You know -- for years I've had this biased attitude about this parable! Can I say that here?
I grew up on a farm. Almost everyone here knows that, but it has to be said. It was the source of my bias.
I thought, because of my bias, that this parable was really about the soils and the need for preparation, or about what happens to the seed, when it is cast on the wrong kind of soil or on unprepared soil.
Because of my farming background I completely missed the point of Jesus parable here.
Have you ever done that with the Bible? Let your attitude or life experience color the way you read a passage?
That's another sermon for another day, but it is something to take into consideration when we are reading the scriptures: What am I bringing to this reading that may change the way it speaks to me? ... the way it changes me?
The way I ask questions of it or it asks questions of me?
Let me illustrate with my own bias on this passage:
As a farmer from eastern Colorado, I had a particular experience of sowing. You planted grains seed in a very meticulous and deliberate manner. Ground is prepared for months; it is plowed deeply, turned over sometimes to a 12 inch depth - then that ground is re compacted using a disk, another implement that cuts and moves the top 3-5 inches of soil - then a smaller, "spring tooth" is used to further break the larger clods and get the ground ready for the 4th and final working, which is the planting. The planting is done with a planter - an implement that drops the seed in specific rows at specific distances from the previous seed. depths and distances are carefully calculated for the crop and the needs of the plants for room to grow and for air, water and light.
Once the seed is planted, then the rest of the work happens: throughout the early growth season, the field is worked to remove weeds, - unwanted plants that draw needed water from the crop, the crop is watered in eastern Colorado because as we know, plants cannot live on the amount of water that comes naturally. So irrigation is the way of life for farmers who want a higher yield on their crop.
And finally, after months and months of work - 51 weeks worth to be precise - comes the week it is all for - The Harvest.
Drive north or East from here in the next week someday - and you will see the harvest in progress. July is the season of wheat harvest in Colorado - usually within a week or 10 days of the 4th, depending on the rains. And there is urgency - taking into consideration the threat of some of the storms we have seen on the eastern plains.
OK. let me get back to the parable. I wanted to give you a picture of why I was biased.
My bias was against the willy-nilly scattering of seed so that the seed fell on the road, in the ditch, in the unprepared rocky ground, and finally in the good soil. Seed is precious, I thought, and its in limited supply, so it needs to be maximized, by my deciding where it is going to be planted.
Are you beginning to see the insidious effect of the bias?
Because of my reading of this parable, I was the judge of the soils. I became the judge of men's hearts! Of what kind of soil they were?
So what changed for me? An encounter with a sower! And an organization that is his legacy and that carries that same "sowers" passion!
I believed some lies - or misunderstood the force of the truth, at the very least, in my reading of this parable for the last decade or more! I've even preached on the "parable of the soils". When Jesus himself tells us that this is about the sower, not about the soils.
Here is the priority in the parable itself:
1 - The Sower
2 - The Seed
3 - The Soils
Let's ask some questions:
A. THE SOWER
Why is the priority here on the sower?
Because without the sower the seed remains in the bin, or in the bag - or in the Bible!
In the parable, Jesus, the Son of Man is the sower - and he is commenting on his mission on the earth - on God's mission on the earth, for Him! To be the sower and to go about it with a certain intentionality - a certain urgency.
So in the parable the first words are BEHOLD - or LISTEN TO ME. A SOWER WENT OUT TO SOW.
Do you and I see ourselves as sowers? Is Jesus the only one who carries seed? I think not.
When you get up in the morning, do you think about going out and sowing seed? Not so often, huh?
We just live our life and do our thing, and if sowing happens, so be it.
Do you have a bag of seed that you carry along with you? Have you ever carried an extra bible to give away?
or a bible portion, like the gospel of John, to give away?
What would happen if we started living like the sower? With the intentionality and purpose of the sower?
Do you think that opportunity would present itself to sow a seed in someone's life?
And to my earlier point ... what if the opportunity didn't open up to my satisfaction? What if I just couldn't find someone who was "good soil?" Do you see where we are again.
The parable says that the sower went out to sow. So SOW!!! Cast the seed?
Paul told Timothy, his protege, to "be ready, instant in season and out of season!" Do the work of an evangelist and finish that task.
Peter tells us to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us!
Are you ready? Do you have the seed bag with you? Do you spend time thinking and preparing an answer to commonly asked questions? Do you even allow yourself to get into spiritual conversations at all?
