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July 12, 2020
Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
One of my favorite things to do is prepare a garden space. The act of amending the soil – mixing in the manure or compost and fresh dirt to get it ready for seeds – is almost meditative for me because of the process I follow.
After the dirt is ready, I get out the packets of seeds and start making rows. I carefully put the correct number of seeds the correct distance apart from each other. Then I cover them up and anchor bird netting over the top until everything is established enough that the birds can’t just take off with it all.
My favorite part of the whole process is looking at the space after it’s done. It gives me a sense of peace to look at the freshness of it and know that, even though I can’t see what’s going on beneath the surface, the seeds have already begun to do what they do in order to produce fruit – whether it’s flowers or produce.
When I think about how I prep a garden space, Jesus’ parable of the sower comes to mind – almost every time. Because I think about how orderly I and most other gardeners are, and how careful we are with the seeds we plant.
And then, in this story, here’s this sower seemingly just throwing seeds and letting them land wherever. And he’s not at all worried about wasting them or running out, or the birds getting some and the sun scorching others. He’s just doing what he does and sowing extravagantly all the seeds that he can.
And Jesus tells the crowd, “that’s the idea.” Because this is about spreading God’s word everywhere you go. And with God’s word there’s no need to be cautious with the amount because there’s plenty for everyone.
This is the first in a series of parables in Matthew’s gospel. We’ll hear the others over the coming weeks. And what we know about parables is that they’re designed to confuse people.
And that’s what Jesus is doing in the parable we read today and the ones coming up. But as he confuses people, he’s also getting them to think about God’s realm in a way that’s different from what they’re used to.
And to do that, he throws two competing ideas alongside each other for people to consider, like the idea of a person sowing seeds with reckless abandon, and then saying that it isn’t about seeds at all but about spreading God’s word and the work that it does when it takes root in your heart.
And that when it comes to God’s word, there’s no need to be stingy or cautious, or to worry about where it might land, because there’s plenty to go around for everyone.
When we think about what it means to spread God’s word today, we sometimes get tripped up because we think it’s about quoting the Bible or complicated doctrine or theology. But it isn’t about that at all, which is good because, as a general rule, those things aren’t what usually catch people’s attention.
In the midweek Bible study, we’ve been looking at the book of Acts and the history of the early church. And in the last couple of weeks, we’ve been talking about the importance of telling stories – specifically, stories about God’s activity in people’s lives. That’s how the good news of Jesus was shared and grew the church – people told other people about their experiences of Jesus and God and the Holy Spirit.
And they told anyone who would listen. They didn’t worry about “getting it right” – they simply told their truth. And as they did, they planted seeds and the church grew – not as an institution, but in a way that made God’s realm visible here on earth.
That’s what Jesus is getting at here. For us, spreading God’s word is as simple as telling people our stories about God’s activity in our lives. And to do it with the same extravagance as the sower in this parable. To tell our stories about God – God’s grace, love, mercy, and faithfulness. Not to convince anyone, but to just share and let the seeds fall where they may.
Because God knows where the truly fertile ground is – where it is that those seeds will bear fruit. It isn’t for us to worry about. It’s simply our job to keep sowing the seeds and make God’s realm visible here and now.
So while it might make sense to take care with the actual seeds you plant for produce or flowers, when it comes to sowing the seeds of God’s word, throw those freely. Because there’s plenty for everyone.
In U.S. culture, this year in particular, but it’s been building – there are a lot of competing voices. With the pandemics of covid-19 and racism, climate change, economic inequality, the immigration debate, families having to make decisions about sending their kids back to school this fall with incomplete information, going out into public only when necessary and wearing a mask when you do – it can be hard to get a word in edgewise.
But it’s into this chaos that seeds of God’s word – seeds of love, grace, mercy, and faithfulness – need to be sown. It’s as important now as it has ever been to share the good news of Jesus with people.
Now is not the time to be hesitant to share our experiences of that good news. Now is not the time to say, “I don’t want to share my story with so-and-so because I’m afraid of what they’ll think.” or “I’m not gonna bother with this person because I don’t think they’re worth it.”
God’s word is for everyone, regardless of how we might feel or what we might think is going on in a person’s heart.
And unlike actual gardening, it isn’t our job to prepare the soil of another person’s heart when spreading God’s word. God takes care of that. It’s our job to sow the seeds of God’s love, grace, mercy, and faithfulness – to share our stories, over and over again.
Many of us are mourning George Miller, a beloved member of our congregation who died on Thursday. I only had the opportunity to visit with him a few times in the months I’ve been here but each time I did, including this past Wednesday, he talked about talking about Saint Andrew’s.
And what I mean by that is that he talked about this place and the people here to pretty much everyone he met, even complete strangers. And it wasn’t only this place, he talked about God – the love, grace, mercy, and faithfulness of God that he experienced here.
He didn’t worry about what people might think of him or how it would be received. He simply shared, that is, he sowed the seeds of God’s word wherever he went, not always knowing what kind of soil it would fall on.
We all hunger and long for a measure of God’s grace and love and mercy in our lives. Even one seed of that will yield an abundance of fruit in a person’s heart. If you ever doubt that, think of what those seeds have done when they’ve been sown into yours.
Sharing God’s word, the good news of Jesus, is part of who we are as people of faith. When those seeds yield fruit in us, it’s only natural that we share them with others. Like George, we don’t have to worry about where they land.
And we never have to worry about whether there’s enough. When it comes to sowing the seeds of God’s word, throw them freely. Because there’s plenty for everyone. Thanks be to God! Amen.