July 10, 2011

 A Sower Went Out to Sow...


By The Reverend Donna Frischknecht-Jackson


Matthew 13:1-9 



Listen to this week's sermon:






I am in a new home once again. And as always, when settling into a new home and taking a look at the yard around me, I begin having visions of beautiful gardens—flowers, herbs and vegetables. I sit on the porch with my cup of coffee and a gardening book and I can just see a beautiful hydrangea growing in the corner of the back yard where the two Adirondack chairs are. I can envision strawberries growing wild around the old stone well. I can envision Black-eyed Susans, white daisies, bee balm and purple coneflowers greeting visitors who come to the front door. Oh, and the vegetable garden? My garden would rival that of Norma’s and Ruth’s. And let me not forget to mention the field of corn and the huge pumpkin patch and fruit orchard I can see. I have a problem, though. All of this is still in my head. I just can’t seem to put away the gardening books and roll up my sleeves, pick up a shovel and get going with the hard work involved in making this garden a reality.

            And hard work it is. Those of you who have my dream garden, and there are many of you out there in the pews, know the work that is involved. The planning, the preparing, the prepping the soil—it isn’t easy.

            Jesus comes to us today with a story—a story that is a favorite one to teach to children early on because of the wonderful imagery and illustrations it provides. It’s the story of the sower who went out to plant some seeds. The story shows us how hard this work can be as the sower, who isn’t some amateur but a skilled farmer, straps on the bag of seeds and goes out to the tilled land and begins to plant. He grabs a handful of seeds and throws it down. As he did some of the seeds fall on the path and birds come and swoop them up in their mouth. This hits close to home for me as once I tried to create a field of wildflowers and I threw all these seeds down on the ground only to see hundreds of birds enjoying the feast they thought I laid out for them.

Other seeds fall on rocky ground and began to grow but their roots were not deep enough to sustain growth in the hot sun and so the plants died. Still other seeds fell among some thorns and the plants choked to death. Some of the seeds, though, managed to hit good, rich soil and they not only took root they flourished we are told.

            Now the most amazing part of this story Jesus tells us is the abundance of the seeds that took root. We are told the harvest of grain was a hundredfold in some areas, sixty in another and thirty in yet another part of the field. To understand the significance of these numbers we have to realize that for farmers in Palestine, where this story takes place, a seven-fold harvest was typical; tenfold would have been considered a bumper crop, but no one back then could even imagine a hundredfold harvest.

            Now this story Jesus tells is one that seems to be easy to understand. On the surface, Jesus seems to be trying to tell us that we need to be the rich soil in which God’s Word, represented as the seed in the story, can take root and flourish and produce wonderful results in not just our lives but also in our world.

            If only it was that simple. Nothing Jesus tells us is ever that cut and dry. With Jesus, there is always more meaning, more understanding, more searching for what he is really trying to get at. This seemingly simple story of the farmer sowing seeds is no exception. It is not just about being good soil for God’s word to thrive it is recognizing that each one of us is a composite of all these soils.

Think about it. Our lives are not one beautiful, rich, weed free, smooth rock-less field. Our lives are filled with rocks—the problems, the hardships, the rejections, those “life just isn’t fair” moments that many times block God’s word from reaching us and, thus, block God’s great ability to turn the rocky part of our lives around.

Our lives are also filled with weeds and thorns—the worries that strangle our ability to trust God in all things, the fears that suffocate all belief that God is indeed in control; and many outside influences—things to do, people to see, stuff to buy—that chokes our time for God.

Our lives are filled with, what I believe, are hundreds of God moments being scattered upon us each and every day. These moments or blessings are God trying to show us how much he loves us. They are moments and blessings that are often little and easy to miss. God, the great Sower, scatters them on our path in life but because we are so in tuned with the world and its messages or so in tuned with our own thoughts and so tuned out to God’s voice and His ways, those moments, those blessings, are like the seeds that the birds scoop up. They never have a chance in our busy, self-consumed lives to become a God moment that could have changed a life, turned a difficult situation around, or provided an answer to a long-asked question of the heart. 

Thomas Merton is a name you should get to know. He was a monk who lived in the 20th century and who resided down in a monastery in Kentucky. His writings are inspiring and he had some great reflections on Jesus’ parable of the sower in which I want to share. Merton writes:

Every moment and every event of every person’s life on earth plants something in her or his soul.  For just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so each moment brings with it germs of spiritual vitality. Most of these unnumbered seeds perish and are lost, for such seeds as these cannot spring up anywhere except in the good soil of freedom, spontaneity and love.

Merton is inviting us to see that everything at every moment of every part of our lives is a seed infused with incredible hope. And good soil needed for God’s will to take root is freedom—freedom to say no to the demands of the world and freedom to withdraw in quiet ties of prayer and worship; spontaneity to follow your heart and help someone or let someone in; and, love—a love that forgives, receives and makes room for all.

If there is one thing I have learned from reading gardening articles online and in books, is that the first step to successful growing of anything is knowing what kind of soil you are dealing with and how to correct the problems or modify its shortcomings. Awareness of what you are dealing with is the first step in moving forward. Awareness of who we really are as children of God is the first step in becoming even better children of God, for we are not that perfect soil. To think that we have to be good and holy and perfect children in God’s eyes to have any growth in our lives or to see our lives flourish is unrealistic. To realize that we have thorns and weeds and rocks that prevent God from reaching us is more the truth.

But praise God, Jesus tells us that even this seasoned farmer who knew what he was doing had failures BUT there amidst all the seeds that failed was a small patch, a tiny patch of dirt that succeeded. 

God is trying to tell us that it doesn’t take much for God to flourish in your life. One little moment of thanks. One little moment of seeking forgiveness. One little moment of forgiving another. One little moment of letting go of resentment, of anger, of any hurt. One tiny moment of saying, “Lord, I need you” and watch out. What you hope for, what you envision, what you hunger after, will begin to happen. But you have to prepare your heart. You have to do the hard work of tilling your soul.

So I have a few questions for you to think about. What seeds have been sown around you that have not taken root? What are the God moments, the blessings that have been poured out on you that were scattered away?

What is the condition of the soil of your mind, your heart, your soul?  And how can this day you begin to prep your lives for truly receiving God’s word?



October 23, 2018

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