Happy birthday, young lady. Today we’re celebrating the birthday of a gifted, intelligent, musical, beautiful, funny, and spiritually committed young lady.
Jessica Flores, who in addition to all of these things also happens to be a world-class duct-tape fashionista.
Speaking of, Jessica, I have an early present for you. (pull out tape with pictures of Jesus on it - ask David Read) It’s Jesus tape! From a friend of a friend.
I’m not going to talk long, but I do hope a little bit of what I stay will, well, stick.
When I sat down with Jessica, the image from Scripture that she gave to me for this day was the gospel we just heard, and it’s about growing. (It’s also this year’s diocesan theme, but I don’t think you were brown-nosing, Jessica.) The sower scatters seeds and Jessica told me that most days she feels a little bit like a seed, and sometimes the ground is thorny. It’s not always comfortable.
Sometimes thorns mean you don’t get to determine the pace or the shape of your growing. But Jessica remembers the One who planted her, and as much as any of us here, she has a strong desire to plant roots in rich soul and continue to flourish.
Jessica, when I asked you for three words that got at what spiritual maturity means for you, you told me strength, trust, and love. You spoke about knowing your strong foundation; in yours words, knowing what he’s there for. You spoke of maturity in Christ Jesus as returning his love with your heart.
You’re a good seed, Jessica. And your prayer to return his love with your heart is our prayer for you tonight, too.
Seeds become plants. They mature and they grow. Of course, ‘plant’ is a noun and also a verb, and even the nouns get to do the verb, that is, good plants plant. Scripture will talk about this in terms of bearing good fruit. It’s an image as simple as an oak tree raining acorns on your lawn. Good plants grow for sure, and one of the things that it means to grow is that they also drop seeds. Good plants plant.
When he was talking to us churches at diocesan council, Bishop Reed told us something about planting that I think applies here:
The seeds we’ve been given to scatter are “the word of the Kingdom.” We may fling the seeds of service and personality and hospitality. We might scatter seeds of relevance, of market branding, of that perfect blend of traditional and contemporary, of that perfect blend of coffee... but after awhile, after we’ve thrown everything else we can think of, we will reach in our seed bags, and find one little seed caught in the lining, and it’s the word that says, “We preach Christ, and him crucified...” And unless we can throw that out into the field, too, everything else we do becomes nothing more than, “We preach ourselves, a little bit improved.” To tell of Christ crucified is bold talk, maybe, in a distracted, disinterested world, but it’s the word that’s planted in us to offer others.Jessica, the bishop was talking to churches, but I think he wouldn’t mind being counted as talking to you. You have so many gifts, and stand to bless even more of us than you already have with your life and witness.
Remember, hold onto, that one, small seed caught in the lining - we preach Christ, and him crucified. It’s a seed for every season and every day of your journey. It’s the seed that doesn’t ask you to keep it all together. It’s the seed that’s still there when it feels like nothing else is. It’s a seed you can scatter even on thorny days. God knows he knows something about thorns. It’s the seed that says you serve because Christ first served you, you love because he first loves you, you forgive because he has forgiven you.
Jessica, plant this seed as often as you think to. And let it be the seed that flowers in your heart.