Planted and Productive
Rev. Kurt Lantz Proper 6 B Psalm 1
June 13, 2021 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
If you have ever worked out in the fields in the late days of summer, when the very last of crops are coming in, you know that it is hot, dry, and dusty. There is a lot of stuff blowing around in the air and it gets in your eyes and your nose, in your mouth and in your throat. It blinds you, chokes you, and makes you itchy all over. That is the stuff that is called chaff in today’s psalm. It is the useless stubble that is left when the good parts of the plant are all used up. The chaff is dry and brittle, blown around by the wind, getting into people’s eyes, and mouths, clogging airways and waterways and filters, good for nothing but burning to smoke and ash.
Such are the people who do not meditate on the Word of God, but take counsel from the wicked of the world, take their stand with sinners, and hang out with people who insult and scorn Christians and the Church. So, let me ask you: “When was the last time that you meditated on God’s Word rather than take advice from the wicked world, and let it determine the values that you stand upon, and hang out in forums where the Christian Church is slandered and mocked?
It is pretty easy, living in our culture, to find yourself where Psalm 1 tells you that you shouldn’t be. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:1-2). The psalm is not just telling us we shouldn’t hang out with sinners, but that we shouldn’t be looking to them for advice and counsel; we shouldn’t be following their ways of doing things; we shouldn’t be spurning what the Christian Church does even if it looks awfully foolish to the wicked world.
Instead, to be blessed, we should be meditating on the law of the LORD. That means looking to God’s Word for advice and counsel; following the way of life that it lays out for us; and being a part of the life of the Church. In this case, “the law of the LORD” doesn’t just mean the Ten Commandments, but all of God’s Word which teaches us about our life in Christ Jesus. And to meditate upon it is more than reading it. If reading is like eating; then meditating is like digesting, as we heard in the Collect of the Day. It is not just passing our eyes over the pages of the Bible, but living in its promises and blessings.
And some good news for you is that you’re doing some of that right now. You are here in Church living in the blessings and promises of God; those given to you in your baptism, which we rehearse by saying “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”; having our sins forgiven in the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ; hearing God speak to you from Old Testament, Epistle, Gospel readings, and from the Psalms; receiving the body and blood of Jesus, inwardly digesting it. This kind of meditation continues as you live in Christ Jesus at home, at work, and in our community. As you recall what you heard, and share the love that you have received, and live righteously as the righteous One who has here given Himself to you. This is your transformation from worthless chaff to something more secure, something stronger, something productive, something blessed. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
In Psalm 1, the Word of God’s wisdom tells you that you can be more like a tree. “Blessed is the man... whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Psalm 1:1, 2-3). By meditating on the Word of God you will be like a tree, planted stable and secure, yielding fruit that benefits others, resilient to the assaults of this fallen world, prosperous in your own growth and in the ways you help others.
When I look around at people in the world today, people that I love and am concerned about, I am worried about those that seem to be more like chaff than like trees. I see people, young and old, blown about by every wind of teaching that the worldly wise throw out there. And there is a lot of strange teaching blowing around on websites and news outlets and in self-help books. It whips people up and tosses them around this way and that. Even if they think they know for sure what is going on, taking a step back you can see them going first this way and then that, like chaff blowing in the wind, clogging up the works, good for nothing.
They are not rooted to anything, but easily stirred up. They are not resilient, but full of anxiety and fear. They are not producing anything of benefit for themselves or others, but are helpless against the driving wind and they wither in the scorching sun. There is no stability for them, no strength in them, no usefulness to them, and no future for them.
I can see it in the people that I care about because I can see it in myself. I feel dried out and weak, scorched and burned by the world, driven by the winds of worldly wisdom that blow this way and that. I scramble to get a grasp on something secure so that I won’t be driven first one way and then the other. I want to be able to do something that makes a difference in the world, for my family, something positive in my own life, but it quite often feels that I am doing nothing and suffering from some kind of paralysis that prevents me from accomplishing much good. I feel scorched and burned by the world, cast aside and left to wither and die.
