week we had our second “Something More” program at Oakside Park.  Pastor Hall from Trinity led the discussion by sharing some thoughts about the importance of mentors in our lives.  He described a particular couple for whom he worked as a young man and who had left a lasting legacy in his life.  Their kindness and wisdom was like a well to which he return at various points in his life.  Other s shared similar stories of people who had been important sources of strength and guidance.

 Imparted by these mentors were imperishable seeds that made a profound and lasting influence.  I Peter talks about perishable versus imperishable seeds.    The imperishable seeds are the living and enduring word of God.  Jesus is the word of God.  The word was spoken at the very beginning of time and the word will announce the fulfillment of God’s kingdom at the end of time.  Scripture calls Jesus the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, because through him all that is imperishable was made.  He holds the whole universe together, bound up in his love. 

We know that seeds are imperishable when what is sown is genuine, mutual love.  All else is perishable and perishing. 

This week we heard the stunning news that Osama bin Laden was dead.  The seeds of hatred that had been sown on 9-11 turned out to be perishable.  The challenge is to bury in our own hearts any seeds of hatred or resentment.  This is not an event to be celebrated but one to be examined to see where might be a new harvest sown with the imperishable seeds of love.

As the author of I Peter was saying to that fearful community, living in reverent fear means that our trust and hope can only be in God.  We will always be a people in exile until such time as God’s love and peace reigns supreme on earth.    Until that time it will still look pretty messy in the world.  And it will sometimes look like the evil rules the day and spreads pretty convincingly.   But as resurrection people we must believe otherwise.

When I first started gardening at the new house,  I saw an interesting looking plant coming up in the established beds.  I thought I would leave it alone and see if it was a pretty woodland plant that would make a nice ground cover.  Well, it made a ground cover all right, but it wasn’t a pretty woodland plant.  It was coltsfoot which is a real beast to get rid of.  About this time of year you see these dandelion looking yellow flowers that are kind of pretty until you realize that they are the seed heads which are about to explode all over your garden.  It’s not a good thing.

I sure wish the light of Christ would spread as convincingly and thoroughly as does coltsfoot.    But as Barbara Lundblad puts it, the resurrection did not stay at the tomb any more than that stone could contain Jesus’ body.  The resurrection spread like imperishable seed at Pentecost.  As today’s passage in Acts tells us, 3000 people were added to the young church in one day.  It was just like the wind catching those seed heads of the coltsfoot…it spread to the four corners of the world.

There is more going on in God’s world than we have the eyes to see.  Peter testifies to Christ’s ransoming us from our own futile ways.  This gift of grace turns us in trust to God, in obedience to the truth, and in love to our neighbor.  This love will spread faster than coltsfoot, and whole lot faster than jihad.   The people of Acts changed their lives when they embraced the gospel.  The message of the Risen Christ convicts us and then redeems us.  Our response is gratitude and transformed lives that bring beauty and peace to the world.  Our response to God’s grace is to carry on God’s mission in the world.  God works in the world through human instruments… the Word made flesh is carried through us.

 Yesterday a friend and I went to the native plant sale at King’s Gap State Park.  This is such a beautiful place where one can really see the natural world as it is meant to be.  We were driving out and my friend asked “what are all those plants on the forest floor?”  I said they were native blueberries.  Blueberry, wild azalea, teaberry, wintergreen, ferns…that is what should be the ground cover in our local forests.  We’re not used to it because normally all we see are woods choked with invasive plants that aren’t supposed to be there, like poison ivy and barberry.  The amazing thing is that when you clear all that invasive away…like our volunteers did at Camp Michaux… the good stuff is all still there, just waiting to emerge.  God-given goodness never goes away forever.

 That provides an analogy for the world that is built with imperishable seed through the living and enduring word of God.  In God’s world, God’s kingdom, everything has its due season, all creatures have sufficient for their needs, and nothing has more than what it needs.  It is all held together with love.  Our world does get choked with stuff that should not be there.  Because we don’t see with the eyes of God that fallen world seems to be all there is and all that there ever will be.  But don’t you believe it!   The good stuff of God is all still there, waiting to emerge from underneath all that now invades and chokes it;  like that forest floor of blueberries will emerge when all the poison ivy and barberry gets cleared away.

 In time, Osama bin Laden will be assigned to the dustbin of history.   He spread seeds that were effective as a ground cover, and just as hard to root out.  But it is only for a season, and in the long trajectory of God’s kingdom it will come to naught.

 David Bartlett [1] suggests that it is for a good reason that the lectionary gives us these lessons from I Peter in the Easter season.   We see a contrast between life lived in the promise of the resurrection, and a life directed toward perishable things that don’t bring life.  The whole letter makes one thing clear, namely, that those who set their hearts on the perishable will perish.  Those who set their hearts on what endures will endure. 

  First Peter suggests, “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere love of the brethren, love one another earnestly from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God (1 Peter 1:22-23).”   That beautiful passage gives us the courage to believe that new birth is always right around the corner and the imperishable seeds reside now in us.  We become the living word of God…the living stones of which I Peter speaks.

The Easter acclamation Christ has Died, Christ is Risen, Christ will come again proclaims Christ’s victory over death and all that is perishable and perishing.  We are free from spending God’s gift on anything except that which brings life.  We are born anew to live anew.  May that new life spread faster than the coltsfoot in my garden!

[1] New Interpreter’s Bible, v XII, 261