Thought I’d post my sermon from a couple of weeks back too!
The Parable of the Sower: 13th July 2014 Holy Trinity, N Malvern
Readings: Romans 8.1-11; Matthew 13.1-9, 18-23
“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path… and some fell on rocky ground,… others fell among thorns, and other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty and some thirty.”
The parable of the sower is such a well-known story that it’s quite easy to glance over without a second thought. The message of the parable is clear; let the word of God root deeply into your heart and you will understand how to be Disciples of Christ.
Yet, is it really that clear? If we take a moment to really think about the story, then there are some things that just don’t really make sense. Such as, why would the sower purposely throw seed onto the soil where they had little chance of thriving? Were they careless with their aim? Or were they just bad at farming? Now, I don’t know much about farming, but even I know after watching country file that farming today is a precise science. Farmers use all sorts of technology from GPS to computer controlled crop spraying so that that can achieve the best out their fields. Or to put it another way, if the sower was a person in business their resource mismanagement would soon result in them getting the sack! Waste not, want not, is a slogan from the past that still has relevance today in these times of austerity.
But this is an all too literal approach to the story that distracts rather than assists our understanding of the passage. The passage becomes even more mysterious when we consider who the Sower in the parable is. For indeed the sower is Christ himself and so we realise that to think of Christ as an incompetent sower doesn’t really make sense.
So what was Christ doing with this parable?
His audience at the time would have been well versed in the story of God. They were hoping for a Messiah that would not only rescue them from their Exile and oppression, but restore the fortunes Israel to a greatness beyond imagining.
Jesus was very well aware of their expectations. Of the people’s desire for a great military leader who would wipe out their oppressors and give them back their old lives. Yet here he was talking about seed time and harvest, about failure and success. These are not the words of a great and powerful leader but of a simple farmer.
Christ was trying to turn their assumptions upside down as well as challenge their faith. He uses the ordinary to guide them, and us, into learning about His extra-ordinary plan concerning all to become Kingdom of God people.
You see, we know the soil Christ is referring to is about us. The second half of the reading from Matthew tells us that. But have you ever wondered how soil changes over time? The same crop planted in the same soil year in year out will eventually become diseased and the yield will drop.
The goodness of the soil will be used up if it’s not replenished. Or if rocks fall from a hillside the soil may become stony preventing roots from growing deeply into the ground.
Yet, how are we like the soil Christ talks about? Surely once we dare to become followers of Christ, that’s it isn’t? We go to church regularly, join in all the activities and perhaps even volunteer to help out. Surely we are the good soil?
Well, yes and maybe no! For like soil, we change over time because Life happens. Choices are made for good or for ill. Such decisions were the best we could do at the time but the impact upon our hearts is perhaps not so good, perhaps making them a little stonier or completely paved over. Maybe there was a time when finding out about Christ was new and exhilarating. That discovery of being loved beyond all measure, or the thrill of being part of something greater than oneself. Yet now that thrill, that sense of first love has diminished. The surety of faith waned. The demands of the world, from work and family, the lure of ‘have it now culture’ darken and choke our imaginations. We all have barren times and sometimes it’s hard to remember the good. But it is during these difficult times that we must just keep going.
Remember the story of the fig tree and the gardener pleading with the owner to give the tree one more chance after he has dug manure into it? The gardener dug new life into the soil to make it good once again. What the gardener did was to make a change for the good.
Sometimes our prayer lives need a change, a kick-start if you will, back into a refreshed, positive routine that deepens and nourishes our faith.
Like the Gardner we need to put the work into our relationship with God. If we talk a moment to pause and reflect on our lives, what do we see that prevents our rootedness in Christ? What are the barriers we have built up over years or the preconceptions we nurture which hold us back from really praying Abba, Father? All lives, including my own, are need of a little weeding and fertilizer now and again. A chance to set ourselves right with God and say YES to Him.
Just like Vicky is doing today. By joining the Church she is affirming her Yes with God. With her we too can reaffirm our faith God. We too can say Yes Lord, fill me afresh with your spirit and give me strength to deepen my relationship with you. Show me your ways Lord that I may see your Kingdom here, now.
The parable is also about hope. What Christ shows when he speaks of the seed being spread everywhere is that every seed has a chance of growing. That’s what God’s kingdom is like. Everyone has a chance to know God and that chance is unconditional. Neither is it a one off offer. Again and again, over and over God give us the chance and the hope of knowing Him through the promise of His Son, Jesus. Time and again He offers His love to be part of His kingdom. Time and again He invites us to look for His kingdom around us. For the seeds that are being choked, the seeds that are withering for lack of water, for the seeds that are growing so well that they encourage others.
Being a disciple of Christ is demanding and not to be taken lightly. Neither is it something expected to be done for us or to us. However, prayer should never be hard work but more about wasting time with God.
We can make the soil receptive so there is always another chance and Jesus sows seeds everywhere so we are never removed from his love & grace.
God is quite happy for us to be good enough rather than perfect. Just be good soil, a home in which the Spirit of God can dwell and take root.