The Rev. Deacon Terry Hulbut
Pentecost 6 -- Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 -- Year A
July 16, 2017
Jesus has such a heart for his church.
In this parable, he’s not only addressing his first disciples but, as with all scripture, he’s addressing us too. This parable could be a way to get us to do a little soil sampling of our hearts, a little analysis to see what kind of ground we are for seed-reception. This parable could be an invitation to ask ourselves, how can we make the soil of our hearts more fertile, more ready to receive the seed that is the word of the God’s kingdom? How can we be the good soil so we can produce grain a hundredfold to others, and be part of a great agricultural ripple effect that makes more and more seed, that can be sown near and far and take root in places we may never dream of ?
How can we clear our little patch of ground and be strengthened to endure even persecution for the sake of the gospel? How can we root out the thorns of worldly busyness, worry, self-interest, pettiness, and greed, so the word of God can abide with us, settle deep in us, make a home in us, and bear fruit?
These are good questions, and if being good soil is the goal, there is help for us.
Gardeners and farmers tell us that soil that is good for planting has particular characteristics: Good soil has a lot of humus—decayed material like grass roots and leaves—that encourages good nutrients, good drainage and good aeration. Good soil has room for water and air to move through it and get to seeds and plant roots. And although it seems like it’s just an inert substance, good soil is full of life. For instance, earthworms burrow through soil, carrying away dead matter and taking needed material from the surface of the soil down deep where it can decompose and make more rich humus. In some places, good soil for planting exists because fire has burned off saplings, preventing forests from growing. So good soil seems to be the result of letting some stuff go, even die, perhaps getting burned away and allowing room for life-promoting organisms to do their work.
The same may be said of our hearts.
To be receptive to God’s word, we may need to let some old, false ideas go, even die. To let idols go or have them taken from us may feel as painful as having them burned away. But letting them become compost may be the first step in making healthier soil. Letting go of our egos maybe painful, but that to maybe needed to produce good soil. We can be the good soil in which seeds take root and grow into healthy, seed-bearing grain.
Maybe Jesus has another word for us in this parable: not just — come on, be good, soil. Maybe Jesus has an invitation for us to be sowers and not just soil. For the early Church, and for us today where God’s word takes root and brings healing, peace, and joy, there was still a question:
Why doesn’t everyone who hears the word of God believe? Why is what is so plain to us, So irrelevant to others? Why, when we say, “we follow Jesus -”others don’t get it? What’s wrong here? Faith in Jesus is important to us. We go to church. We’re here listening to this sermon. Well some of you…Why isn’t everyone? Why are we the minority in our community?
We show up, give, serve, while all around us there are people who choose sports, coffee or sleep. Why are churches getting smaller or struggling? Is there something wrong with God’s word? God’s Seed? Is the seed not what we thought it was?
Are we wasting our time? Is there something else we should let take root in our hearts? Keeping our soil good for planting can be hard work sometimes. And we want to know, is it worth it? Did the sower – that is God through Jesus get it wrong?
To the first disciples, to the early Church, to us, Jesus says, there is nothing wrong with the seed. (which is God’s word)
Trust the sower. Trust the seed. Be good soil. Be good soil, and also take a clue from the sower too. The sower’s approach to sowing is carefree, to say the least. The sower flings seeds wildly as he goes, with seeming disregard for where the seed will end up. Shouldn’t the precious seed be saved for careful deposit in some meticulously prepared narrow furrow where it has a better chance of germination and survival? Not with this sower. (GOD)
To this sower, it’s as if the seed is so precious, he can’t hold on to it—it has to be shared. To hold onto the seed would be to squander it. This sower’s method seems to be to fling the seed as he goes, letting it land where it will, and keep going. Michele Pietras would never grow her garden like this would she?
Would she throw seeds around any old place or would she sow in neatly groomed furrows? This sower covers a lot of ground, not sticking to one pathway or field or territory. In this parable, the sower is taken to be God or Jesus. God in Jesus flung the seed of the word of God wherever he went, and it found good soil in places where others thought nothing good or holy could grow.
It did not happen everyplace. God in Jesus never said a word about some people deserving to hear good news and others not.
Jesus sowed the word of the kingdom, wherever he went. Jesus doesn’t say, “I am the sower.”
He just says that the sower (ps – maybe that sower can be you), sows the word, wherever the sower is, wherever the sower goes, and sometimes the word gets snatched away by the devil, and sometimes people fall away becausefollowing is costly and risky, and sometimes the cares of the world choke the word, and sometimes,
Sometimes, the word bears an abundant harvest.
What if Jesus is not only saying to be good soil, to be open and receptive, to let dead and death-dealing ideas die, and to welcome all that is holy and life-giving to make room and a hospitable reception for the God’s word?
What if Jesus is also saying, “Sow!”
Don’t worry about whether you think the soil you’re walking over is good or bad, receptive or not. Don’t be saving up seed for the places you think will be the most fertile. This seed is so precious, it has to be shared with everyone. Not every bit of sowing is going to happen in the tidy rows of our pews. Most of the sowing happens outside our church walls. There is so much seed to be sown.
And by that we mean God’s word, God’s Love, God’s Peace. Through it – we are following what Jesus told us to follow. So fling the seed like Jesus did. Toss the seed like Jesus did. Over all the ground you come upon – not just on the ground you think is fertile.
Who knows – some of your seeds – your words – your peace – your love may stick where you least think it