Matthew 13:1-9,18-23 The Parable of the Sower
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” Galatians 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
WOODROFFE UNITED CHURCH JULY 12, 2020
HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW? MATTHEW 13: 1-9, 18-23
I want to start with a short quiz.
True or False? Grass seeds can't be planted in hot weather? False. It just takes more work to keep the ground damp.
True or False? Newly planted seeds should be kept in soggy soil? False. Damp soil is best.
True or False? Berry vines need different soil than other garden plants? False.
True or False? Plants need room to grow? True. You can actually crowd plants to death.
True or False? Keeping plants clean with soap and water helps them grow? True. It kills bacteria & even chases some bugs away. That doesn't mean throw them in the washer. But a light solution works.
Jesus tells us that the seed in today’s parable is the Word of God and that our hearts are the soil. In this parable, Jesus identifies 4 types of hearts. We could call them the Stony Heart, the Shallow Heart, the Strangled Heart and the Surrendered Heart.
First there is the Stony Heart. This is the hardened heart. It can be packed and hardened by any number of things. Broken relationship, old wounds, dried out spirit or flagrant rebellion, one which has said no to God. No one or nothing is getting in. This is the wounded, bitter heart, totally surrendered to the world and anything NOT of God.
In the movie Secondhand Lions, young Walter, played by Haley Joel Osment is dumped with his only relatives by his flaky husband-seeking mother, who goes from one bad relationship to another. His mother heads out for one more of those relationships and Walter is left to fend for himself with his two extremely eccentric uncles Hub and Garth McCann who are played by Robert Duvall and Michael Caine.
Mom leaves and there they are sitting on the front porch. Walter asks, "If my Mom calls, can we hear the telephone out here?"
Garth gruffly says: "Don't have one."
Walter is shocked: "No telephone?" Then he asks, "Is it OK if I go inside and watch television?"
Again Garth gruffly says: "Ain't got one."
Walter is incredulous: "No television? What do you do?"
About that time a car pulls up the long drive and a traveling salesman gets out and starts his spiel. The McCann brothers both reach for a shotgun and shoot over his head, running him off. What follows are a couple of short scenes of other salesmen getting run off. And the end of the scene is Garth saying to Hub, "Nice evening. Peaceful."
At the beginning of the movie, these two appear to have hardened hearts which nothing is going to penetrate. And that's what the Stony Heart is like. The seed of God's Word can't find a place to settle so nothing grows.
That brings us to the Shallow Heart. This is the heart which is constantly distracted. It has too many interests. There is no focus and a lack of vision. This is the heart which has enthusiasm without commitment. This is the heart that is pleasantly pleased with the prospect which the seed brings but makes no promise.
There was a small community with a small community church shared by several of the denominations. Each Sunday, the service would be conducted by a different denomination. Each year, every denomination in this small community would hold a week long revival. This meant there was revival every quarter. And in this small community, there was a man who wasn't very deep in his commitment to Christ. But he loved going to Revivals. Every time the doors opened or every time a traveling evangelist put up a tent on the outskirts of town, he was there. When the invitation was given, he was the first one to the altar.
Kneeling at the altar he'd spread out his arms and pray loud enough for everyone in the service to hear, "Fill me up, Lord Jesus, fill me up."
Every revival, he would follow this same ritual. He would be the first one to the altar and he would pray, "Fill me up, Lord Jesus, fill me up." Finally, one of the women who knew this character quite well, couldn't stand it any longer. The next time he knelt praying that same empty prayer, "Fill me up, Lord Jesus, fill me up," she stood up and prayed loudly, "Don't do it, Lord. He leaks!"
That's what Jesus meant by the Shallow Heart. It's the soil of the soul and of the heart that is so shallow the seed really doesn't take root but is scorched in the light of every day living. The faith shrivels and dies quickly.
Then we have the Strangled Heart. This is the heart that is filled with faith. It springs up and grows and even has deep roots. Unfortunately it is trying to grow where it always grew and it's distracted and subdued and defeated by the stuff and worries of the world. And there is a lot to be distracted by.
We have more choices in our lives than at any other time in history. And instead of down sizing, the list just keeps getting bigger and bigger. A trip to the grocery store and there's about 100 breakfast cereals to choose from, 200 kinds of soup, 50 blends of coffee, you get the idea. There are more choices on the bargain menu at McDonalds and Wendy's than most people of the world have. In some countries, they don't have the choice of what to eat. They don't even have the choice of whether to eat or not. Here, where we are blessed with so much, those choices often become a major distraction. There are so many things we want to do or see or try or experience. And I’m not talking just about food here. We want to enjoy life a little more before we make a serious commitment. And the minute that thought pops into our head, the thorns and weeds start to choke and take over. That’s the Strangled Heart.
But we also have the Surrendered Heart. This is the hopeful and joyful heart. This is the heart that is most like the heart of God. The sower in this passage seems to be rather scandalous. Farmers are careful with their seed because it’s costly. You only used the best and you only planted it in the best soil. You didn't just throw seed everywhere like the guy in the scripture seems to do. How wasteful. And maybe that's part of the point.
Sure this passage is about the soil of our hearts and the timber of our souls. But it's also about an extravagant God who blesses us beyond measure. An extravagant God who continues to scatter the best seed, His Word, love and grace, to a world where there are still Stony Hearts, Shallow Hearts and Strangled Hearts. It was a shock and a scandal and often still is, to those who think they have the inside track to heaven. Our God is truly an extravagant God who blesses us beyond all measure despite the fact that we don't deserve any of those blessings. But we should rejoice in the fact that God is so extravagant because God sows the seed of his love and grace in places that may not, and probably won't ever take root and produce fruit. Remember, we are to believe in a God of miracles and sometimes that's exactly what happens. The seed does take root. It isn't gobbled up, dried out or strangled.
Instead, it takes root, blooms and prospers. God's grace, can change the Stony, Shallow, Strangled heart into the Surrendered Heart. This is the heart that makes a difference.
We serve an extravagant God. The seed is not only the Word of God, but God’s grace and the offer of forgiveness which is extended to everyone. The Sower continues to sow and is willing to work the soil of our hearts to change us, if need be. The question for us is: How does your garden grow?