Sermon July 16, 2017
Isaiah 55: 10-13 You shall go out with joy.
Matt. 13: 1-9, 18-23 Parable of the Sower.
The Sower and the Seeds
I read a piece recently by Rev. Ed Marquart where he imagines the setting for this parable. Let me enhance some of his thoughts.
Imagine, it’s one of those hot summer days, one of those glorious hot summer days, and Jesus is out on the lake. Beautiful blue lake, they call it Lake Galilee. Some kids are fishing, there are some swimming, a few boats out on the lake. Jesus was having a wonderful time by that lake. The lesson says he was sitting. I imagine him skipping stones. But it wasn’t long before people started coming up to him.
I wonder if he was a bit like a movie star at this time. People were starting to recognize him. Can you hear the whispers? “Do you think it’s him?” “Do you think I can get a selfie with him?” It was. And so the people gather around and say, “Tell us a story Jesus.” And Jesus could tell a story. Some people have that gift. Some sing, some tell jokes, some just tell a captivating story. Jesus was a story teller. I like to imagine him a bit like Garrison Keillor in that he told stories about everyday people and events. Things people could relate to. So Jesus smiled and said, “Sure, I’ll tell you a story.”
Now for our purposes today, I’m going to tell the story, but with the help of Ed Marquart, we’ll make it a bit more contemporary. Jesus tells a story about a farmer through the words of the farmer. “It was the middle of winter and the new Burpee seed catalog just came in. You know the kind. They have full color pictures of huge tomato plants, and huge blueberries and beautiful beans and peas and cantelope. I looked at those tomato plants and thought, “I’m going to try those seeds. It says guaranteed bumper crop.”
“Well, I got those seeds and I opened the packets and I started planting, but you know how it is, the wind came a bit so I lost some seed to the rocks, and I spilled some among some thorns and grass by the side of the garden. Some fell on that little path I use to walk on when I water. That ground is pretty hard there. But some seed landed where I wanted it. Right in the little holes I dug. Right in the richness of that good soil. And oh it was good soil.
Well I let the sun and the rain do their thing, I’m kind of a minimalist farmer, and later in the summer I came out again. Well sure enough, I should have known, some that tried to grow on the edges by the rocks had shriveled up and died. Just brown little twigs. I saw the same thing in some of the thorns. And on that hard path? Only the footprints of the birds that had eaten the seed. But oh that good soil stuff. I had tomato plants, why one had 100 tomatoes! They were so heavy the vines were bent over and some were on the ground. There were plants with 30 and plants with 60!”
And Jesus laughed. And the children laughed. And the adults laughed too because they thought it was such a joke. “What do you mean, 30, 60, 100 tomatoes! That’s impossible!” And Jesus said, “When you go home and have lunch, when you eat your BLT…figure out the story.”
And the people went home laughing. They liked his stories because he talked about ordinary things, but he exaggerated! And the people still couldn’t figure it out so they said, “What does this mean?”
Now I apologize for using a tomato analogy. Maybe it doesn’t fit so well, because if you’re like my wife and I, ok my wife, I don’t think we’ve ever planted tomato seeds. We just get the small plants and let them go. And as for just spreading seed? We don’t generally do that anymore either, unless it’s something like grass seed. I think of even some of the small plots people use and how they are manicured and cared for each day. But I do like the image of 100 or so big tomatoes on a vine. That’s a visual I can appreciate. But however you imagine this story in your mind, let’s shift a bit and look at the meaning of the story.
This is one of the few stories where Jesus actually gives what seems to be a pretty clear interpretation of the parable. Often times he just tells the story and leaves it. But in this case, Jesus gives an answer.
-Some people have trouble understanding. Kind of like the hard path. And the birds or the evil one picks away at any faith they try to grow.
-Some people are like the seed on rocky soil and they start out joyful enough, but when tough times come they fall away. You know how some people are under the illusion that if you’re a Christian everything should be better for you. Life is hunky dory. You see that on television sometimes. “Get God and get healthy and wealthy.” But life isn’t always like that. Some people when they’re faced with lifes challenges give up and say, “God doesn’t work in my life. Think I’ll give up on God.” Or maybe it was a critical time in their life and they don’t feel they experienced God. “Where was God when my grandpa had a stroke?” They blame God for all their misery and the world’s.
-Then there are the thorns. Those times in life when your faith is choked out by the cares, and riches and pleasures of this life. That hits close to home too.
-The last soil is the good soil. The good soil is a miracle and produces. 30, 60, 100 tomatoes on a plant.
Now here’s just a slight twist on the story today. We usually think of different kinds of people representing the different soils and planting situations. But Timothy Owings suggests, what if rather than different people, each person has different seed conditions? It’s not that your faith is like rocky soil, or yours in a thorn patch, or yours on hard ground, or yours and yours and yours in good soil. Rather each of us has from time to time different soil types in our lives. I kind of like that.
Think of your own life. Sometimes we literally have trouble understanding God’s word. I know I do. What does this mean? Why does the Bible say this or this? I don’t understand that passage. Sometimes we’re quick to give up. No time or need for faith stuff?
And we all experience the rocky places of our lives: doubts, questions. And the thorns? Oh yeah. All kinds of things to lure us away from God and discipleship. All kinds of life’s struggles…or life’s pleasures.
But thanks be to God, some seed falls on good ground. What happens then is amazing. I’m thinking today of people who come up and say, “Let me tell you a story…” “You’ll never believe what happened to me today.” Or “I had no idea God could take what I said or did and bless someones life.”
Think about your story. Think of how God has sowed good seed on the good ground of your souls soil. [Oh yes. You’ve got the good soil in your life. You’ve had good seed planted. Can you feel it growing and bursting within you?]
Imagine this amazing extravagant God throwing seeds of faith into your life. Sounds kind of careless but also sounds kind of graceful. May those seeds of faith grow richly and abundantly in your life