Have you ever had a morning where you don’t want to get out of bed and face a depressing reality that awaits you? Which friend might you call to lift your spirits? In this sermon, Pastor Brooks considers some of the different types of friends one might call. Each friend represents a different view of the world and of faith. Listen to the sermon now or read it below.
He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.” He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
Have you ever had a morning where despite getting at least eight hours of sleep you just don’t want to get out of bed? You felt lethargic but the root cause wasn’t necessarily biological. At least part of your desire to stay put had something to do with what was transpiring in the world outside. I have heard of people feeling this way the morning after hearing election results, but often the source of despair can be more immediate. Maybe you were caught in some kind of situation at home or at work that got you out of sorts. For whatever reason, you didn’t want to face the world on that particular morning.
Imagine if you will that you are having that kind of morning. You feel plastered to your bed like a wad of soggy newspaper. You contemplate having a latte, sitting on your back porch, or watching home videos of kittens on the Internet, but anything beyond that seems unpleasant. It would mean facing a reality that you are convinced is utterly unfriendly.
Your mind keeps reviewing the apparent source of your paralysis. How could people vote for such an idiot? What’s wrong with those people in Ohio? Isn’t it obvious that our country is going to go down the tubes faster than a greased gerbil? You look upward as if to heaven and say, “God, it stinks to be a realist and know how bad things really are. Why couldn’t you have made me more naïve and innocent? Right about now obliviousness would be an ideal genetic trait.”
At this point, your mind decides that you need to call a friend who can put you in a better mood. You could call your friend Steve. You consider how he might be great to commiserate with. He has a delightful sense of humor. He would make lots of great jokes about the people of Ohio, but he’s also very cynical to the point where he is a card carrying member of the Debbie Downer Society. There is only so much you can hear about the unsophisticated bumpkins of the Midwest.
At the opposite end of the extreme, you think about calling your pastor. She is a terrific person, a joy to be around, but maybe too much of a joy. She always acts as if the Kingdom to come is almost here. She would fall under the category of utopian idealist. Upon contemplation, her faith can be a bit of a let down. She seems an awful lot like a life long socialist who believes every year could be the year the proletariat finally throws off its chains. This thought makes you feel even more depressed because isn’t faith supposed to give you the hope that life will indeed be different. You suddenly feel as if faith could never be intellectually or emotionally valid for you.
Next you think about your friend Shane who is neither a cynic nor an idealist. He is what might be called an angry realist. In theory, neither anger nor realism are bad things. Who wouldn’t want to be in touch with reality? It is also perfectly healthy to get angry and upset every now and then, but Shane’s anger seems to have a little too much heat. He gets fired up to change the world after learning about this or that injustice. At times, this fire motivates him to get a lot done, but then the crash and burn happens. Actually, it is more like a burn and crash. The fire consumes him. He gets burnt out.
Next, you consider calling your friend Simone who claims to be a Zen Buddhist, but you suspect she is more of a pseudo-Buddhist who has never studied the religion beyond a couple of self-help books. Simone believes in gaining inner peace through acceptance of all that is. For her, the ups and downs of hope, anger, and depression are all symptoms of a failure to accept the cards life has dealt you. Why hope for the royal flush and be disappointed when you don’t get it? Why curse at the dealer when you are never dealt an ace? Your tempted to call Simone, but it is hard to give up hope. Even anger and sorrow seem oddly more comforting than complete acceptance.
Finally, when you have almost come to the end of your list of friends you might call, you think of Sally. Sally is unlike everyone else. She is hard to categorize as a cynic, a utopian, a realist, or anything else. You mainly think of Sally as the friendly person at church who gives you free eggs from chickens in her backyard. You know Sally well enough to realize that she won’t answer her phone when you call because she will be out in her garden. This motivates you to get out of your bed, shower, and get dressed, so that you can walk down the block to her house.
Sure enough, Sally is in her backyard. In addition to a garden, Sally also has a corner of her yard that she calls her little slice of heaven. It has a water feature surrounded by rocks, native grasses, wildflowers, and a single blueberry bush next to a bench. Sally calls the blueberry bush her all-natural, organic snack tree. When you arrive, Sally is on her hands and knees among the native grasses and wildflowers. She appears to be inspecting something. When you call out to her, she lifts her head and immediately says, “How about that election last night? I would say it is one for the ages, but not the ages I want to live in.” Sally’s tone is one of pleasant humor. She is certainly troubled by the results, but you don’t feel like she is suffering from cynical despair or might be prone to a fit of disgusted rage. You already feel like you made the right decision to come to her house.
The two of you share opinions about the candidates and, of course, the people of Ohio. Eventually, you ask Sally how she manages the news without getting out of sorts. How did she get out of bed that morning? Sally says it is her faith. She further explains that she has a nighttime ritual that always seems to help her get up the next morning. When she goes to bed at night, she never lets the more disappointing events of the day be her last thought. Instead, she likes to think about her garden. She visualizes it in her mind. Last night when she went to bed she thought about all of the seeds she had planted that day. She thought about how those seeds were invisible to the outside world. They were buried underground where no one could see them. Yet that night they would begin their mysterious process of sprouting and coming to life. She would be fast asleep, and they would begin the work of growing. Sally says that her faith is inspired by those seeds. She can’t see their progress, but she knows it is happening. In the same way, Sally continues, we can’t always see all the places where God’s love is at work in the world, yet we can bet that it is happening. In the middle of the darkest night, you can bet that there are still some seeds of the divine sprouting and doing their work.
Sally then adds that as someone who was a hippy in the 60s it helps that her backyard has some native grass and wildflowers. She needs something that isn’t planted in neat and orderly rows. She tells you about how the mustard seed Jesus talks about in the Bible was not only considered a scrub bush but it was also considered an invasive species. What starts out small, insignificant, and even unwanted can eventually take over the whole garden. For Sally, the lesson is that faith at its best has a revolutionary patience. Revolutionary patience is realistic enough to realize that there are bigger plants that are dominating right now. For Jesus and the disciples, it was the Roman Empire. At the same time, revolutionary patience has a measure of hope. It knows that the kingdom to come is always germinating even if you can’t see it. Sally concludes, “If you go to bed believing that, it becomes a lot easier to wake up in the morning, even if Ohio gets you down.” Amen.