The Seed of Life
An Easter Sunday Sermon
The Reverend Peter Edward Lanzillotta, Ph.D.
As most of us know, many of the parables used images and metaphors from nature. Jesus used those agricultural stories for ethical instruction, or to increase personal and spiritual awareness, often inserting references to the natural processes of growth and change. Many of these stories… Like The Mustard Seed, or the Sower, are among the most central, beloved, and familiar teaching stories we remember from either our childhood instruction or from our adult study as a part of our liberal religious heritage.
Easter reminds all of us of our seed potential. Jesus taught about how the Kingdom or Queendom of God can grow within each of us, and that it can also take root and grow among us as a community. We can extend this metaphor to say the human potentials for greater intelligence, creativity, ethics, and compassion can also grow within us and become known to us.
The great 13th century mystic and German advocate for women’s rights, Miester Eckhart put it this way: He stated that “the seed of God grows into God… Let yourself go, let God be God in you.” That is, we are to let false selves or our egos go, and then by making room in our awareness, we invite principles and ideals that are more ethical and spiritual to grow graciously and persistently … Steadily changing, evolving, or transforming us into our larger, greater, higher selves.
Similarly, our children can be seen as seeds of ourselves… Growing and greening with life, they are guided by our active love and care, growing into the fullness of their humanness. Through the ongoing guidance of family, church, and school, they are cultivated, and will grow into their best potentials for their lives.
In this way, we can see that growth, itself, is more than a biological process; it is the changing, ripening awareness that serves to bridge or connect us to each other and to an interdependent life on earth.
Through a natural growth in our expanding awareness, we lose the concept of being separate, and we come to realize that our lives depend on a common reality, that there is a desire for unity within each human heart.
As our growth continues, these metaphors accompany us… We come to realize that everything that is alive is connected through tendrils of grace, by common roots of experience, by branches of concern, by leaves of wisdom, and we can understand the fruits of deeper understanding as those motives, desires, and aspirations we humans hold, reach, and can share…
The evolutionary biologist Gregory Bateson believes that there exists a common source of intelligence… That there is a universal, cellular pattern, that connects… connects us to all of the Creation, and to the universe where we live. In this way, we are never apart, separate, alone…
Another scholar, the geologian Thomas Berry, states it this way:
” We bear the universe in our being, just as the universe bears us in its seeding.” From the ancient mystics to contemporary theoretical physics, from the origins of life, to the discovery of its component parts, we become more closely connected, more aware that humanity shares one spirit, that all the creatures, that all life is connected through the patterns of God or the good, and that there are important and crucial breakthroughs that happen to us; that change our perceptions, and increase our appreciation, devotion, and our sense of sustaining reverence that links eons to ions, solar systems to solar plexus, science to soul.
Seeds, then, can be seen as acting much like human beings… They are like our families, churches, neighborhoods, even nations. Their life cycle teaches essential and inescapable lessons about the shared nature of growth, death, resurrection.
Seeds or cells, be they political or biological, personal or communal are systems or patterns of connection. The patterns carry within themselves, predictive DNA… They are the patterns of destiny and demise, discovery and determination. Seeds and cells also carry within them the demands of change: that every living thing, every family, group, or organization will, of its own necessity, need to adapt, need to redefine itself… Often the seed , group or organism needs to go through its own decline and death, on the way towards its own restructuring and resurrection…
People, like societies, empires, even planets and stars are faced with an ultimate choice: rot or grow, change or die. While this sounds like a harsh truth, it is fair and just, because it applies universally, and can be seen as an agent of transformation in that it bears within its pattern, a compassionate promise- that as we adapt, we survive; as we adjust, we come to understand, as we affirm, we learn what traits, qualities and ideals we wish to support, and which ideas and ideals, which principles and purposes, will work effectively to encourage us to thrive and grow.
Seed casings must burst and die to its old encased ways… Being in contact with the earth, and the elements, encourages the process of softening, then breaking open, set its roots, and then direct its stems and shoots upward and outward and allow its leaves to unfold towards the Sun… Inactive pods, dormant seeds are like our old ways of staying content, staying safe, staying dormant, then when they become exposed to the light and other forces that compel change, we will feel unsettled, anxious while on the way to bringing ourselves into a new awareness and becoming comfortable with an emerging new identity. Identity gives stability without holding the new growth static, and the stems or ideas of further development and exploration push out from the old bark, or release the old stems to make them give way to new leaves of emotion and discovery…
The old protective shell that once insulated them from change falls off, replaced by a new dynamic faith in possibilities, and growth towards a new sense of its potentials for greater interconnection and larger unfoldment.