Are you a sower?
You see how we need to let the parable as us some questions too?
B) THE SEED
So now let's turn to the seed. What are we planting here?
In the second half or our reading, later in the chapter, Jesus explains the parable:
He says at the very beginning: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom
The "word of the Kingdom" is "The Seed"
So what is the "Word of the Kingdom"? How can we define that? Is it the "Romans Road"?
Anyone here know the Romans Road? Scriptures through Romans that tell the story of salvation? Anyone?
Get out your pencil ... This is not a drill!
Romans 3:10 - There is none righteous, NOT ONE.
Romans 3: 23 - All have sinned and fallen short of God's glory.
Romans 5:12 - Death has come to all men because of sin.
Romans 6:23 - The wages of sin is death, BUT the gift of God is eternal life!
Romans 5:8-9 - While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 10:9-10 - Confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, believe in your heart God raised him, you will be saved.
Romans 10:13 - Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved.
Yes, the Romans Road is seed! It is Gospel - Good News.
Do you know those verses by heart? Remember our hand illustration:
Hear, Read, Mark, Learn and Inwardly Digest!
Is the Romans Road, all there is to the "Word of the Kingdom?" I'd have to say NO.
Jesus came preaching the Gospel - the Good News - of the Kingdom. It is more than a set of propositions that we give assent to with our mind - it is a Lordship and then a Lifestyle of Love - but the kind of love that lets people know that there is a new way to live.
People need Good News today, friends! As much as any time in history, people are desperate for Good News.
And what is the Good News of the Kingdom.
Jesus came to tell people that God loved them, that God was their Father, that there is a better way to live, and move and have our being! Jesus came to tell everyone - WHOSOEVER. I love that word!
Whosoever WILL may come! Friends it is not for us to decide for the whosoever. It is for us to cast the seed! To put it out there: compellingly, winsomely, with sincerity and truth, in love for people, wherever they are and whosoever they are.
C: THE SOILS
It was always a problem to me, that the sower didn't pay attention to the condition of the soils.
But unlike the modern farmer, the Sower of Jesus day, had one purpose in the field: To get the seed out.
That was his focus. Jesus later explains what happens because of the different "heart conditions" of those who receive the Word of the Kingdom. Perhaps as seed receivers, this is what we need to pay attention to?
Hard ground - no openness. No reception of the message. the seed just lays there and is stolen by birds.
Rocky ground - some interest, but hardness is under the surface. Initial interest, but no lasting fruit comes up.
because fruits require roots!
Thorny ground - genuine interest and need is present, perhaps even brokenness, but the weeds present - the thorns that already have root, choke out the Word. Keep the plant of the Kingdom small and unfruitful.
Good soil - deeply broken and open. ready for the seed to fall into the ground, to root and to bring forth fruit.
fruit bearing is inevitable! some 100 times, some 60 times, some 30 times.
Friends, good soil is the soil that we need to be. Broken and Open - ready to receive God's Word - to let it germinate and grow in us, to let it bear fruit and then, we take the seed that's been sown in us and we sow it in other lives, some 100 others, some 60 others and some 30 others.
Are you Good Soil. Yes soil matters, but the only soil you have any say about is your own!
We are not to judge the soil of another heart or life - we are to plant the seed.
How many, hearing this, would commit to being a sower this week? To speaking a word of encouragement, to telling another of God's love for them, to giving a cold cup of water in Jesus Name? All of these things are seeds of the Kingdom. It's not just the Romans Road, its everything that you are and all that you do.
Truth is ... You ARE a sower!
Question is WHAT are you sowing?
Lord Jesus Christ, You stretched forth your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross
that everyone might come within the reach of Your saving embrace;
So clothe us in your Spirit, that we, reaching forth our hands in love,
may bring those who do not know you, to the knowledge and love of you,
for the honor of Your Name. Amen.
Lord you were the sower in the parable, but today we are your hands and feet in the world.
Give us the bag of seed for sowing and the heart for others that you have, the compassion
that drove you to cast the seed on every kind of soil. Help us, Holy Spirit, to be obedient
to the call to go, to the call to tell, and to the call to make disciples. It is only by your power
that we can do this, Lord.
In the Name of Jesus and for the sake of His Kingdom we pray.