Rev. George Miller
“New Men in Christ ”
June 20, 2010. Father's Day
Dirt and soil. What’s the difference between them?
One of them is seen as filthy while the other is seen as clean.
One is full of bacteria, spreading illness, the cause for exclusion, while the other is full of nutrients, brings forth life and helps to make things beautiful.
Dirt is loose and uncontainable, soil is in its place doing what it’s supposed to do.
Dirt is what you wash off of your lettuce so you don’t get grit in your teeth, soil is what you grow the lettuce in.
Dirt is messy, is under your nails, dragged across the carpet when brought into the house underneath your shoes.
Soil is what you purposely buy in purposeful bags for purposeful reasons, like repotting a plant, or caring for a garden.
Dirt and soil: the exact same thing. It is where they are placed that defines them.
Dirt and soil. Death and life.
...At this point you’re all wondering where this message is going. I don’t blame you: today is Father’s Day, and you should be hearing about Dads. But I will get there, somehow, I promise.
But for the moment, let’s talk about dirt and soil.
If you have a chance this week, take some time to read all of chapter 8. In doing so you’ll see just how expert of a writer Luke is, how he has assembled a series of memories that lead into and foreshadowed one another.
The chapter begins with Jesus traveling with the disciples and a group of women, some of which had been cured of evil spirits. Jesus tells a parable about seeds: some fall on the path, others on the rocks, others amongst thorns, but only the seeds that fall into good soil grow and produce.
Evil spirits, seeds and soil.
Jesus gets into a boat, a storm comes, his followers are afraid. Jesus rebukes the wind, he rebukes the waves, they are saved, and everything’s calm...Until they arrive in Gentile country...
Jesus steps off of the boat, and onto land. Here is where a good story teller can stop...
What kind of land will this be? Is it dirt, full of illness and things that can create exclusion?
Or it soil, full of life giving nutrients that can bring forth life and beauty?...
Jesus steps up off of the boat, onto land, and not a moment later we discover this land is full of illness and loneliness.
He is met by a man, a man possessed by demons, demons that have caused him to live in a tomb, wrapped in chains and shackles, naked and alone.
Jesus may have left behind a storm at sea, but here, upon dry land, he is encountering a man who is living with a storm inside his body.
The man falls down before Jesus, the demons’ voice thunder out of him “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God.”
Waves of torment have tossed this man to and fro; his life full of death. So Jesus rebukes the demons from the man.
And the next time we see the man? He is clothed. He is in his right mind. He is sitting at the feet of Jesus, the posture a student takes when with a teacher. In other words Jesus has taken his dirt and turned it into soil.
When Jesus steps back onto the boat, the man asks if he can go with them. But Jesus tells him to go, return to his home and proclaim what God has done.
It’s as if Jesus had said to the man “Your dirt has been turned into soil, go back to your family and plant the seeds of hope that you have now been given; those seeds will beautify the world.”
The man may have been naked, living in a tomb, covered the dirt of the dead, but he has an encounter with Jesus in which he is clothed, sent home with a chance to embrace and celebrate life.
The man once had a raging storm inside of him, but Jesus enters into his life and now his spirit is still as dry land.
The man once lived alone, amidst rocks and thorns, but Jesus steps into his life and has him return home with a job to do.
That’s what an encounter with Jesus does. It moves you from chained to free, from being ruled by inner demons to finding your voice, from being alone to being part of the community, from not knowing to wanting to learn as much as you can.
An encounter with Jesus means you go from having dirt to having soil.
And that transformation allows us to plant seeds of testimony, create new beginnings and usher in true beauty.
When we have that encounter with Jesus, our dirt turns into soil and our testimony becomes the seeds that help to grow the Kingdom of God.
Today it’s Father’s Day (see, I told you I would somehow get around to it), and in someways, Fatherhood is one of the dirtiest jobs around.
In the traditional images of fatherhood, Dad is the one mowing the lawn and fixing the car. Dad is the griller, the hedge trimmer, the baseball coach.
I think of my own father, with his work bench and toolbox, how there was always grease under his fingernails. We may have lived in the suburbs but we had a vegetable garden, a wood burning stove and a fence, all that needed caring.
Fatherhood is a dirty job, but as the saying goes, somebody has to do it. And it is so important that it be done well.
Sadly, too many men have become like the man in today’s story: filled with rage, spouting unholy things, feared for the physical threat they can pose, separate from their family, secluded and yet surrounded by the ways of death.
Somehow some fathers have fallen short, disappeared or are trapped by their demons.
But today’s story reminds us that it does not have to be that way. That in Christ we are clothed in righteousness, in Christ we are given a new voice and an honorable task.
Jesus has wiped away our dirt and we are made new, new for the sake of our children, new for the sake of our partners, new for the sake of our parents, new for the sake of our community.
New for the sake of ourselves.
And the dirt we were once covered with becomes the soil from which the seeds we get to plant get to grow, in soil that is now good and able to produce life.
For when Jesus steps into our life, we are given a chance to be freed from our demons, freed from the things that have chained us, free from our spiritual filth.
We are given the chance to proclaim, the chance to do.
In other words, we are each given the chance to plant seeds in good soil.
In conclusion, let us remember that as new men, as new women, as new people in Christ, the dirt that once ruled our lives becomes the soil from which new life can grow, soil in which beauty can arise.
Rough waters do not have to scare us, moments of demonic behavior do not have to define us, and seclusion do not have to be the answer.
For Jesus has given us the seeds we need to turn our dirt into soil and our pain into joy, and he has asked us to share them with all that we know.
All thanks be to the Spirit that falls upon us like life giving rain, thanks be to God that gives us the seeds to plant, and thanks be to Jesus that turns our dirt into soil.
Amen and amen.