The seminal message of Easter teaches that we must die before we can be reborn. In the process of dying, we are being transformed into new creatures. And when we are changed by our ethical and spiritual realizations, we mature into becoming resurrected with new views of life; new views of family, new views of church, neighborhoods, countries, a new sense of cooperation with the world and with one another.
Both seeds and souls can bear good fruit once the hard shells of our past become broken and a new sense of a shared heart becomes encouraged to grow within us. I affirm and I believe that The Earth is holy, and that all the seeds of God- human, animal, vegetable are connected, are sacred. [What has been seeded is the capacities for conviction and for conscience which often manifest as wonder, awe, dedication, devotion and love that serves to renew and regard nature and our community as precious, valuable, and worthy of our time and care.]
Easter reminds us that the seed or source of God or good is within us… And as it grows, there is a renewed sense of inspiration, commitment, and caring that works together to foster and create a world of blessing-
for our children, our church, the earth, for all of life!
AMEN and So BE IT!
For the flowers that bloom about our feet,
For tender grass, so fresh, so sweet
For the song of bird, and the hum of bees,
For all that we hear and see,
[Father- Mother God, Source, Author] in Heaven, we thank Thee!
For the blue of stream and the blue of sky,
For pleasant shade of branches high,
For fragrant air and cooling breeze,
For beauty of the blooming trees,
[Father- Mother God, Source, Author] in heaven, We thank Thee!
Ralph Waldo Emerson
As Jesus proclaimed, ” That we shall be known by our fruits!”
May this Easter time be the time for seeding new visions, and planting new foundations. May we choose to expand and grow- bearing witness to the fruits of great witness: To justice, equality, dignity, to caring and compassion.
As Easter signals the earth’s emergence and the hope of Spring, may we welcome a new manifestation of community, and the growing sense of mission and purpose among us.
Joys And Sorrows:
The Unitarian poet, e e cummings, stated that life, in its spiritual dimensions, “Easters in us …”
That the lessons and experience of Easter act as a continuing catalyst, as an annual verb of gracious action, as it cycles through our awareness and serves to guide our decisions and actions. It awakens us in Springtime to the need to rejuvenate, and to resurrect our spirits and to regenerate our hopes… For we are all given creative capacities, and we are all capable of transformation.
Each day we are reborn, and as we grow through life’s changes and challenges, we learn to die to the old ways of doing and defining our lives, and seek new expressions, new dimensions, new patterns for our growth…
Eastering is the name we can give to those changes… To the human process of becoming renewed and transformed…
This Eastering that takes place within us, also brings with its lessons and adventures, both suffering and celebration, wounds and wonders…
And the effects of this Eastering becomes best known to us through our relationships, as it comes to us whenever we connect or commit to someone or some group… be it through marriage or through church membership.
From those meaningful connections and commitments, we are both consoled and inspired, accepted and challenged, to be more fully human, to be more fully alive and in touch with how meaning and purpose can be found.
Each time we gather as a community, we bear witness to the full range of emotions that our Eastering has created within and among us…
As I see it, it is a special gift and blessing to gather to celebrate and to be
understood, to be invited to share your joys and your sorrows on this day…
Pastoral Story/Reflection: How Awareness and Perspectives Shape our Interpretations Or maybe better known as the Pope and the Janitor….
Many, many years ago, during the Middle Ages, there was a Pope who wanted to banish the Jews from Rome. He had an official edict or law drawn up that allowed him to ask anyone who wasn’t Catholic to leave the city…. And he was successful… Well, all except a small band of Jews who had built a synagogue just outside the Vatican walls…
They sent their rabbi, and he asked the Pope to reconsider…. The Pope, being a reasonable and fair man, offered him and his synagogue members a sporting proposition: Let the Jews appoint someone to debate him, and since there was a language barrier, it would be in Pantomime… Gestures…
The rabbi went back and reported this proposition with his congregation… They concluded that to turn down the debate meant sure banishment from Rome, but to accept such a debate would signal a sure defeat! What to do! Given that the Pope would be both the debater and the judge it seemed like a slim but necessary possibility… After weighing all this , they looked around for someone among them who would be willing to debate the Pope….