I am not the only one who feels this way and neither are you. And we don’t have to feel this way, because the wisdom of God’s Word tells us we can be something different. You can resist being like chaff that the wind drives away, and instead be like a tree planted by streams of water.
Sometimes trees do seem to be in the way of our living space. There are some trees overhanging the sidewalk where I walk the dog that I have to duck under. The neighbour’s trees beside our driveway deposit all kinds of sticky pollen on the roof and windows of my car. The neighbour on the other side of the house has apple trees that drop rotting fruit in our backyard and attract wasps looking for a sweet snack.
But when the weather got extremely hot last week, I was grateful for those trees and even sought them out. On a hot summer day, some of which we have already experienced this year, our appreciation for trees increases. I sought out a shaded path for walking the dog. I looked for trees along the edges of a parking lot to keep the car shaded. I sat in the backyard under the shade of my neighbour’s overhanging trees, right where the apples will fall later this year, and some of them I will gather up to go into delicious desserts. The trees not only withstand the heat, they provide us with much needed protection and relief from the damaging rays of the sun.
Trees are stable and strong. We can climb trees. We can use them for a windbreak as well as shade. Trees are majestic. They rise up high above. They are strongly rooted deep into the ground and not easily moved. They provide fruit to eat, oxygen to breathe, and wood so strong that we use it to build our houses. They are glorious in their own right and they benefit us in so many different ways. Wouldn’t you rather be like a tree than like chaff?
It comes about through meditating on God’s Word, not just reading it but living in it and letting it do its work on you. You see, you don’t get rewarded for reading the Bible, progressing through different levels the more time you spend on it. Rather, it is God’s Word that is at work and not you. Like the seed that is scattered on the ground, it grows and we know not how (Mark 4:26-29). My vegetable garden is doing fairly well right now, and I have put some time into it, but I don’t know how those plants grow and sprout up. I don’t make that happen. And some of the smallest seeds produce the biggest plants. That is God’s work and I get the benefit of it. And so it is with His Word. He works through it for our benefit, to make us sturdy and strong and deeply rooted against the ever changing winds of the wicked world.
It’s not a reward for the time we spend reading and thinking on it. It is the unseen and unknown work of the Holy Spirit through the Word. It tells us that God planted His own Son into this wicked world (Ezekiel 17:22). He was born a descendant of Israel, and He produced all kinds of good fruits in healing and helping and teaching and forgiving. He did not walk in the counsel of the wicked, and for that they hated Him. He did not stand in the way of sinners, but called out to them to change their ways because God had sent them a Saviour. He did not sit in the seat of scoffers, but offered the outcasts a place at His table and was denounced because of it. Such precious fruit from this tender plant.
In the greatest act of love toward us, His blessed body became the fruit on the tree of the cross. He died there for us sinners, for those who have not always walked in His ways, for those who have been blown and tossed about by the counsel of the wicked because we have neglected His Word, and even for those who have scoffed at His beloved Church. He gave His life for us all and He hung there dead and dry, His precious blood having poured out of the wounds that sealed His fate.
And then they planted Him in the ground. And God did what He does. He gave life. On the third day Jesus rose again from the dead and burst out of the tomb like a shoot out of dry ground. His death and resurrection for you gives you life. Your sins are forgiven in Him and He fills you with His Spirit. He feeds you with His Word. He has planted you by the water of your Baptism. His forgiving love runs through you so that you produce the righteous fruits of faithfulness to God the Father and love to those around you. He gives you eternal life so that you will not perish and all that you do will prosper in blessings to you and your family and your community.
It all happens through meditating on His Word, the Word that tells you of what Jesus has done for you and who you are in Him. It gives life to what is dead and dry. It gives stability and strength to what is blown and tossed about. To those whose life is like chaff blowing away, it gives purpose and permanence and productivity. It gives life in Christ, the eternal life you long for.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen