The Sanctuary Sermon for 8/16/20
“Seeds of New Life” Matthew 13:1-9
I know that it’s the sweet spot of summer now and you’re thinking about what activities await your attention when we leave this morning. I am too. But for the next few moments, let’s put on our thinking caps. I’ve got plenty of questions for you this morning.
When you look at your life today, when you look at the lives of the people you care about most, when you look at everything that is happening in our country, what are your deepest hopes?
I’m not simply asking what you want, or wish would happen. What are those things that you would work for and do everything you could to make happen? I’m talking about the kind of hopes that get ahold of you and won’t let go, the longings that drive your life, the prayer that never goes away. I’m asking about the things in which you would invest all that you are and all that you have – your life, energy, effort, money, time, love.
I want you to dig deep within the soil of yourself as you answer this question. What are the hopes that seem too good to be true, that bring tears to your eyes, that you may have never shared with another because they were too precious to risk? Take a moment to softly name them.
My guess is that most of us spoke of a relationship, a quality of life, well-being, wholeness, meaning, joy, a deep peace, or forgiveness.
Whatever you just named, those hopes carry the seeds of your life. And it’s asking something of you. It’s a call and an insistence waiting to be planted, given existence then shared. Now hold that thought.
Let’s look at our text,
13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
A few more questions for you this morning. Who is the sower in this parable? Is it God? Yes. Jesus? Yes. The Spirit? Yes. Those are the usual answers and they certainly aren’t wrong. God is always sowing God’s life in ours. We are created in the image of God and according to his likeness. The kingdom of God is within you Jesus says. Paul reminds us that, “The Spirit of God dwells in you.” Our prayers are often a request or desire for the Divine Sower to plant his kingdom presence firmly in our life’s situation. Our thanksgivings are a recognition of God’s sowing in our lives. There are thousands of ways in which God in and through the Holy Spirit shares himself with us, sows his life in us. Yes, God, Jesus and the Spirit are sowers of seed.
But are the usual answers the only answers?
When you dig in the dirt and plant seeds, where do you plant them? In the good soil, of course. The answer is obvious.
Nobody sows seeds knowing they won’t grow, that they’ll be eaten by birds, fall among rocks, or be choked out by thorns and weeds. And yet, that’s exactly what the sower does in today’s parable and I don’t understand.
Why does the sower do that? That’s the question that kept coming up for me as I sat with this parable last week. Why in the world would a farmer sow seeds on a hard packed path, among rocks, and among thorns? It doesn’t make sense and that makes me think there is more to this parable than we usually see or hear.
When Jesus tells this parable, I don’t think he’s talking about himself as the sower. Jesus’ life as described in the gospels just doesn’t fit with what the sower does in today’s parable.
In the parable the sower sows anywhere and everywhere. He keeps reaching into his bag, indiscriminately chucking seeds into thorny weeds, on stony ground and on the hard-beaten path. But here’s the thing. Jesus didn’t. Instead, he was always attentive to the openness, readiness, and receptivity of the people he met. He was always evaluating the soil of their life. He wasn’t categorizing some as good soil and others as bad soil. He was discerning about which soil was receptive to being sown and which was not yet ready.
For instance, when the hemorrhaging woman touched the fringe of Jesus’ clothes, he felt her readiness and receptivity to his healing. When he asked blind Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” he was asking about Bartimaeus’ openness to change and a new life. When “many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him” he saw their un-readiness and asked the others, “Do you also wish to go away?” And when he was in Jerusalem for the Passover festival, he didn’t entrust himself to the people because he knew what was within them, and they weren’t ready yet. He was always discerning in which soil to plant.
So, if Jesus isn’t the sower in the parable, who may it be? I think by now, you know where I’m going with this.
We are. We are the sower who went out to sow. When we hear or read this parable, we are quick to look at ourselves or others as one of the four types of ground: the beaten path, the rocky ground, weedy, thorny terrain, or good soil. But have you ever thought of yourself as the sower in this parable? As followers of Christ, every one of us has been gifted with hopes that carry the seeds of new life. You named that at the beginning of this sermon. When you named your hopes, you named yourself as a sower.
Have you ever had someone show up at just the right time—and say or do exactly what you needed and you knew it was not calculated, there was no end game for him or her? They were sowing seeds. They were simply being themselves. Whatever they did or said they could not do or say otherwise. They seeded your life because they were a sower. By the same token, you’ve probably had the experience of someone saying to you, “You remember when you said or did …? How did you know? That was exactly what I needed.” And you have no recollection of that event. You didn’t plan it or intend it. You were just sowing the seeds of your life, of who you are. It’s not so much what you did or said but who you were. You were a sower to that person.
If we’re yoked with Christ, we’ve been called to chucking and spreading seed, often indiscriminately and at times we don’t even know it. Sowing is simply our way of being and living, the way we engage the world and relate to others. We can only sow seeds that were first sown and cultivated within us.
You see, Jesus has sown in us, “the word of the kingdom.” That word is multiple, it’s the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Those are the seeds the Spirit sows within us, seeds that we are to cultivate within ourselves and sow in our relationships and the world. They are the kind of things that once we experience them, we cannot keep them to ourselves. They sprout and grow within us, and we seed the world.
After Jesus’ resurrection, as the Eleven were eating supper, he appeared and took them to task most severely for their refusing to believe those who had seen him raised up. Then he said this, “Go into the world. Go everywhere announcing to everyone the Message of God’s good news.” In light of our parable, he may as well have said, “Go everywhere into the world, indiscriminately chucking, spreading, planting and sharing with everyone the Message of God’s good news.”
If you notice, the condition of the soil didn’t stop the sower. He doesn’t seed only the good soil. She does not withhold seed from the thorny or rocky ground. Even the walked upon path is seeded and that makes no sense. At least not for those who want to calculate and quantify life. That’s not the way of the sower, however.
The sower sows with indiscriminate generosity. The sower sows here, there, and everywhere without regard to where the seed might land or the quality or type of ground on which it falls. The sower sows not because of who or what the ground is but because of who the sower is.
A few more questions, oh I’ve got questions. Where and with whom do we sow? In what ways have we withheld seed because we deemed the ground unworthy? What would it take for us to be as indiscriminately generous as the sower?
The sower doesn’t worry about the harvest or how much it will yield. That he or she sows anywhere and everywhere tells us that. This isn’t the way of our culture. It’s not what most of us have been taught or come to believe. We want a return on our investment. We don’t want to waste resources or spend ourselves on a hopeless cause. Apparently, that’s not how the sower lives. You see, the sower isn’t concerned about whether or not there will be enough seed. His or her supplier is the Father of all abundance. The good, good Father is a divine seed market. There is more than enough. And the deepest and most gracious response to there being enough is to sow with generosity.
So many questions. How would your life be different if you stopped measuring and keeping score? What would change if you trusted the seeding of this present moment more than you worried about the future yield?
The lives of others need a sower with seeds of new life. Our country needs a sower with seeds of new life. The world needs a sower with seeds of new life. They’re waiting for you. Plant seeds in people, places, and circumstances indiscriminately. Where do you see that? Who are those people and relationships for you? You are that sower and your hopes carry those seeds of new life. If our lives, our country, our world are going to change, to grow and flourish, to become something new, it will be because, and only because, “a sower went out to sow.”
This is the Word of the Lord for the day.
“Seeds of New Life”
The Sanctuary Sermon for 8/16/20