This morning’s sermon! I hope you are having a wonderful weekend!
Rehoboth Congregational Church
July 13, 2014
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
Called To Be The Sower
We have a vegetable garden at the parsonage.
We fondly refer to it as “Aunt Verna’s New England Vegetable Garden” named fondly after Bruce’s Great-Aunt Verna, a woman who taught Bruce everything he knows about gardening and who – at nearly 90-years-old – might be slowing down, but still keeps her garden growing strong at her home in central Pennsylvania. In her younger days, Aunt Verna planted anything that she could get her hands on: Lettuce and greens, tomatoes of all sizes, zucchini, summer squash and cucumbers, onions and scallions, white potatoes, red potatoes and sweet potatoes, radishes and beets, beans and peas and all kinds of fresh herbs. During the summer months, no one left Aunt Verna’s house without a basket full of vegetables to take home.
Notice that the garden at the parsonage is not named after anyone in my family.
My family always tended to get their produce at the grocery store.
So I am sure that you can only imagine that Bruce and I have different gardening techniques. Bruce likes to work with what we have. He wants to till our soil and watch it gradually – a little bit every year – get richer (and a little less rocky!). He does not like to water the garden – even if it is starting to get dry. He would rather the rhythm of the weather nurture the garden in a completely organic way. If something is not growing where we originally planted it, he will move it somewhere else in the garden to give it a better chance. He tends to be at peace when something does not grow one year, because he knows that sometimes there are just bad crops – and that there is always next year to harvest a better one.
Me on the other hand? Well, I like to be in control. I think we should just water the garden when it does not rain. My theory is to always plant more than you need – just in case some plants fail (which is how we ended up with 24 cucumber plants last year). I have suggested paying to bring in completely new soil to replace the rocky Rehoboth soil that we all have in this town. I am known to be found browsing the internet for DIY tutorials on building your own raised bed gardens. I am trying to convince Bruce to move our herbs to the deck so we can watch them more closely and put the lettuce in something much higher so the rabbits do not eat it all before we get any.
I want to focus on controlling the circumstances so we have a higher chance of harvesting a good crop. Bruce wants to focus on nurturing what we have planted.
And you know what? Most of the time, we do it Bruce’s way.
Because sometimes we just cannot be in control.
At first glance, the Parable of the Sower seems to be fairly straight forward. When the sower drops seeds along the path, on rocky soil and among thorns, the seeds do not yield grain and he is not able to harvest a crop. But when the sower drops seeds on good soil, grain is brought forth. It is easy to read this parable and think to yourself, “Great! All we need is good soil and then we can grow something.”
Jesus explained that this parable is a metaphor for spreading the word of God. If you spread the word along the path, on rocky soil or among thorns, the person receiving it is less likely to connect and understand the word. So it would be easy to read this parable and think that if we want to be evangelists – if we want to spread the Kingdom of God and grow our community of faith, then all we need is rich “soil” – a healthy and thriving starting point.
But I am afraid that it is not always that simple. We do not always get a choice about what our “soil” looks like. Sometimes we live in a place where the soil is rocky, too dry, completely saturated or even contaminated. We do what we can to nurture the growth as best we can, but we cannot change what we start with. At some point we just have to start planting.
The same is true when it comes to evangelizing and growing a community of faith. We do not always get to choose what we start with. We do not get to choose the people around us. We cannot control how those people will act or what will happen once we get started. At some point we just have to start planting.
Nurturing growth in healthy soil – that is easy.
Nurturing growth in rocky, thorny or dry soil? Now that is grace.
You see, it is not necessarily about the soil. Jesus did not call this parable, The Parable of the Soil. Jesus called this parable, The Parable of the Sower. It is about the sower. Sowers do not get to choose our soil; they simply have to choose to start planning. And when we exist in a community of faith and heed the call to spread the Gospel, we do not get to choose our circumstances; we simply have to choose to begin the work that God is calling us to do.
We are the sower. In this parable, we are the sower dropping the seeds. We – like the sower – are dropping them in both good soil and bad soil. We are sowing seeds wherever we walk along our journey and we are nurturing those seeds – all of them – despite where they might land.
The sower dropped seeds in “bad” soil in optimistic hope that those seeds would take root and yield grain.
And we need to drop seeds in both good and bad soil in confident hope that God’s merciful power and love will do something spectacular.
We are called to spread the gospel. We are called to nurture our faith and the faith of others. We are called to see the potential for growth in both expected and unexpected places.
And here is the hidden gem within this parable. It does not simply lead to seeds bringing forth grain. It leads to a miraculous feat of great abundance. The scripture says, “Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” That number going down is actually a little bit misleading. In this context, “sevenfold” meant that the farmer had good year. “Tenfold mean that the farmer had a true abundance of growth. Can you imagine harvesting crop thirtyfold, let alone sixtyfold or a hundredfold?
You never know what will happen when you choose to plant some seeds. But this parable does not lead to the unknown, this parable leads to great abundance, proving once again that through God, anything is possible.
So never stop sowing those seeds. Sow seeds of peace and joy. Sow seeds of friendship and love. Sow seeds of mercy and forgiveness. Sow seeds of outreach and hospitality. Sow seeds of care and compassion. Sow seeds of wisdom and knowledge. Sow seeds that allow you to take risks and put your whole faith in God. Sow seeds that allow others to see the remarkable ways that God is working your life – and sow seeds that allow others to see how God could work in their life. Sow seeds of faith and of the self-evident truth that we are people of the resurrection. Sow seeds of hope that a better world is possible.
And sow those seeds wherever you go. Do not pay attention to the soil on the ground, pay attention to the seeds in your hand.
Because you never know which one of those seeds will lead to great abundance.
Bruce and I may never have perfect soil that yields a perfect crop. But we will continue to plant seeds and wait with great anticipation to see what the harvest will bring.
And just like that, we all must continue to sow seeds of faith and wait with great anticipation to see what God has in store.
We are called to be the sower – always and everywhere.
Thanks be to God!
 Matthew 13:8, NRSV