Sermon 12th July 2020 – 6th Sunday after Pentecost
Text: Matthew 13:1-9,18-23 - Sowing God’s seed of love
I’m not a gardener – I can barely gather the motivation to drag out the lawn mower and mow the grass.
I look with envy those who live in apartment blocks and don’t have to worry about how long the grass is growing or how many weeds there are. Sometimes I feel a little guilty about it as I know that in Genesis working in the Garden of Eden was a blessing that Adam enjoyed. In fact the name Adam means from the ground or the earth. But I also understand that one of the first punishments of Adam’s sin affected his enjoyment of gardening: “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” So I don’t feel so bad about my reluctance to do gardening.
But in today’s Gospel reading Jesus uses a gardening analogy; a well-known parable known as the parable of the sower which I would like to go through and comment on. Some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 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 I think we all know this situation. Maybe you’ve tried to share the gospel with someone. Maybe you’ve invited them to come along to church or a church function. I remember some years ago when one of my congregations was used by the local council as a watering stop for a local bike ride they organised and some people refused to stop and go into the church. We shouldn’t be surprised or disheartened when this happens but recognise what Jesus says about this seed we attempt to sow: the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart. This is a spiritual battle going on. This is frontline work on the battlefield and before we attempt to do anything like this we need to spend time in prayer and seek the protection and guidance of the Holy Spirit. So remember that when you’re trying to share the Gospel with someone and they are rejecting, even antagonistic – if that’s happening then your efforts are working.
Too often we think when someone rejects our invitations that we’ve failed – far from it. The more we work – the harder the devil works but God’s Holy Spirit will win so we are encouraged to persist in praying.
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. 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.
This is a sad situation. A person has heard the word – received the word – but then falls away when they are persecuted because of their acceptance of the word. This calls for us to take particular care of those who are new to the faith. We can’t just invite them – introduce them to the church – and then leave them and work on someone else. This puts a great responsibility on the church to follow up visitors and newcomers to our church. We don’t just put them into our database, put them in the directory and send out the bulletin and that’s our job done. No, this make take a lifetime of nurture and maybe they may be the only person that God puts before us. This is not about quantity – trying to get hundreds or thousands through the door. No, the bible says that the angels in heaven rejoice over one sinner who repents than 99 who do not need to repent. And this cannot be just the role of the Pastor or the Pastoral Assistants. We all have the responsibility of looking out for those who are missing – and this time of isolation is a real danger period for us of people slipping through the cracks. It’s so easy for one week to turn into 2 weeks to a month to a year.
Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 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.
This is also an all too common situation where priorities quickly take over. Sadly with 7 day work week – 24/7 society – sometimes church on Sundays become the easy part in our life to neglect. Not intentionally. This is not saying that church isn’t a priority but it is the easy one to manoeuvre around. Sundays have quickly become family days for so many organisations especially sport. But before we become critical of families – can you imagine what a child might think of church when a parent says to them – you can’t play footy this morning – we have to go to church. Or, you can’t go to your friend’s birthday party because you can’t miss Sunday School.
Children quickly begin to see church and related activities such as Sunday School as the enemy. How often don’t we hear young adults reject the church because it was shoved down our throats when we were growing up? I don’t know what the answer is other than this is a real challenge for the church to work with families. Being a Christian is not just about church attendance. It is first and foremost about creating a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!” 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.”
There’s probably not a lot to analyse here. Sometimes we sow a seed of faith and it grows but what we can gather from Jesus final statement is that sometimes it produces a hundredfold – sometimes sixty and sometimes thirty. So he affirms – this is not about numbers but faith. As I said earlier, maybe there will only ever be one person that God places in your life to mentor and nurture in their faith. In fact sometimes we may only have laid the foundation that someone else builds upon.
Which is what St Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3: By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it.
The final thought which the Parable of the Sower leaves us is that we can sow the seed anywhere. The farmer in our parable intentionally threw the seed on the path. There was no hole in his seed bag but rather he intentionally threw the seed among the thorns and the shallow ground. Even though he would know that they were not good places to sow seed he knew that ultimately it was not his decision or power to make them grow.. Have you ever thrown out food scraps and sometime later you’ve seen something grow – maybe some potatoes or tomatoes and yet when you try to grow them nothing appears. That’s how it is with God and mission.
Sometimes the most extraordinary results come from our unintentional actions. As, again, St Paul says in 1 Corinthians: I planted the seed and Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. Today’s Gospel reading is all about mission work. And mission work is different to anything else we do because we cannot measure it by human measures. This is where we are called upon to trust in God and the work that he is doing which we don’t always see. And unlike human measures this is again not measured by human measures as the angels in heaven rejoice over ONE sinner who repents. So let us be like the sower in our parable – let us sow wherever we go. Let it be so natural to spread the love of God that we don’t even know we are doing it, like the parable of the sheep and goats who had no idea that they were doing God’s work. When did we see you thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you hungry and give you something to eat?
We can spread the seed of God’s love everyday of our life in every aspect of our life as we go about loving our neighbour as ourselves. So may God bless you as you sow his seed of love wherever God sends you. I’m not a gardener, and we might think that we are not missionaries. But we can all spread the love of God wherever we go and with whomever we meet. And let us trust God in all this who promised in our Isaiah reading today: so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.