My grandparents (my mom’s parents), Grandma & Grandpa Hart, they had a large garden. It was so big and so abundant that we all were able to eat from it and I wondered when I read the parables for today if there were any stories about things “coming up volunteer.” You know. You know how plants just do? You weren’t expecting it but there it is. Something just pops up out of the ground. My Aunt Joan called me back and said, “Well, now, Mom had a good one. It’s not about the garden, though. It’s about Surprise Lilies. Do you know what Surprise Lilies look like? They’re those weird, pink lilies that are like this green stalk and then this pink flower on the top. The way Surprise Lilies work is that you plant the bulbs in early Spring and, then, at some point in late Spring, there’s this greenery that comes up and, then, that goes away. Then, come late July or early August, almost overnight, they just pop up! Surprise! That’s why they’re called Surprise Lilies.
Well, my Aunt Joan said, “Now, long time ago, back when we were kids, Mom got some Surprise Lily bulbs from her mother-in-law and she went out and planted them right next to the house. Now, Daddy,” she says, “Daddy came home with a big truckload of sawdust.” I said, “Why did he come home with sawdust?” She said, “I don’t know. He just came home with a big load of sawdust and he decided to dump it right next to the house.” What he did not know is that he dumped this big load of sawdust directly on top of the place where my grandmother had planted the Surprise Lily bulbs. “Ah…” Grandma said to him. “Ah…” That’s how you know you’re really in trouble, she does that sort of breathy cough thing, “Ah…” and then there’s a look. “Ah…Wilmer, well, you dumped that sawdust right on top of my Surprise Lily bulbs.” “Well, I didn’t know!” *shrug* Come Spring, late Spring, no big green bush. Come July, come August, no Surprise Lilies because they’re under three feet of sawdust! Grandma was very mad she was very, very angry. Fall comes, and my uncle looks at his dad and says, “Ah…” (We do that a lot.) “Ah… Well, Dad, why is that there? That sawdust shouldn’t be up against the house. I’m gonna move it.” So, my uncle takes a backhoe and scoops up all the sawdust and then spreads it around a phone pole. “Why did he spread it around a phone pole?” I say. “I don’t know,” my aunt says. Fall continues, Winter comes, Spring comes, and then one August morning, my grandma walks out of the house and *gasp* surprise! The Surprise Lilies have popped up out of the big pile of sawdust around the phone pole! And, in telling this story, she says, “They must have really wanted to live.” They didn’t even sprout where they were planted! They even got moved and they were still able to come up!
Lilies are a sign of the Resurrection, by the way. So, you want to know what the kin-dom of God is like? It’s like seeds that get scattered, sprout, and grow even up from under three foot of sawdust. The planter doesn’t know how! That’s what the text says to us: The planter doesn’t even know how, against all odds, they pop up! The planter is astonished and everyone else with them. This is the quality of God’s generosity, of God’s abundance in our lives. That even God is astonished at how the kin-dom grows and grows and grows! How the kin-dom grows in us. Even God is astonished at where new life pops up.
You want to know what else the kin-dom of God is like? Well, it’s like a subversive parable. That’s what Jesus tells us. That’s what happens next. He says that the mustard seed is the smallest seed, but it’s not. He says that it grows up to be the greatest shrub, but it’s, it’s not. He says that it puts forth large branches, large, but it doesn’t really. He says the birds of the air, as in all of the birds of the air, make nests there, but, of course, they don’t. But, that’s how he tells the story. So, if you want to know what the kin-dom of God is like, how it works, well, it works like this: That God looks at we’ve got, which, from our perspective looks small and meager and limited, God sees what is bigger and greater and more generous than we can scarcely imagine. Oh, but that’s the problem.
The problem is that we imagine with our scarcity mentality. We imagine with our fear and our smallness and our greed and our self-righteousness. And if that’s all we ever do, then we’ll never, we’ll never, we’ll never see the kin-dom of God the way that God sees it. The way that God sees the kin-dom, with its infinite generative possibilities that are actually possible. God’s vision of abundance, it’s so different than ours.
In America, our vision of abundance, well, it looks like a superstore. Think about it. Think about it: There are superstores now, all over our country. Think about what they look like: superstores are vast and rambling buildings with lots of light and high ceilings so that you can see everything so well. You can see how the buildings are stocked to the rafters with anything you’ve ever wanted and all the things you don’t want but you suddenly think you need. Yes. Yes, that’s what a superstore is like. It’s all right there for you, waiting for you on the shelves…as long as you can pay for it. It’s all right there. And, even if you can’t pay for it, you can go into debt, into hock up to your eyeballs. Well, then, sure! It’s still right there for you! Right at your fingertips. That’s the American vision of abundance.
And, now, here, in this country, in this year, with this different vision of abundance, or of the way that we corrupt abundance. We’ve all read about it in the news, we’ve all seen it on the news: There’s an old superstore that’s been converted to a “shelter.” A shelter for 1,500 immigrant boys, most recently including those forcibly separated from their parents. And you know what it’s called? It’s called “Casa Padre,” Father’s House. But, Church, on this Father’s Day, I say to you that this vision of abundance is not in keeping with the kind of house our Father, our Padre, our Abba, our Father who art in Heaven who sent His only Son to be born among us who, when he was only a baby boy, crossed the border into Egypt as an immigrant, as a refugee. It’s not the kind of house that our Father would build.
And, yet, truly, I say unto you, that God is scattering seeds. Even today, in our sense of helplessness, and righteous indignation, and frustration, God is scattering seeds of justice and righteousness and mercy and kindness and love. Those seeds are being scattered in us today. This day. May they take root. May they sprout. May they grow. So, that all the birds of the air, all the beloveds, will be at home. Not just in a big-box store that looks a lot more like a prison than it does a shelter. But in homes of their own with their Abbas and their Eemas across the border with them.