Halfway through the book of Matthew, in today’s reading of the 13th chapter, the crowds following Jesus had gotten so large that he got into a boat to address the crowd with his teaching and to speak in parables as he often did.
He got into the boat so that he would not be pressed and could be heard by all that had gathered along the beach. He presents the parable of the sower and the four types of soil. Hopefully this passage from scripture and message I’ve prepared will find a home with many of you given our agricultural based way of living in southern Iowa
I would ask you, after hearing he scripture read and the children’s message demonstrated, who is the sower and what is the seed?
Christ oftentimes spoke in parables and parables can be understood by those willing to be taught, for those unwilling they are complex and difficult. At times, Christ’s own disciples didn’t understand them.
Parables are meant for examination and the searching of one’s soul. To search for the truth in our own lives. The search for God because he is truth. God wants to draw us into relationship with him. This requires effort on our part.
Christ addressed the crowd and said, “Listen! A sower went out to sow and as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up.”
This sentence could just as easily read, “A farmer went out to plant his crops and some of the seed fell on the highway, a gravel road, in his driveway or the access point to his field.”
Would we expect seed dropped in such places to grow? Of course not. Do crops, gardens or flowers grow in soil that is not broken, not plowed or prepared for the seed to be planted in it? Not usually or not very well. Our souls, our lives and our being are the same.
Some seed fell on the path, fell by the wayside and birds came and ate it. That seed laid uncovered, unprotected and was easy prey to those that would devour it. It had little chance to grow.
Christ would sometimes explain what his parables meant so that those in attendance would understand. He did not do that with this teaching, with this parable. He leaves it with the crowd to turn over in their minds and to evaluation their own being and search for truth.
First century life was hard, poverty was common and brutal. Many had to beg to survive. This crowd, these people needed hope. They needed to have their burden made lighter.
We live in an affluent country and probably struggle to fully understand the crushing weight that these people carried. We lead far more comfortable lives today, but our souls today still cry out to know that easy burden and to be nourished, just as this crowd that surrounded Christ did.
Some seed fell on the path and was immediately eaten. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil. There was enough soil for the seed to take hold and grow. But the soil wasn’t deep enough for the roots to take hold and when the sun rose, they were scorched because they had no root and they withered away.
I asked earlier who is the sower and what is the seed. That might seem obvious. The seed is the word of God and the sower is Jesus Christ. That may seem easy enough. But here is the part that requires self-examination.
As I talk about the four types of soil, which one represents you…….Some seed fell on stony places, where there was not much earth or soil. The ground was shallow and although the seed took hold and grew quickly, there wasn’t enough soil or depth to sustain it.
The sun came out and scorched what had begun to grow because it didn’t have the roots or the ability to withstand the heat of the sun and it withered away. With our collective knowledge of farming we know that it is hard to grow much out of stony, rocky ground.
I could use this part of scripture to argue that this is what happens when you don’t go to church. The devil comes and burns up what faith you have. But attending worship is only a part of the Christian, spiritual life.
Being part of a community of faith is important, but so is prayer, reading your bible, being of service to your community, loving your family. If you are completely reliant on my preaching, I’m afraid that we are both in trouble.
The seed that fell on stony ground was quickly burnt up by the sun because it didn’t have deep enough roots. When things get hot, where there is pressure, too much stress, trials and tribulation.
When life seems overwhelming, nothing is going right, not only do we not get everything we want, we can’t seem to get anything we want, it is at those times that those fledgling seeds are at risk. The devil turns up the heat in order to snuff out those seeds of faith.
We’ve had the seed that fell on the path and was devoured. The seed that fell on rocky ground, didn’t have the necessary roots and was burnt up by the sun’s heat. Christ would continue, “Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.”
Other seed fell among the weeds and thorns and was choked by them. Christ doesn’t mention anything that indicates that there is anything wrong with this soil. The weeds and thorns lay beneath the surface. They spring up and grow at the same time and maybe even the same pace as the seed that was planted.
But they overtake the seed, they over take the faith that had started to grow and eventually destroyed it. The seed was sown on ground that appears to be fertile, good ground. But there was competition, it seems like there always is.
I have talked a lot about things like convenience, selfishness and all the things of this world that this flesh burns for. You might be tired of hearing about them. I have some bad news for you. You are going to continue to hear about them.
I’m not going to continue to bring them up to screw with you, I bring them up because things like convenience, our own selfishness – mine included and all the fun, exciting things that the world offers have the power to kill the church.
Just like the weeds and thorns in today’s scripture had the power to overtake the seed that was planted. For those of you that plant flowers, do you plant them in the spring and then never tend to them? I doubt it.
For those of you that garden, do you plant your tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet corn, green beans and other vegetables and leave it idle until fall? Of course not, weeds are pulled, the plants are checked.
Do farmers plant their crops, do they not fertilize, cultivate, watch over and pray for rain for them? Of course they do all those things. It is no different with our spirituality and with our souls. They must be cared for, kept and tended to.
Christ would end this parable with, “Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears hear!”
Not everyone that hears the word of God will hear it, listen to it or pay any attention to it. But for that good soil, that fertile soil – from that will come 30, 60, 100 fold. That soil that has been broken and is ready to be seeded.
Like that soil we are all broken whether we realize it or want to admit it. We are all broken people. All capable of being or becoming that good soil. Everyone has the ability to bear fruit, to be the fertile and rich soil.
Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear. Not just to hear the audible words, but to allow these words of Christ to take hold in your soul. That this parable would not be about information, but transformation.
Pastor Shawn, Seymour UMC
Author of Incomplete