This morning’s gospel reminded me of the movie “The Lion King,” especially the part where Mufasa was out with his son Simba on a hunting lesson, and he said the now widely known phrase, “The circle of life.” I don’t know if you’ve seen this movie and remember the scene. It was a warm summer’s night in the middle of the Saharan desert; a lion with its cub wandered along the long and golden grass. He was teaching its cub the art of survival, the art of hunting. He was preparing his son how to pounce and be a lion.
Both were laying on their backs looking up at the night sky; they both were deep in thought and amazed by the splendor of the sky, when Simba, the little lion asks his father, “Where do all the dead lions go, father?” To which Mufasa replies, “son, after death, the spirits of the lions ascend the heavens from which they then become part of these sparkling stars you see now.” Having heard this, and after a brief silence of thought, Simba then asks his father, “will you be joining them as well?” “Yes, my son, Mufasa replies when my time comes, this is the circle of life: New one comes, and the old one goes.”
Collins, the online Dictionary, defines the circle of life as: “Nature’s way of taking and giving back life to earth. It symbolizes the universe being sacred and divine. It represents the infinite nature of energy, meaning if something dies, it gives new life to another.”
You might be asking how today’s gospel reminded me of the “Lion King” movie.? Well, I believe in the parable of the farmer we read this morning, Jesus gives us a description of the “circle of life” in our journey as his followers. This parable describes the three stages that every Christian must go through in our “spiritual circle of life” to share the life that God has given us. To preserve and extend the kingdom of God here on earth.
When he explained this parable to his disciples, he spoke about different soils where the farmers could plant the seed of the gospel. This soil represents four different kinds of people: four different acceptances of the gospel. Today, I will not speak to you about those kinds of soils. This morning I would like to share some thoughts about the stages of our journey with Christ.
Let me start with one statement that I know everybody has heard: “The Church is dying.” Today, I would like to suggest something different: the church is not dying; it just not growing. The church of Christ cannot die; God created it to be eternal. It was created and empowered to receive Jesus when He comes back to earth. Jesus’ church is not growing and is not growing because we are not closing or completing the circle of life we are supposed to, the circle of life Jesus called us to.
A farmer went out to plant some seeds, Jesus said, in the parable the farmer represents every Christian man or woman; old or young, boy or girl who, in obedience to Jesus, shares the gospel with another person. The person who receives the gospel is the soil. Soil is the first stage of our life with Jesus; we all were soil at a certain point in our lives. When someone invited us to church, when we listened to God’s word, seeds were being planted in our lives. Then, something happens, we accepted the invitation and came to church. The invitation to receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior was made, and we let Jesus into our hearts, and everything changed. From that moment on, whenever we heard the scriptures read and a sermon preached, we felt that God was talking to us, and thru the Holy Spirit, we were synchronized with God.
From that moment on, we participated in Bible studies, Sunday school, youth, men, or women’s meetings. The seed planted in our heart/soil started to germinate, and little by little, we began to grow and reach the second stage of our journey: we became fruits. Fruits of the labor of all the vineyard farmers called the church, farmers who were taking care of us. Soil and fruits are the first two stages of our spiritual circle of life.
However, there is another stage of this spiritual circle of life, that is farmer; we must become farmers; we must plant the seed of the gospel in others’ hearts/soil for the Church of Jesus to continue not only existing but growing. Christianity is not growing; our churches are struggling because, most of the time, we only complete two, out of the three stages of this spiritual circle of life. Some Christians are soil constantly receiving seeds.
Other Christians reach the stage of fruits. We can see that they are not the same; God has changed them. They enjoy being part of a church that will pray for them, a church that will be there when they need it, you see them involved in every event. However, that is as far as they will go, there is not any commitment with Jesus’ commandment of “go and make disciples.” Even when they have allowed Jesus to be part of their lives, their lives are broken circles of life. When God asks, “who shall I send; who will go for me,” they always look at someone else; they always look at the person seated by their side. There is still something between them and Jesus’ called to go and make disciples. They always have excuses like those from the parable of the Banquet. Do you remember: “I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.” or “I have just bought five yokes of oxen, and I am on my way to try them out. Please excuse me. Or “I just got married, so I can’t come.”
My sisters and brothers, if we want to continue with the expansion of God’s kingdom, if we are going to fulfill the commandment of Jesus Christ to go and make disciples, we all must become farmers. Many of you here are farmers, and you know that even today, with all the technology and machinery is not an easy task. It requires hard work. The farmer is the one who cleans and prepares the soil; the farmer is the one who plants the seed; the farmer is the one who takes care of the little plant to grow and give fruits. In conclusion, it is easy -from the parable’s perspective to be soil; it is easy to be the fruit of someone’s else work. However, all over the gospels, we find that God requires us, young and old, male, and female to become farmers. That is what Jesus meant when he said: Go and make disciples; that is what He meant when He said, let your light shine or be the salt of the earth or whoever loves father, or mother, son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. All those statements are commandments to become farmers.
To be a farmer in Jesus’ vineyard means to do unto others the good others Christians have done unto us; it means to serve others the way others Christians have served us; it means to share the same love we have received from other farmers of God’s vineyard and share the same grace, mercy and forgiveness we have received from God.
Let me read you the refrain of the theme song from the movie “The Lion King” ‘It’s the Circle of Life, and it moves us all through despair and hope, through faith and love till we find our place on the path unwinding in the circle, The Circle of Life.”
As in the song, Jesus wants us to take our place in his vineyard. Our place is not to be soil or fruit only; our place is to be planters, farmers. That is the only way the seed planted in us can also germinate and bring life in other soils, other hearts; that is the only way Jesus Christ’s church will continue growing and expanding. To do that, we must die to ourselves and let Jesus live in us. Remember John 12:24 “Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” Remember, part of the definition of “The circle of life” given by Collins the online Dictionary says, “It represents the infinite nature of energy, meaning if something dies, it gives new life to another.” We must die to our own wellbeing; we must die to those things we want and love, and start loving and living for what God wants us to love and live.
I do not know in which stage in your spiritual journey you are now, but if you are soil, pray for God to help you to be fruit; if you are fruit, pray for God to help you to be a farmer. If you are a farmer, pray for God can continue giving you the strength to keep on planting because “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”