Matthew 13:1–9, 18–23
Today’s Gospel reading is a well-known – shall we even say one of Jesus’ more popular parables. And just so you know what I’m talking about, a parable is a just another form of storytelling. Jesus loved to tell stories. So these stories that Jesus tells – these parables – these are the tools Jesus uses as teaching devices. He told stories that people could connect with – and most often, the message was designed to tell his listeners something of what the Kingdom of God is all about.
Ever wonder what the Kingdom of God is like? Well then, listen! Today’s parable is called “The Parable of the Sower.” A farmer sows seed in his field – and he is extravagant in his sowing – and the seed falls on four different kinds of soil.
The most commonly held understanding of this parable is that people can be like four different kinds of soil – four different ways in which we might hear and receive the Word of God. There is the hard soil – where nothing gets in. There is the rocky soil and the soil full of thorns or weeds – but the seed planted there has no depth of soil and eventually the rocks and thorns choke the young plants. And then there is good soil. And the good soil – the soil with depth – is where the seed – or in our case, the Word of God – takes root and flourishes. It grows – it multiplies – it produces fruit – it produces more seeds.
It seems to me that we can and we do make choices about what kind of soil we want to be. We can harden our hearts to God’s Word. We can listen and accept only those things that we agree with. We can allow the cares and riches of this world to choke things out. Or we can allow the Word of God to take root and produce the kinds of fruit that God is looking for in our lives.
In other words – when it comes to bearing fruit – when it comes to the Word of God – as it relates to this parable now – two things are going on.
First – you and I are recipients of the seed – the Word of God. What happens to that Word of God that is planted in our hearts is – I guess you could say – up to us. Will it grow or will it die? Will it shrivel up? Or will it thrive?
Second – when the seed of the Word of God falls onto hearts that are good soil – when we gladly hear and learn it – something good is going to happen. Jesus says it will bear fruit in our lives – 30 times over – 60 times over – even 100 times over. Man! That’s a lot of fruit!
So the parable tells us something about us, and how we hear and receive the Word of God. But this parable also tells us something about who God is. God is the One who is sowing the seed. He is in the seed planting business.
And He is extravagant. Throwing it here. Throwing it there. That’s just the way our God is! And when the seeds sprout and grow, what happens? More seed! Folks –God has been in the seed sowing business for centuries! And I would like to make the case that we are the ones through whom God works to plant His seed wherever and whenever we have opportunity to do so. It’s just another reason to say that church matters.
Now – if it is true that we are God’s hands – God’s feet – if it is true that we are ambassadors for Christ as the Bible tells us – well then – it seems to me that we are in the Good News seed planting business. Folks – as disciples of Jesus Christ – we are seed planters. That’s what we are. That’s what we do. And don’t for one minute ever underestimate the power of one seed.
Think about this. What happens when you plant one seed – one kernel of corn? A kernel of corn buried in the soil will produce one corn stalk. Each stalk then will produce what – let’s say one or two ears of corn? The average ear of corn has 250 kernels, so that a single kernel of corn, under the right conditions will yield a 250% to 500% return on investment.
Folks, may I suggest to you that sowing seeds is never a waste of time? You – you might never know – or perhaps not know right away – it might even be 20 or more years from now before you find out. But planting seeds is never a waste of time. A smile here. A friendly touch there. A word of encouragement. A word of thanksgiving. A helping hand. A word about Jesus, and what he has done for you. A teaching moment to speak about the loving kindness of our Father in heaven. A word of grace and forgiveness demonstrated – demonstrated as well as spoken.
These are seeds. And remember, it’s God’s seed, but these are the seeds that – by the grace of God – you and I plant. Whether as moms or dads talking about the things of God at home – around the dinner table – or before the youngest child in the family goes to bed at night. Every night – in every home – everyone in the family gets a blessing. Around here we practice the Faith 5. Share highs and lows; read Scripture; talk about how that Scripture applies to your day; pray; and bless.
You are a seed planter as a Sunday School teacher – planting seeds in the hearts and lives of those kiddos. As an usher – your job is more than just handing out a piece of paper. Your job is to welcome and greet people in the name of Jesus. And that’s true for anyone of us who welcomes a child – or a stranger – into this place. You are planting seeds. And in time – you will see results.
I came across this Utube video this week. It’s titled “Unsung Hero,” and it’s actually a commercial for an insurance company in Thailand – but I think you’ll like it. Let’s roll it! [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uaWA2GbcnJU]
Two weeks ago, I titled my sermon “Beyond Random Acts of Kindness.” This video appears at first to be scenarios showing this dude doing random acts of kindness. But if you noticed – he kept doing the same ones over and over. And eventually he got results – results that he really wasn’t expecting.
He was planting seeds. Over and over again – planting the same seed – seed planting that went beyond just random acts.
Imagine what all of us could do by planting the seeds of God’s Word wherever and whenever the opportunities come along. And you know – they come along every day. And you know, they will produce fruit. We might never know when or by how much.
It’s like Dr. Robert Schuller used to say: “Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the number of apples in a seed.” The greatest things in this world, including the kingdom of God, grow from tiny seeds.
Of course, this story which we normally refer to as the parable of the sower is not about farming at all. It’s certainly not about a careless farmer, but a generous God – a generous God who sows seeds of love and grace and mercy and kindness and forgiveness in the hearts and minds of all who will listen. But we know that different kinds of people respond in different ways to that love, grace, mercy, kindness, and forgiveness. And that’s why Jesus describes those who hear as different kinds of soil.
But maybe what Jesus is really saying to us is that goodness does have a chance in this life. It’s not always easy. And we never know where that seed is going to land and what that seed is going to produce. And yes, sometimes the seed of goodness simply withers away. But wherever there is good soil – and because it is there that the good seed of God’s Word is planted – well, it seems to me that there will be results.
Let’s go back to that video for a moment. I like that question at the end, “What is it that you desire most?” Well – that all depends on what kinds of seeds you’re sowing. Because, like it or not, you are a seed planter. We are seed planters. We are “The Good News Seed Planting Company.” All it takes is one tiny seed. The seed of God’s Word – sown in our hearts and minds. And it will take root. It will grow. It will produce fruit – good fruit – grace, mercy, peace, kindness and forgiveness.
And that my friends – that is what the Kingdom of God is like. Amen