This past Sunday, I stepped into the pulpit at Immanuel UMC for my first morning as their new pastor.
I had actually been in the pulpit before.
Working with Imagine No Malaria, this had been one of many churches I had visited over the past year and a half.
There was something very different, however, about standing there at the front, being welcomed as a new leader within the church.
My topic for the morning was straight from the lectionary – the parable of the farmer who scatters seed all over the place – even in places where it probably will never grow.
I flipped the narrative on its head a little bit and instead focused on what God is up to in this text. Last year, I heard Rev. Maidstone Mulenga from the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference preach on this text and he used a surprising word to describe our God: “prodigal.” Prodigal as in recklessly lavish, wastefully abundant, over-the-top, out of control.
To audible gasps, I tossed sunflower seeds around all over the front of the chancel area to show just how shocking this parable would have been… scattered in places where it never would grow…. (I got permission from our maintenance staff first! It was fun to watch them sit back and laugh as folks wondered how they would respond!)
That is how the farmer was with the seed… and that is how God spreads seeds of love and grace and mercy in our lives. Recklessly wasteful, lavishly abundant.
What I didn’t anticipate however, was the radical and abundant welcome from this church. From my first morning in the office when I was warmly welcomed by staff and the SPRC, to meals together, to flowers left on my desk, to the countless cards and gift cards given to us by the church family… it was all so much. It was prodigal. It was wonderful.
God works in strange ways like that… surprising us in unexpected places, giving us just the encouragement and confidence we need to face a new challenge, and never letting our limitations (be they weeds or rocks or a hard worn path) limit the power of God’s grace.