The Holy Gospel according to Matthew, the 13th chapter. Glory to you, O Lord.
1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: "Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6 But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 Let anyone with ears listen!"
18 "Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23 But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty."
The Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, O Christ.
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
For the next few weeks we have a series of parables from the gospel of Matthew. A parable has been defined as an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. Jesus told parables that used ordinary situations and objects, but he gave them new meanings to get his message across.
The parable of the sower and the seed is one of the most familiar stories in the Bible. We have been hearing this story since we were little kids in Sunday School and Bible School. Lots of Bible scholars have written about it.
We all know that we are supposed to be the good soil. And sometimes we are the good soil. And sometimes, we’re not. Sometimes we bear much fruit. Sometimes we don’t.
A couple of pastors I knew in Texas, John and Robin McCullough Bade, have suggested that one way to look at this parable is to look at it as a personal devotion. So let’s take a few minutes today to imagine ourselves in each of four different scenes of the parable.
Jesus says the first seeds fall on the well worn path. Imagine yourself on a well-worn path where you have walked. Maybe it is a path from your childhood, the walk to your friend’s house, the path to school, or a nice hike in the woods.
When I was young, we used to have Girl Scout day camp in the woods that surrounded a large park just outside of town. There were hills and trees and lots of trails where we could hike. I went to day camp there for several years so by the time I was in middle school, I had hiked all the paths many times. I knew which path led to the creek, and which path led to the top of the hill with the best view.
We always stayed on the path to protect the surrounding environment. Day Camp lasted for two weeks in the middle of the summer, so by the time we were done, the paths were hard and dry and the soil was beaten down. The little girls who always walked in pairs holding hands with their buddy had kicked all the leaves to the sidelines. There was no grass on the path, no little wild flowers, not even any moss or mushrooms, like there were in the rest of the park.
I know there must be are some well worn paths that you have wandered down in your life. Imagine the sower leaving some seeds on your path. Now, see the birds swoop quickly down and gobble them up and fly away.
You may be able to remember some times in your life when your heart felt like that hard, dry, soil of a well-trampled path. You heard the Word of God, but it was so quickly snatched away that you barely even heard it. You hardly noticed and you struggle to even remember.
Jesus says some of the seeds fall on rocky ground. This time imagine yourself in an area with lots of rocks. Maybe you are remembering hiking in the mountains. Or driving through the passes. You know what this area looks like. Somehow, there is enough soil around for a few wild flowers and grasses to be peeking out between the cracks of the rocks.
It is hard to walk in this rocky place. It seems a miracle that anything is growing at all, but the seeds do sprout in the shallow earth. But the sun is hot here in the summer. And just like the grasses on the sides of the ridges that sprung up and grew rapidly with our spring rains, the plants that spring from these seeds are withered and burned away.
We all have rocky places in our lives. Places where life is hard, growth is difficult. We hear God’s word. We are hungry for it. It takes root and starts to grow, but the rocks get in the way. The sun is too hot. The soil is just too shallow. The plants don’t last.
Jesus says some seeds fall among the thorns. Imagine a thick, thick, briar patch. There is no room for another thing to grow in this place. There is just too much going on. It’s too crowded. It’s too busy.
I imagine that many of us spend a lot of time in this briar patch. Our lives are so busy. Busyness is a badge of honor these days. We brag about it. It makes us feel important. It makes us feel needed.
Some of our busyness is good work that we do. We earn a living. We care for our family. We share times of recreation with family and friends.
Some of our busyness isn’t good work, though. We occupy our time with things that don’t help us and don’t help our neighbors. We busy ourselves with a false sense of obligation and misplaced priorities. We neglect to observe the Sabbath day. The cares of this world and the lure of wealth cause us to forget that the Sabbath rest is a gracious gift of God. We forget that rest is needed for the seeds to grow.
But, Jesus said some of the seeds fell on good soil. Imagine the fertile fields in the early morning with the dew on the ground. There is a nice cool breeze blowing on your face. Imagine the touch of that soil.
Take a deep breath. Imagine the smell of the harvest. The fresh scent of the hops. The sweet smell of the apples ripening on the trees. Look at the beauty around you. There is enough food to feed hundreds and hundreds of people here.
We all want to be the good soil. But, sometimes in our lives, we are the path. Sometimes we are the ones who have been trampled upon and our hearts are hardened. But, Jesus, the sower, gives us the seed of the Word anyway. We received the gracious word in spite of being trampled down.
Sometimes in our lives, we are the rocky ground. Sometimes life is hard, uneven, we are unsteady on our feet. We are glad to receive the seed of God’s gracious word, but we just can’t keep the plant growing.
Sometimes in our lives, we are in a briar patch. There is so much going on and the seed of God’s word gets tangled up in all the thorny stuff, so that it doesn’t grow the way it should.
But, sometimes, we are the good soil. And it feels great. That moment when you know you are forgiven. That moment when you know you are loved for who you are. That moment when you know you have been blessed. That moment when the good news is so great, that you can’t help but shout it to everyone in sight.
This is the message of grace. This is the gift of the Word of God.
A sower went out to sow. He threw seeds everywhere. It seems wasteful. A real farmer would never do that, never waste good seed.
But God’s word isn’t any ordinary seed. God’s word is the gift of never-ending love and grace and forgiveness. This is good news for us every day of our lives. No matter what kind of soil we are today. God doesn’t look out and say that the word is only for the people who are good soil. God doesn’t say that you only get the word when you are having a “good soil day.”
God, the sower, throws that seed everywhere. Even places we wouldn’t bother with. God throws the seed. Even to times in our lives when we aren’t very receptive. God throws the seed. Even in those times when we do receive it well, but just can’t keep the plant growing. God throws the seed. Even in times when we are too busy to notice it. God throws the seed.
Because in God’s economy, the seed of the word is never wasted.
Even when we think the seed is dead, God brings new life. God’s word never returns empty.
And when the seed does fall on good soil, when we do hear the word and understand it, we will bear fruit and yield, in some cases thirty, in some sixty, in some a hundredfold.
Lord, make our hearts be good soil, open to the seed of your word. Amen.