Time after Pentecost - Lectionary 15 (A)
May grace, mercy, and peace be with you from God our heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Today’s gospel is Jesus’ most well known parables, the so-called “Parable of the Sower”. Most of us are probably very familiar with the details – about how the seed lands in four different kinds of soil. First, there is the path in which the soil is beaten so hard by the feet of countless passers-by that the seed never penetrates it but just lies on top of it until the birds come and eat it up. Secondly, there is the rocky ground – that is, a thin layer of dirt on top of limestone or “rock-hard” clay. The seed starts to grow in that soil, but soon the roots are stymied by the impenetrable rock underneath and the plant withers away. Thirdly, there is the soil covered with thorns and other weeds which crowd out and choke the plants sprouting from the seed. And finally, of course, there is the “good soil” in which the seed can grow and produce a harvest.
I have a feeling that most pastors who will be preaching on this text today will be focusing upon these soils and how they are like different kinds of people in their life with God. Many pastors in their sermons will be asking their listeners to consider what kind of soil describes their spiritual life, and invite them to become more like “good” soil.
But I would like to do something different in my sermon on this parable this morning. Instead of focusing upon the soils, I would like to rather focus upon the sower and look at WHY he was spreading seed in the way he did!
On the face of it, the sower in Jesus’ parable was not very bright! He was a wasteful farmer, throwing his seed – his costly, precious seed – all over the place! A prudent farmer – like most farmers around here – would make sure that the seed he had bought and paid for was sown only in the best of soil – soil that had been properly tilled and fertilized. That way, he would get the best possible return on his investment.
But not the farmer in this parable! He would take a handful of seed and throw it in one direction, and then another handful in another direction – without seeming to care where it might land. He would throw some seed on the path, some more on rocky ground, some more among thorns, and then maybe once in awhile into various kinds of good soil - some of which would produce a harvest of a hundredfold, and some a harvest of sixty-fold, and some a harvest of thirty-fold. He was throwing his seed everywhere, hoping that enough of it would grow to make his expenses and work worthwhile.
I think that Jesus wants us to understand that this is what God is like. In today’s parable, Jesus shows that God is like a wasteful farmer who doesn’t just sow the seed of his love to people who “deserve” it, but rather gives it to everyone –no matter what kind of “soil” they may be.
And in the same way, that is what Jesus calls us to be like as God’s children. We have been given the task to be sowers of God’s word – to share God’s love with all people wherever and whoever they might be. We do not need to worry if the results of our sowing don’t seem to be immediately apparent. All that we need to do is to keep on sowing, trusting that somehow God will bring forth a harvest that in the end will make it all worthwhile.
Understanding this became especially real to me when I was serving as a Mission Developer to start a new congregation in Pensacola, Florida. One of my main tasks in the beginning was to go door-to-door to meet people in the community and let them know about Lord of Life Lutheran Church. I kept reminding myself that it was not my job to “convert” people and get them to join our new church. All that I needed to do was to “sow the seed” by introducing myself and our ministry to people, and let God do the work!
I never knew how I would be received when I rang a doorbell or made a phone call. Most folks whom I contacted of course were either already involved in a church or were simply not interested. But some were – it just happened to be the right time in their lives were they were receptive to becoming a part of a new congregation. I learned to trust that over time the “sowing” that I did would bear a harvest – sometimes in wonderful and unexpected ways!
But this “sowing” imagery is not just about evangelism like I was doing as a mission developer. “Sowing” also describes how we are to share God’s love in all kinds of ways in our daily living as Christian people. If we think about it, every time we speak a loving word to someone, or do a caring deed – we are sowing a bit of God’s seed. And that is what we are called to do with everyone we meet – whoever they are and whatever “soil” they may be like.
But I do have a confession to make. Sowing and sharing God’s love with everyone sounds good, but being a typical human being I also want to see and know the results of my sowing. When I was going door-to-door as a Mission Developer, it made me feel good whenever someone responded to one of my visits in a positive way – and on the other hand, I could begin feeling really discouraged and depressed when I kept on receiving “not interested” from people for hours and days on end. And yes, I do like finding out once in awhile that something I said in a sermon or something I did as a pastor meant something to and was appreciated by someone.
And I think that is true for all of us. Like a farmer wanting to see the results of his hard work, we too want to see the results of our sharing God’s love with others.
And because of that, it is often all too easy for us to begin just paying attention to people who are like “good soil.” Because we like positive feedback, we often tend to spend more and more of our time and efforts only with people who give us that positive feedback, and on the other hand neglect others who may not seem to be as receptive and appreciative.
That is why today’s Parable of the Sower is so important for us to understand. It reminds us that our task is to keep on sowing and sharing God’s love with everyone everywhere, even when we don’t see any results. And it also reminds us that the love we sow is never, ever wasted. Even if we do not personally see it, God will always somehow bring forth a harvest. As God says in today’s first reading: “my word that goes out from my mouth shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I send it.” (Is. 55:11) May we remember and never doubt that every time we sow the seed of God’s love, it will always bring forth a blessing – even if we don’t see it.
Yes, today’s Parable of the Sower helps us to understand that our task as God’s people is simply to sow and share his love with everyone. We don’t have to judge the soils we sow in, and we don’t have to produce or even see the harvest – because that is God’s job. All that we need to do is to sow and sow and keep on sowing some more without thinking about the cost or the “waste” of what we do– because that is what God is like towards us. He loves us extravagantly – and will keep on doing so even when we are like less than desirable soil. And may we do the same with each other and everyone we meet.
Sowers of God’s love – that is what we are called to be. It is a wonderful ministry that we have given to do. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!
George R. Karres,
Pella Lutheran Church
418 W. Main Street
Sidney, MT 59270