July 12, 2020

Sunday Online Worship July 12, 2020

Passage: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

July 12, 2020 Sermon

Matthew 13:3 “And he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘Listen!  A sower went out to sow’. . .

Matthew 13:1-9

Hear these words from the gospel of Matthew this morning from chapter 13:1-9, 18-23.  “That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea.  Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach.  And he told them many things in parables, saying: '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.  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.  But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away.  Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.  Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.  Let anyone with ears listen!"

Matthew 13:18-23

"Hear then the parable of the sower.  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.  As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 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.  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.  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.” (NRSV Bible)

This is the word of God for the people of God, thanks be to God.

You know, parables can be heard and understood in so many different ways.  In part, a parable is meant to create and spur your imagination and to think and ponder upon it.

I have pondered this parable many times and one thing that I’ve come to understand, folks, is that the sower, whether the sower is supposed to be God, or Jesus, or a follower of Jesus, perhaps even you or me; the Sower’s job is always to sow.  Period.

There’s no way to know what the soil is.  There is not always a way to prepare the soil ahead of time, to work the soil or to cultivate it.  We can’t always clear the thorny brush, we don’t always have a till, we don’t always have the means to till the soil or to work it and to clear the rocks out of the soil.  But the seed is good news and is understood.

That is so important, to spread the seed, to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.  And that’s what we’re all called to do.  We’re all called to be extravagant sowers.  Not to figure out or try to target what audience we need to spread our seed upon or who’s worthy or who isn’t worthy or where we’re most likely to see the seeds germinate.  That’s up to God, that’s up to the spirit.

We are to cast our seed into the wind and allow the wind of the Spirit to blow that seed so that it can find a place to grow, and to trust in God’s miraculous grace.  Trust in God’s miraculous mercy and love that will nourish and nurture it.  When that seed germinates and begins to grow then we understand that seed is becoming no longer a seed but a fruit, a disciple.

Ever see a garden before it was a garden.  Some soils are just conducive to growing.  Rich dark earth, with minerals.  Humus.  But what if the garden didn’t have such rich soil?  Say it is most hard clay.  You can treat the soil.  Add what you need.  Fertilize it.  Organic material is best.  Perhaps we find soil that will grow or keep mixing in the leaves and compost and you will add to what you have, nourishing the ground that will be receptive seeds.

Or, very rocky soil.  Have you ever noticed a garden with a pile of rocks to the side of it?  Rocks have a way of working up in the soil, once it is tilled and worked, planted.  Each season, as the planter prepares the garden for a new crop, you find rocks.  I’ve seen those pile of rocks by gardens.  It takes someone tending that soil.

You know, I can’t help but think about gardens.  Now gardens are normally places where you would think that that is where you would want to plant a seed because the soil has been worked, and tilled and people plant gardens year after year after year and some soils are conducive to growing.  Some soils are better for some vegetables and fruits and some soils are better for different things.

I’ve learned a lot this year.  Betsy got this thing about succulents, which are like cacti or aloes and other plants that require soil but not much water.  And you are supposed to mix sand and this other thing called pearlite in that soil so that they can flourish.  Other soils you don’t want to put sand and pearlite in it, you want it to be rich, dark, humus.

I remember in the sixth grade learning the word “humus” in a geography class.  “Humus” what a wonderful word.  It means that dark, rich, mineral-filled soil.  We also maybe fertilize it; they tell me organic material is best.  Perhaps in any soil and perhaps as disciples of Jesus we are called to, even when we see a seed that has caught and is starting to grow, maybe even a little bit, to clear the rocks around it and to throw some compost on it, to give it the nourishment that it needs.

Folks, we need to nourish one another every day.  We need to nurture one another every day, with a little water, with a little compost, a little love, a little attention, all those things that we can share with one another that can help grow a strong disciple for Jesus Christ.

