Sunday, July 16, 2017

The sower and the seed Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

“When we think of the parables Jesus told, the parable of the prodigal son and the good Samaritan come quickly to mind. My hunch is the parable of the sower would be third on our list. Recorded in both Mark and Matthew, this parable is not only one we remember but also one of the few parables to which our Lord gave an interpretation. In case you are already saying to yourself, “Heard that, know that, thank you very much,” I dare you to listen again. You might just hear another twist on this old story.”[1]
So according to one commentary I read the farmer puts his seed in his sack and heads out to the field and starts to sow his seed. “In those days, farmers broadcast seed across a field before plowing. That’s right; seed was first sown, and then gently plowed into the ground. You might find it interesting that this methodology is being reclaimed today by farmers wanting to better care for God’s earth. “No-till” corn is quite the rage in parts of the Midwest. Using refined technology, a farmer can sow and cultivate a corn crop without deep-plowing the field.”[2]
So this farmer broadcast his precious seed, some fell on a well-worn path cut by foot traffic through the fallow field.  Ok I am not a farmer I had to look up fallow means ...It is a plowed then roughly smoothed out field often left to rest for a season or seasons to allow for a recovery period. When the fields were left fallow for a while foot travelers would cut walking paths through the fields, taking the shortest distance between two points. Fencing was rarely if ever used in the first century. So some seed landed on the path. And when it did, the birds quickly enjoyed lunch.
Other seeds, said Jesus, fell on rocky ground. Because there was little soil there, the seedlings sprang up quickly and then withered under the scorching sun. Thorns choked off other seeds, denying them the light of day and the promise of their bounty. Finally, some seed fell on good ground and brought forth a bumper crop yielding thirty, sixty, even a hundredfold. Jesus ended the story admonishing all to listen; listen carefully, deeply, thoughtfully. Listen! Listen Spiritually.
When Jesus says listen this is a soul thing.  This is not meant to be heard and decide you know the meaning and move on.  It means to analyze the story with your soul. Who or what are you in this story.  Can you see yourself as the farmer?  Can you see yourself as the land? What is unexpected in this story is there more than the explanation given?
Some time passes. Probably alone with his disciples, Jesus gave an interpretation to this beloved parable that has endured through the ages. Many believe that our Lord’s explanation of the parable, as representing various kinds of people, is the only interpretation though Jesus explains one meaning there could be more. 
Timothy Owens writes “What if, as I believe, this parable has, can have, and even must have many meanings to it? As with all our Lord’s parables, the key is to listen and let the word take root in our lives.
I have another take on this great story; a twist to the text I invite you to consider. What if the parable could be applied with equal power to every individual life, to everyone who listens? If that is so, all of our lives have worn, rocky, thorny, and yes, good soil in which seed can germinate and grow. What if this parable is about you and me? If so, what is God saying to us? If your life is like mine, you know how daily living creates well-worn paths. We call them ruts. We drive to and from work using the same route day after day. We shop at the same grocery store, fill our tanks at the same convenience store, thankfully attend the same church, and, more times than not, feed our families predictable menus of foods we know they will eat and enjoy. Routines are often required, but sometimes in our relationship with God, routines can become ruts. We can attend church week after week, hear the scriptures read (like this familiar parable), sing familiar hymns, go through the church routine, and in so doing, give the good seed God sows us to the birds of indifference. Trust me. It happens and may be happening even now. Truth be told, God’s seed also falls on the rocky places of our lives. Life, by definition, can leave us cold, sharp, soilless, and rough. Pain, the cruelty of insensitive friends, and the crude comments of strangers can leave us lifeless and unmoved, rocks void of God’s bounty. Thorns pop up in our life’s ground as well. None of us intend to succumb to the cutting brutality of thorns, but there they are, choking out God’s blessings, robbing us of God’s promise.”[3]
But thanks be to God, some seed falls on good ground. When it does, the miracle of germination, cultivation, nourishment, sunshine, rain, and care yield a generous harvest no one thought was possible. It happens in all our lives in ways that leave us speechless. I am thinking today of countless individuals through the years who have started to tell me a story with these words: “You’ll never believe what happened to me today.” Or, “I had no idea God could take what I did and use it to bless another’s life.” Tell your story. Look back and see all the times God sowed good seed on the good ground of your soul, and from that small beginning came a generous harvest that still leaves you amazed. Here is the needed twist in this old, old story. Yes, there will always be people who are worn out, rocky, wasted, and yes, good. But the gospel reminds us there is far more good in all of us in which God’s grace can take root than any of us imagine.”[4]
 All manner of ground exists in the fields that are our lives.  So in some ways we need to clear out our own rocky ness, till our own worn out pathways and then seek out and trim our thorny parts. You know. This is spiritual work.  This is paying Attention to what is happening in our lives and exploring ourselves so weed out was is blocking us from connecting with our faith in healthy ways.
I would add That we need to  pay attention to the sower in this story as well.  Does the sower stop to discern where he is tossing the seed. If the seed is the word of God.  If  Jesus is the sower and this message of his we are now commissioned to be responsible for then we must act as the farmer did in this story.
Do you see where I am going with this?  We are called to walk the path of Christ, we are called to serve our neighbors and the world with abundant grace and extravagant welcome.  This means going out there and participating in projects we know Christ would call us to do.  This means for example, setting up a table at the progressive fair. Letting the world, well Petaluma, know we are still here.  We are Gods people and we have a message to share.
That message needs to be shared and shared just  as indiscriminately as the farmer sowed her seed.  She scattered it afield and waited.  Waited to see what would grow.  In the same way we need to participate in our community and with each event with each opportunity to serve we must not only serve but let people know who we are.  Who we are as a community.  That we are working to bring forth this radical message of an all loving inclusive God.
You see you say it over and over and over again and you offer that welcome that invitation over and over and again and eventually something will grow, someone will say yes.  I want to be a part of that. But you have to be persistent, you must not and cannot be picky about who you might be brave enough to speak to.  Sometimes it may mean you might seem annoying to a person and at another time it may be the most needed invitation someone needs to hear.
We have people who come to the church seeking help.  Sometimes it’s for food, sometimes for gas, sometimes for rent, sometimes it’s for prayer and or just to talk to someone. Most time we will never see them again and other times they maybe a regular visitor seeking assistance.  Sometimes I we may be conned most of the times I suspect not.  It doesn’t matter I treat them all the same. I offer what resources I can, I offer prayer and I always invite them to join us on Sunday.
The results of those encounters I honestly cannot say.  That’s not the point we do not share our gifts, our ministries to see results.  We share our ministries and resources because that is what we are called to do. As you may recall the farmer scattered the seed. It falls where it will but on the occasion that it falls in the right place the yield was a hundred-fold, in another sixty-fold and still another thirty. I hear this part of Jesus parable and I hear …do not worry about the results.
This is about hearing Gods call to care for our brothers and sisters spreading Gods message of all-inclusive love to all we encounter and using words if we must. Through that indiscriminate ministry we are sowing seeds and some, just some may flourish.
So again, I am asking you when you leave this place.  In your spiritual practice and prayer life pray for this congregational and the community around you.  Where are we being called to sow the seeds of Love.  Where do we need to be more active in our community?  Do we need a mission trip?  Do we need to sign up for a habitat project?  Do we need to reach out to our neighbor churches and see if there is something we can do together for we are stronger together than as one little congregation?  Hold these ideas in prayer and remember this is your congregation, your church, let’s make it yours.

[1] David N. Mosser, The Abingdon Preaching Annual 2011 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2010), 219.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid., 219.
[4] Ibid., 221.

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