I remember asking a churchwarden of mine about a vicar who, during the course of his ministry, had helped many people come to faith, get confirmed, and then go on to take an active and fruitful role in the life of the church.
When asked what the key was to the fruitfulness of his ministry, the vicar would say, “We sow a lot of seed.” We sow a lot of seed.
Our message today is based on Matthew’s account of the Parable of the Sower. Matthew 13, verses 1 to 9 and verses 18 to 23. This parable is one of the few places in the gospels where Jesus goes on to explain the meaning of his own parable.
This is an important parable: Matthew, Mark and Luke all saw fit to include both the parable and the explanation in their writings. In Luke’s account, Jesus tells us that the seed is the word of God. The Mission of the Church is to proclaim the word of God. The Holy Spirit will do the rest.
Let’s think about the farmer in Jesus’ parable and the four types of ground on which the seed falls:
On the face of it, the farmer in the parable could be said to be careless or wasteful. Only some seed fell on the good soil. Other seed fell on the pathways, still other on rocky ground, other still among the thorns and thistles.
And just as the farmer is liberal in sowing the seed, so the Lord God is generous with the message of the kingdom, and in giving people time to respond to his message.
This message is to be proclaimed to the people of all nations: “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news.” Jesus Christ crucified, risen and ascended is that good news.
The seed that fell along the path
In verse 19, the seed that fell along the path is likened to those people who hear the message about Jesus but do not understand it. The evil one comes and snatches the message away. These people have ears on the side of their heads, but they are not using them.
The seed that fell on rocky ground
In verse 20, the seed that fell on rocky ground is likened to those who listen to the word of God with pleasure, but the impression made on them is short lived. Their hearts may respond with a crop of warm feelings and good intentions. But the word doesn’t take root in their souls.
They start out very enthusiastically but then fall away. Whenever trouble or persecution come, they give up. The lesson here is: where there is no root, there will be no fruit.
The seed that fell among thorn bushes
In verse 22, the seed that fell among thorn bushes is likened to those who received the message but then allowed the worries of this life, and love of riches, to choke the message. They don’t bear fruit because their heart lies elsewhere. As Jesus warns in the Sermon on the Mount:
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 5:21, NIV)
In Jesus’ parable, the cares and pleasures of this life are described negatively: the worries of life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the plant, making it unfruitful.
The seed sown in the good soil
Finally, in verse 23, the seed sown in good soil is likened to those people who hear the message, and understand it, and cherish it in their hearts.
The evil one isn’t able to close their ears and snatch the message away. They put down strong roots and don’t get trapped by a comfortable life. Instead, they are committed to Christ and his word.
Verse 23 finishes by reminding us that there will be a final harvest. On that day, there will be more than enough fruitfulness to compensate the farmer.
So, in conclusion Paul reminds us that: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. (2 Corinthians 9:6, NIV)
That takes us back to the vicar I mentioned earlier. “We sow a lot of seed,” he used to say.
The Mission of the Church today is the same as it ever was; … to make disciples of all nations. This is not just the task of the clergy. This is the mission of every Christian disciple. You and I are called to share in that mission. Like the farmer, we are to sow seed generously.
Every time we speak out for Jesus we engage in that mission.
Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for your love for us
revealed in your Son Jesus Christ.
You call us to make that love known to others
in word and deed.
Help each one of us to respond to this challenge,
to speak boldly for you, and grant that
many may come to a knowledge of your love
and dedicate their lives in your service;
for Jesus Christ’s sake.
Revd Stephen Robertson
12th July 2020