Plant today to provide nourishment for tomorrow

June 22, 2020 by Rev. Amantha Barbee

Isaiah 55:10-13

10 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. 12 For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. 13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

With the COVID-19 quarantine, we have all had the opportunity to slow down and reflect. It was most unexpected and, in many cases, unwelcomed, but is so. Perhaps we have explored our purpose in our quiet time. We often do that when we are forced to reevaluate our being in the world. Our text from Isaiah allows for picturesque and deep reflection on purpose.

When we have just washed our cars or are wearing our best clothes, we often think about how inconvenient the rainfall is. When we have a big meeting, Sunday worship, or a final exam to administer, the snowfall is very inconvenient. But, the fact remains, no matter how inconvenienced we may be, the rain and the snow have purpose. Their purpose is to nourish the soil so that we may eat and be filled. Their purpose is a Divine one. When we are operating in and out of Divine purpose, we never return empty.

God tells us that our success is predicated on our ability to live into God’s purpose. God has sent you on a journey. We call that journey life. What is God’s purpose for you? Lest we forget, sometimes our purpose seeking actions may inconvenience others. That is what we call sacrifice. In order to live into God’s divine purpose, we must sacrifice. We too have the opportunity for success. We can return full, not empty. As we continue to examine our purpose, we must ask ourselves the question, where am I creating rain or snow in the lives of others? Where am I being used by the Holy to nourish another soul?

What if that thing you did, that thing you do caused the hills around you to burst into song or the trees to clap their hands? Notice what it did not say. It did not say other people. We cannot live to please or to impress other human beings. Our purpose is to please God. When we do that God is pleased.

Our giving is one such thing which can allow music to be sung and hands to be clapped, literally and figuratively. How many seeds can you sow today? With each seed planted comes another opportunity for a cypress or a myrtle. Your cypress may look like a beautiful worship space. Your myrtle may look like an iPad for a homebound student. Your cypress may look like teaching an investment class to underserved seniors. Your myrtle may look like reading to an orphaned child. Your memorial to the Lord may just be making your purpose be only hiring people of color over the next 12 months. What are you planting today that will provide nourishment for the hungry tomorrow? What is your everlasting sign that shall not be cut off? We pray that in listening to God’s purpose you will become a source of joy for the Lord!

Rev. Amantha Barbee serves as Senior Pastor of Oakhurst Presbyterian Church in Decatur, Georgia. She holds a Master of Divinity from Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond, Va., where she earned the E.T. George Award for Excellence in Homiletics and Worship. Rev. Barbee worked in corporate sales for over 10 years before heeding the call to ministry, then served as a program director in an area women’s homeless center. She previously served as pastor at Statesville Avenue Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC, from 2011 to 2019, and is currently working on her doctoral degree at Columbia Theological Seminary. She is a native of Charlotte.