No one came forward…. That is, none of the Rabbis felt prepared, and no of the scholars felt capable, and so there didn’t seem to be anyone who was willing…. Then the janitor volunteered!
Well, said the rabbi, since no one else would come forward, the janitor it is!
When the Pope heard about this , at first he was insulted, but the debate would go on…!
There in the Vatican, with all of his ornate cardinals, bishops and priests around him, the Pope was ready for the debate… On the other side of the square, was a small band of simple people, dressed in black….
The pope stepped down from his throne, walked to the center, and faced the janitor who had come out of his group… And so the debate began….
The Pope raised one finger, and then he traced it across the heavens…. Then the janitor promptly responded by emphatically pointing downward towards the Earth….
The Pope seemed taken aback, puzzled, and a little amazed!
Then the Pope raised one finger and waved it in the janitor’s face… The janitor responded by waving one, then three fingers in the Pope’s face! The Pope was astonished!
Next, the Pope thrust his hand inside his cloak and pulled out an apple….
Whereupon, the janitor, reached inside his pocket, and pulled out a piece of matzo!
At this point, the Pope exclaimed in a loud voice, ” The janitor has won the debate! The law is revoked. The Jews can stay! A a cheer went up in the little band across the square!
Afterwards, the Pope met with his cardinals and scholars, and they were befuddled, confused… So they asked him, “Your Holiness, what happened?” The Pope wiped his brow because of the strain of the debate, and he exclaimed, that man must have been a scholar in disguise…
He was a brilliant theologian, a master in debate, as good as any of us!
You see, when I first raised my finger, I proclaimed that God reigns in the whole sky… But then he reminded me that the Devil rules over Hell, and judges those on earth….
The second time, I raised my finger to declare that God is One! Imagine my surprise when that fellow responded by first putting up one finger and then three- thereby proclaiming
Our own sacred teaching that God manifests himself as the Holy Trinity!
Well, now I knew that I will not get the best of him arguing theology, because he was a genius, so I tried to trick him by claiming that new fangled, non sensical theory I have been hearing about, that our earth is round, so I showed him an apple…. Well, then he took out a flat piece of bread, and proclaimed what we teach- that the earth is flat! So, I had to concede! He had won!
By now, the small band of Jews had returned to their beloved synagogue, and they were bewildered at their good fortune, and so they had to ask the janitor what had happened! The janitor was indignant. The whole thing, he said, was a bunch of rubbish!
Look, first that Pope moves his hand like he s telling all the Jews to get out of Rome!
So, I pointed downward to say, we, Jews are not going to move!
So then, he points his finger right at me… So I point back at him to warn him, if he said once we had to leave, I would say three times, we are going to stay!
Next, he pulls out his lunch, so I pulled out mine!
Ah, how our perceptions dictate their truth and their silliness to us….
May we all become more aware of how something really is rather than judge by how it appears!
Resources for Invocation/Opening Words and Benedictions/Closings Words
Glory Be To God
Glory Be to God for dappled things- For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim; Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; flinches wings; Landscape plotted and pierced- fold, fallow, and plough; And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange; Whatever is fickle, freckled, (who knows how?)
With swift; slow; sweet; sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: Praise Him!
Gerald Manly Hopkins
Love flows from God to humanity without effort
As the birds glide through the air, without moving its wings-
Thus they go whithersoever they will, United in body and soul
Yet in their form separate- As the Godhead strikes the note, Humanity sings! The Holy Spirit is the harpist, and all the strings must sound, which are strung with love.
Mechthild of Megdeburg
I Thank You God
I thank you God for this most amazing day; for leaping greenly spirit of trees
And a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural, which is infinite
Which is yes…
(i who have died, am alive again today. And this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
Day of life and love and wings; and of the gay great happening illimitably earth)
How should tasting touching hearing seeing breathing any- lifted from the no of all nothing- human merely being doubt unimaginable You?
e e cummings
I see humanity as one vast plant, needing for its highest fulfillment only love, the natural blessings of the great outdoors, and intelligent crossing and selection.
In the span of my own lifetime, I have observed such wondrous progress in plant evolution that I look forward optimistically to a healthy, happy world as soon as its children are taught the principles of simple and rational living.
We must return to nature, and nature’s god.