June 17, 2012 - Pentecost 3
-Joyce Schaaf, guest preacher
The Sower and the Seeds
Mark 4 1-9 : 26-34
Jesus was a master at taking scenes from life and infusing them with eternal meaning. He communicated many things in parables. So what is a parable? The best explanation, I could find is that..
"A parable is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning." Jesus used these stories to explain deeper meaning inside the story of everyday life. He knew that people are different. They understand in different ways.
All of a sudden after hearing one of these little stories, it is inside of us and opening up parts of our lives that we may never have thought about.
I feel that the story of the sower and the seed is like that.
The method of agriculture in the parable is "broadcast sowing" and it is still used in much of the world today. The seed is spread by hand and then ploughed under. That is why there are still weeds and thorns – you didn't plough a field before sowing. It was all one step, cast the seed and then plough everything under.
"Listen!", he said, "A sower went out to sow. And as he
sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and
ate them up. 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. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew
up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and
brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some
Later, as we know from our reading of the gospel today, Jesus
interpreted this parable for his disciples. Basically his interpretation tells us that different kinds of people respond to the gospel in different ways.
Some do not understand the gospel - the pathway in their heart is too hard for the seed to bury itself and develop roots - so the seed is snatched away by the first critter that comes along.
Some receive the word with joy - but the soil of their heart is too rocky - and so the word endures in their lives for only a short time - it never develops the roots that it needs to survive hard times - the times when it seems that faith might cost us something a bit more than simply saying "I believe" - that it might actually cost us our wholehearted trust.
Still others, Jesus tells us, allow the living word to be choked out by the cares of this world, by the lure of wealth or power or prestige - or by their constant neglect of those things needful for growth - the pruning back of activities that crowd in upon the most important activities we can indulge in - the hearing of the word - prayer - and the fellowship of other believers.
And then of course there is the good soil - the folk who hear the word and understand it, who indeed bear fruit and yield, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.
What kind of soil are each of us?
This is a story from Jerry Anderson, a retired minister, and avid duck hunter.
When duck season opened , he and his Dad would take there freshly prepared decoys and go out hunting, usually mallards. Now mallards are puddle ducks, according to Jerry. They paddle around in shallow water and feed on marsh grasses growing there. They reach only what they can reach from the surface. Occasionally, though he would see a redhead or a canvas back slipping into their decoys. These are diving ducks! The dive to great depths to feed on plants growing on the bottom of the lake.
In some ways people are like ducks. Some are paddle ducks, satisfied with nourishment they find in the shallows. Others are divers. They plunge deeply into the Word through study, reflection and participation. This can yield a rich return.
What kind of soil are you and how do you respond to the seed that is cast into your lives?
Maybe we need to look at some of the different kinds of seeds that we can sow.
Each day we are given a handful of seeds to plant; each day we reap some harvest from the seeds sown.
What are they?
-The seed of friendship is one that we start planting early in life.
A school boy was asked for the definition of a friend. He replied "A friend is a guy who knows you real well and still likes you."
It is important to take every opportunity to be a friend, and to make friends.
-The seed of love is another important seed. We have love in our hearts for our families, relative and friends but we need to tend that love with care. We need to reach beyond our comfort zone and love those that are hard to love. Love for Christ is also a seed we need to carefully tend.
In John 15:13 we read, " No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends"
- The seed of ability, we need to plant and tend. Not each of us has the same kind of seed to sow. We learn and study each according to our ability. We work for our own survival and that of our family. Work to help others who need us.
There is a little story about two friends who were both boy scouts. One boy had studied very hard on his scout manual and the other could not be bothered. While camping, the two boys got lost in a snowstorm. The boy who had studied used his knowledge to make a shelter, snare some game and build a fire. The other boy said, "We would sure be in a fix if I had to care for us"
Yes, the world would be in a fix, if we did not use our seed of ability.
I am sure that you can think of many other seeds that we need to sow each day, to be the person that Christ wants us to be.
People- like those seeds are all different.
People respond to the Gospel in different ways.
As a result some people suggest that the parable of the Sower
- as this parable is traditionally titled, ought to be really titled - the Parable of the Seed.
This suggestion is not that a bad an idea.
It's not a bad idea because it focuses our attention on the question - what kind of soil are we, for the seed to be able to germinate?
How is it that we respond to Word of God - and to the various Acts of God -in our lives?
- Do we allow the troubles of this world to overwhelm the tender seed growing within us? Do we decide that because things are not working out the way we think they ought - that God doesn't care for us - that He is powerless and weak - and not to be paid attention to?
- Do we allow the cares of this world - our ambitions and our desires for success and happiness to choke out the messages that God sends us through the various events of our daily lives and through the various people we encounter?
How we respond to the Word of God is key to how fruitful the gospel is going to be in our lives.
And, unlike the situation in nature in which seed and various kinds of soil encounter each other, we do have control over how we receive and respond to the gospel message; we can, as it were, change the kind of soil that we are. We can use the seeds wisely.
We are not passive receivers of the Gospel - at least we don't have to be. We have power over how we respond to the Gospel. When you think about it - there is a lot to be said for calling today's parable "The Parable of the Seed". Yet for centuries it has been known as the "Parable of The Sower" and I think I know why - I think it has been called the Parable of the Sower because this title focuses our attention on just what it is that God does and how gracious he is in it.
You see there are many seeds that God casts into our lives – and all of them are meant to land in good soil and to produce abundant fruit.
But, as any farmer knows, some seed is going to fall in places where it simply will not thrive. Knowing this, however, does not prevent the farmer from sowing seed - nor does it prevent him from praying for and expecting a good crop.
When God deals with us - God deals with us even more generously than does the best farmer. God allows the seed to land on the hard paths and the rocky ground and in the thickets of our lives in the hope that in those places it will find a place to mature and bear fruit - in the hope that those things which impede growth will be removed.
The Sower sows everywhere knowing that when he does, he will end up with an abundant harvest. Today's parable is a parable about a sower and about seed and what happens to it.
It's message for us - is that there is hope for a harvest; it's message is that we should not discriminate in our sowing of God's seed, that while there are many kinds of people - and many kinds of soil - ultimately the seed that God sows, and the seed we cast in God's name will produce - some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
It is only by God's grace that we are fertile soils!
Remember the Legend of Johnny Appleseed. It may or may not be exactly as written. But there was an itinerant preacher who grew apple trees and distributed them to much of the United States. He gave and sold them and lived a very frugal life. He must have been a sower for God's word and his seeds.!
Blessed be God, day by day