“The Chore of Planting”
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
Rev. Mark M. Vickers
July 16, 2017
Matthew 13:1-9New International Version (NIV)
The Parable of the Sower
13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
Matthew 13:18-23New International Version (NIV)
18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 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. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 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. 22 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. 23 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.”
We are gifted with several stories in the Gospels, but this is one of the best gifts we receive! It is not often that we get a parable put out before us and then several verses later, we get an explanation! What a gift!
“Why then should I bother to preach on this parable?” Those were the words of the great preacher, Harry Emerson Fosdick when he was confronted with this parable as a young seminary student. “Why should I bother to further explain Jesus?” I can’t say that I didn’t have the same thoughts when this text popped up in the lectionary for the week, but why let a good parable (along with an explanation) pass you by? Some would say, “easy pickens here preacher” but I would beg to differ.
Sure, we have the parable laid out before us, quickly followed by an explanation, but there has to be something more! There is! You see, parables require a human response. They require thinking, and then, they require action. I cannot think of how many times I have heard parables preached about and in the end, there was no response, no thinking, and no action! It was just a simple story with an answer. The problem is, seldom are parables “simple!” Usually, they are quite complicated and diverse in their context and in their nature. We read this parable this morning and we feel that we have it all explained to us and at first reading, I think most of us determine that it is the soil that is at fault. Because the determining factor seems to be the nature of the soil! But let’s re-visit this parable for just a moment. (Read the beginning lines of the parable )
No where in the parable does it state that the farmer sought out “good soil!” No where does it say he did a soil sample test. No where does it say that he scouted the land before he planted; he simply planted!
Oh, how farming has changed! Growing up, I had the opportunity to work many days on the farm; I rode many long hours in a tractor. Note, I said “in” a tractor! We had a Massy-Ferguson 1700hp, with an air conditioned cab, and in those days, an 8-track tape player!! Whewww….
But in the mid-70’s, that was a high class tractor! We had fields that were soil sampled more than most high school chemistry classes did experiments. We checked our growth charts on beans, corn, and wheat as much as we read our Bibles. What we were doing was “planned planting!”
What our farmer in Matthew is doing is just plain planting! For his day and time, this was smart planting! For he knew if he planted an abundance of seed at the outset, his chances were good for a strong harvest. He would overcome losses, and the yield would be large. For in biblical times, the average harvest would be around 10 bushels for a normal planting. Here, Jesus calls for a tremendous harvest of 30-60 even 100 fold bushels!! Absolutely unheard of at the time.
Yet this parable still remains what I call “open” for interpretation. Often times we want to “nail down” the exact cause or explanation for a scripture; here, this doesn’t happen. The parable remains unclear as to whether it is the power of the sower or the seed itself that produces such an outlandish result. Yet clearly, absolutely clearly, we see that it is the hand of God that could only bring such abundant results.
Therefore, when we put ourselves in the midst of this text, which “player” are we? The seeds? The sower? Maybe we can be both!!
If our mission is to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world, then we must plant that message abundantly in order that if it is squelched out somewhere along the line, it will flourish elsewhere. Therefore, we have to scatter the seed everywhere and disregard the “soil sampling!”
In the same vein, we must also be the seed! Fighting to grow and flourish in life’s many soils. There will be times when we are so nourished and fortified that we bloom as a red-ribbon winning plant in the State Fair! Other times, we will struggle immensely to even “bud” in season. Other times, we will be squelched with the most incredible attempt to spring through the soil and bloom!
Finally, we may also be the soil! Offering to all of God’s people the opportunity to grow and to bloom and to flourish. We have to learn to become a “nutrient for Christ.” We have to take care of ourselves in order that those around us can become strong as they strive to grow and produce a harvest.
The beauty of this parable is that we can be all of these portions of the parable! We are not limited to just one part of the parable. So we can think and act as those who participate not only in this entire parable but in the Kingdom of God.