5th Sunday after Pentecost, year A, 2014 (preached July 13, 2014)
first reading: Isaiah 55:1-13
second reading: Romans 8:1-11
gospel reading: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
Jesus told the crowd a parable. The first thing he said was, “Listen.”
He probably gave them a few moments to shush each other. With no modern convenience like a microphone he also probably had to talk pretty loudly too. “Listen!”
I wonder if it was as hard for folks in Jesus’ day to really listen, as it is for us now. So many times we mistake being quiet and waiting our turn to talk, for listening. Listening requires not just being quiet while we formulate what WE want to say in return, real listening means focusing on what the other person is saying.
So Jesus tells the crowd to listen – tells us to listen.
A farmer went out to plant. He threw the seeds all over the place – on all different kinds of ground. This farmer must have had an overabundance of seed, because he didn’t seem to care where he threw it – he had no concern of running out.
Some seeds fell on the path, some on rocky ground, some among thorns, and some on good soil. The seeds grow, or not, depending upon the kind of soil in which they took root. In some places there is no yield whatsoever, in others there is a great harvest.
Most of us hear this parable and are immediately concerned with what kind of soil WE are. What kind of person am I? Am I the right kind? Do I make the right response? Am I bearing fruit? Are we rocky, thorny or good? What will happen to me if I’m rocky soil?
Let me reassure you, if you’re concerned about your soil, if you CARE what kind you are, then you’re good. Your caring means that you’re concerned about your response to God’s Word, your caring means you WANT to be receptive to the Word in your life.
Put aside any worries you might have had about the quality of the soil that is you – because this is NOT what this parable is really about.
Jesus does NOT call this parable the parable of the soil. He calls it the parable of the SOWER. The soil is not the main focus, the soil and the yield are all secondary to the first action of the SOWER.
The true focus of this parable, according to Jesus, is not us (you know, “it’s” not always about us) but GOD. In the parable as Jesus tells it, the focus is on the sower who spreads the seeds around with such freedom that NO ground is missed.
So what if seed is wasted – the point is to cover every bit of ground, and that the sower has NO concern about running out of seed. The picture Jesus paints for us is of the sower’s outrageous generosity. The seed is going all over the place – the Word is for everyone.
“Let anyone with ears listen!” There’s that “listening” again. I guess Jesus REALLY wants us to pay attention.
The focus is on the lavishness of the One who gives the Word of the Kingdom to ALL people. The sower is God, who spreads the seed of the gospel to EVERY person – whether they be rocky, thorny or “good.”
Here’s another reason not to worry about what kind of soil you are – are you rocky? The Word is for you. Are you thorny? The Word is for you too. And even if you’re good, the Word is for you. We may even be different types of soil at different times of our lives – but no matter, the Word is for each of us. It’s God’s action in sowing the Word for the world that matters here.
If we focus on our response, or on our “yield” first, then it’s like putting the cart before the horse. Everything starts with God – nothing grows without the sower first sowing the seed.
The parable is about the amazing and miraculous work that GOD does in spreading the seed out, and NOT our attempts at putting God’s Word into action. What a wonderful message this is! What a perfect image the parable of the sower gives us of God. The seed as Word – Jesus the Word, spread for each and every one of us.
This parable tells us that there is no one beyond God’s love. No one is beyond God’s reach, because God is not stingy with the Word – God tosses those seeds everywhere!
It’s outrageous – how careless this sower is with the seeds. But, it’s not really careless – it’s a sign of the diligence of the sower that he doesn’t want ANY ground left uncovered. It doesn’t matter what kind of ground you are – you’ll get the seed! This is God, not taking the chance that any of us will be missed.
Jesus tells us God’s love reaches so far and so deep, that there is no one he will turn away. The sower doesn’t say, “Oh, that ground over there looks so bad, nothing could grow there. Why waste the seed over there.” Nope, he throws the seed down. The sower even throws it on the PATH, which is really no soil at all, just hard, packed down ground.
Jesus tells us this parable to highlight just how far God goes to make sure we’re included.
So, if we ever think there’s a place where the Word of the gospel doesn’t belong – we’re wrong.
You can use your imagination to think of the absolute worst place, a seemingly unredeemable place – and the Word ESPECIALLY belongs there. You can think of yourself, perhaps even sitting here in worship, as the worst, most unlovable person in the WORLD and Jesus still says “This is my body given for you.”
NO ONE is excluded. God’s love is for everyone. God’s Word is for everyone. God’s salvation is for everyone – everyone.
“Let anyone with ears listen!”