Proper 10 – July 13, 2014
Then he (Jesus) told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (Matthew 13:3-9)
This week I attempted to try on Matthew 13 like a new shirt. That is, after hearing and/or preaching this text over the last 20 years I hoped and prayed that I could hear it in a new way. After all, the text itself calls on those with ears to hear what he is saying and this parable tells us a lot about seeds, soil, birds, rocks, weeds, and farming in general. It seems funny to me that someone who was a carpenter by trade is telling a farming story to a group of people whose lives revolved around fishing while religious leaders most adept at reading and slaughtering sheep listen in. Thank goodness God helped me hear more than that in this story.
Most of the time when I have preached this parable I have attempted to explain just how we (Christians) should be making sure that the soil of our heart is clean and ready for the seed of the gospel. I imagine I have given some explicit examples on things that cannot be in the soil of our heart lest they keep the seed from taking root or give way to weeds that choke out the seeds. I think I remember even preaching about possible birds (temptations) that eat the seeds that God has sown in our heart. If memory serves me correct I think I have even tried to cast a vision of where the church could invest effort based on a soil assessment of the community. My prayer is that these little warnings or life lessons have been helpful to someone along the way, but I am not sure.
Perhaps there is a greater truth at play here.
It seems to me that we are not the farmers of the dirt in this parable. Nor are we to act as bird hunters protecting the seeds or root scientists trying to insure proper planting or root fertilization. While the church should be active in preserving and protecting the gospel in hopes that it takes deep root in the hearts and lives of people that is not our primary role as believers. Our focus is really not on the soil/dirt at all. The focus of this text is on the seed, but not on what limits or threatens the seed that God is sowing. That is His focus and He has been doing it well for along time. God is the one – the only One – who can produce, protect, and preserve our faith in the midst of great trials and suffering. Our focus is on this seed (the gospel) that being planted everywhere. Following the metaphor then we can say safely that God is sowing seed in every dirt patch, bird yard, and rocky road that He sees and He sees them all! By celebrating this good seed we are glorifying this champion sower who freely gives Himself to the entire world.
Let’s stop trying to figure out how we are going to help God get His seed to grow the right way. He alone does that and will let us know how we can follow His lead. Our creativity and expertise in fixing people is an unnecessary exercise that probably makes things worse. God sends His gospel, prepares the heart of the sinner, brings to light what conflicts with His righteousness, and makes holy what is so bent and twisted in our heart. God does all of that. We are only witnesses to His work. Our work is never our work. It is always His work that He starts and invites us to witness, celebrate, and respond to His glory.
Let’s become seed evangelists and/or revivalists. Let us become so convinced that God is sowing seed everywhere in our world and our job is not to fix the soil or shew away birds. Our job – our only job – is to tell people that God is putting something special into their lives. He is pouring out His grace in the midst of their hopelessness. As seed evangelists we may be telling a brand new story to ears that have never heard it. As seed revivalists we may be telling an old story in a new way to ears that have gone deaf to any news that might be positive. But that is where we stand in this story. We are braggers of the gospel seed shouting good news of great joy that God is at work. He is putting His mercy right down onto their sinful soil. He is casting out our fears by putting in place His glory. He is building His church in the midst of the most rocky, thorny, bird infested, overgrown, acidy soil possible and one day it’s going to make the most beautiful flower, the most abundant garden, the most spectacular tree, the most fruitful vine in all of creation.
Today (July 11, 2014) is world population day (according to World Vision). Out of the 7.04 billion people on earth, 2.2 billion of them are children under 18 and in every one of their lives He is showing up to sow. That is a lot of kids and God is casting a lot of gospel seed at them in every country, every language, and every way possible. That is how big He is and how awesome this seed is.
I am so thankful that God is doing what God always does. Now let us do what we were created/recreated to do. Tell others about the seed.
Whoever has ears, let them hear!