It’s been a while but I often think of this story when I think about anything to do with growing anything, my thoughts return to my beloved Aunt Edie.  Aunt Edie and Uncle Lawrence lived on a little farm over in Barbour County.  It was Lawrence’s garden too, but it was Edie’s garden, if you know what I mean.  At least that was my understanding and perspective.  Aunt Edie had a magnificent garden.  It was well fertilized in part due to organic material from Uncle Lawrence’s milk cows.

I sure enjoy remembering this time of year right now.  Sun warmed tomatoes, going into the kitchen sink and biting into one of those juicy sun-warmed tomatoes.  She had a tomato that I particularly liked that she would grow.  They called them jug tomatoes.  Now, I don’t know what a jug tomato is.  I’ve looked for seeds and things like that, I think they were Romas.  But she would have these little tomatoes and I don’t know why they called them jug tomatoes but I loved Aunt Edie’s jug tomatoes and I loved to eat one right out of the garden.

Now, when I was about six or seven years old, my mom and dad drove up to Edie’s house one Saturday morning.  Edie was my mom’s big sister.  And as the grown-ups sat around the kitchen table drinking coffee, I thought, "Well, I want to help out in the garden today."  And as they sat around the kitchen table, they were talking about how it had rained overnight there, but I wasn’t about to let that stop me from entering the garden and into the garden rows and pull those pesky little weeds.

About 15 or 20 minutes later, when they got to me, I had mistakenly taken out about 20 feet of bean sprouts.  Not to mention, who knew the rules?  One is never supposed to set foot in a wet garden.  It packs the soil and hardens the soil when it dries and hurts germination and growth.  I didn’t know!

Two things happened that day.  I learned what a bean sprout looked like.  I sure did.  And the other thing was that I was banned from Aunt Edie’s garden, and not just for one season, if my count is correct, I don’t think I was allowed back in Aunt Edie’s garden until I was almost 36 years old!  Maybe that was a good thing, I don’t know.  No, I’m not going to go there.  I’m still not sure how I regained her trust.  Maybe that’s amazing grace.

In Aunt Edie’s twilight years, I believe that garden took on a meaning way beyond its earthly yield.  It was a focal point.  It was very important.  If you don’t believe me you can ask her son.  It was her connection.  Connection with family and neighbor alike.  It was, in a sense, a legacy, it was the past and a promise for a future. Those are things that gardens are made of, a promise for the future.  It was a source of sustenance, but it was more than just a physical sustenance.

It was, I believe for her, of spiritual sustenance.  In some way that garden represented to her, I believe, her connection with God and God’s promise to always be there, even in drought.  You know, when there’s a drought, sometimes you’ve got to go to the well to water the garden.  Did it represent that promise of God always being there with the promise to revive and restore?  God, a well that never goes dry.

There was one seed Aunt Edie kept, a hope that seemed unwilling to germinate, to take root, but believing in the great promise of God that all things are possible.  She held onto her faith that one day that seed would find a place to germinate, to begin to grow.  To be nourished and nurtured.  I heard that that seed finally landed one day, even after Aunt Edie had gone on to that great cloud of witnesses.

That seed fell in a rock and rumble of all places, a parking lot.  And that seed was invited there to take root, even perhaps in rocky soil, and was nurtured by others until that seed had grown to where it now is seed bearing itself and its nurturers nourish other seeds hoping to germinate them, scattering the good news of Jesus Christ, broadcasting it in all directions.  That too, my friends, is amazing grace!

Here’s the good news, our God is a God who is reckless with God’s love.  Spreading the good news with grace and abandon, who does not count the soil the likelihood that a seed will germinate.  God will not count the likelihood or the health or the richness of the soil where that seed is planted.

Because as a follower of Christ we will begin to grow, to set root, to find nourishment, to know that God’s loving promise of being there with the rain to fall and to nurture and further nourish will always be present.

God will always be faithful as well as other disciples are called to be faithful nurturers.  To give nourishment to those who are beginning to grow in faith.  We are all agents of Jesus Christ, and in such agency, we are granted the privilege to be reckless sowers of the good news where we can to help nurture and nourish the good news that it may bear good fruit.

After all, our mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.