Sermon on the parable of the sower, preached @ Church of the Good Shepherd Taylor, July 12, 2020 first Sunday back after a four month break caused by Covid19.
Come, let us go down to the sea, let us feel the wind in our hair, see Jesus through the crowds sitting on a boat, and hear the voice of our teacher echo off the waters. May he give us ears that we may truly hear him and receive his words.
Behold a sower went out to sow
Behold, Jesus tells them immediately to look and to see a sower at work broadcasting seeds. This image of sowing was not without meaning.
After many many chapters of Jeremiah(31 especially v 26-33) proclaiming the coming judgment of God against Judah, Jeremiah awakes from a pleasant sleep and proclaims that God will sow the land of his promise with people and animals, he will restore those who he is presently casting out into exile to be a kingdom. Jesus’s hearers may have been expecting Jesus to be picking up where Jeremiah left off – was God now planting this kingdom, leading a rebellion against Rome, were there victorious and glorious battles to come sealed with power and great deeds? They may not have remembered that the planting Jeremiah spoke of came with the carving of a new promise on the hearts of the faithful.
They may have been thinking of when Hosea said(2:16-23): I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips; no longer will their names be invoked. In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, the birds in the sky and the creatures that move along the ground. Bow and sword and battle I will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety. I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge the Lord. “In that day I will respond,” declares the Lord—“I will respond to the skies, and they will respond to the earth; and the earth will respond to the grain, the new wine and the olive oil, and they will respond to the fortress of God’s people. I will plant her for myself in the land; I will show my love to the one I called ‘Not my loved one.’ I will say to those called ‘Not my people,’ ‘You are my people’; and they will say, ‘You are my God.’”
They would remember that God was coming to sow his people in the land, to plant them as he had done in the days of Joshua, that they may be a people set apart to show the love of God in the world. And this man sitting on a boat does not say wait for the seed to be planted, he says “Behold, a sower went out to sow” In other words see with your own eyes, I am the sower, and I am casting that seed now:
And as he sowed some of the seed fell by the wayside and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stoney places where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
I can imagine James and John and Peter and Phillip all poking Jesus in the arm or on the back and saying: WHAT ARE YOU DOING? You have this huge crowd here, rally them up, start a protest, start the rebellion, have them declare you king and begin your reign. Why are you telling them a riddle? What good is it to them or to us Jesus? Why speak in parables?
And Jesus says that this isn’t a riddle for them, well it is, but it’s a riddle that works out in them the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. He is not telling people plainly because these are not things that can be seen plainly. The same words that reveal also conceal. It does not depend on the reason of men but on the prophetic Word of God. John Chrysostom talks about how there are those who come to these parables and walk away because they can not see. He says that God permits those who prefer blindness to remain blind, that is his judgment. So if we aren’t seeing should we walk away? No way! We ask Jesus about these parables but more importantly about the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, that he might give us ears to hear and eyes to see because only he can make us new in this way. And Jesus proclaims this in his bumbling apostles – that their eyes see and their ears hear that which many before have longed for, waited desperately for, God’s faithful are called to the waiting, and in God’s time to the seeing, and to the fruitfulness of the harvest.
When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received the seed by the wayside.
Do not be like Esau, and give the promise away to feed the urgent need of the demand of the moment, treasure up this seed as precious, for the devil desires to steal it away from you and accuse you as unworthy of God’s love. This word is a free and precious gift, guard it, treasure it, grasp for it as Jacob grasped on to Esau’s ankle, seize it as Jacob seizes Esau’s birthright, be jealous for it, zealous for it, hide it deep within you. We must not let our hearts be so hard that God’s word can not sink deep within us. We must not be like a roadside, demanding that God speak or act a certain way, we must make way, for the King and His kingdom are coming now.
But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles.
Receiving the kingdom is joy but it is not a cheap joy. It comes at a cost. It is joy through suffering. It is refined by fire It is bought at a price. Some are repulsed by the cross, repulsed by the suffering. Remember that we do not endure it alone or by our own power. Remember that what we endure is preparing us for glory, is producing in us a harvest for the sower.
Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word and he becomes unfruitful.
Weed your garden. I am not a great gardener of my own physical garden, or your physical garden at the rectory. Calvin’s words on this verse cut me to the heart-I’m paraphrasing: Do you look and see so many weeds, so many distractions, don’t just take off the tops, they must be pulled out root and stem, are there too many so you just give up? Many do. Are they growing faster than you can weed them? Pull them up all the same. The sower is casting his seed, he will help clear them away, make room for the seed to land and grow.
But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
God is preparing a harvest in the lives of his faithful, and a spectacularly staggering harvest it is, this is not hyperbole but promise. The kingdom that is coming grows greatly, under sufferings and persecutions it is bountiful and good. May God give us ears that we may hear, and eyes that we might Behold the sower who comes to plant his kingdom and extend his reign.