(Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23)
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
A long time ago, I remember hearing a story about a young boy who was helping his grandfather dig potatoes. After a while, the little boy began to get tired and bored. “Grandpa,” he asked wearily, “what made you bury all these potatoes here anyway?”
How many of you have ever planted anything? We all have. When we plant potatoes we expect to get potatoes right? I remember a time when Mary and I were gardening. We went to the nursery and bought a number of different starter plants. One was Bell Peppers and the other was Beefeater Tomatoes. For weeks everything went along fine. Everything else was coming up right. However the more we watched our peppers and tomatoes the more we realized someone had mismarked them. We didn’t get a single Bell Pepper that year we harvested lots of jalapeños that year. And we didn’t get a single Beefeater Tomato. But we had enough Cherry Tomatoes for the entire county.
You’re supposed get what you plant aren’t
you. Today we’re going to look at one of the most famous parables there is, the
parable of the Sower from Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23. (NRSV)
 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea.
 Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach.
 And he told them many things in parables, saying: "Listen! 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 thirty.
 Let anyone with ears listen!"
 "Hear then the parable of the sower.
 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path.
 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy;
 yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away.
 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.
 But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty."
We know there are three elements to this parable the Sower, the Seed and the Soil. Usually we focus on the Sower and the Soil, and expanding what Jesus said about the types of Soil. This morning I want to look at the Seed. You see, when we surrender ourselves to being a follower of Christ, we are also called to become Sowers of the Word of God. We are called to plant seeds for God’s Kingdom. It’s part of what we call Social Holiness or putting our faith into action. While I could list a whole sack full of different seeds we should be planting there are three I want to look at this morning.
A. First, we are called to plant seeds of ENCOURAGEMENT.
We are living in a pretty discouraging time. Yes, Wall Street has rebounded a little, which gives us a little encouragement, we still have a long way to go and people need to hear more than a single word of encouragement. We need to be sowers of ENCOURAGEMENT.
The animated movie Robots is family adventure about Rodney the Robot, who will stop at nothing to fulfill his dream of becoming an inventor. The central themes of this film revolve around the father/son relationship, fulfilling your dreams, and shining no matter what you are made of. There’s a scene where Rodney has decided to leave home. He is at the train station and wants to go to Robot City and become an inventor. His mother finds him and objects, “You’re just a kid.” His mother wants him to play it safe.
Suddenly, Rodney’s father walks over to the ticket counter and orders a ticket to Robot City, for Rodney. And he says, “Rodney, did you know that when I was your age I wanted to be a musician? I played pretty well, too. But my Dad was worried that I wouldn’t be able to make a living so I got refitted to be a dishwasher. Now, I’m not complaining but I’ve always said to myself, If I could do it over again, I would follow my dream.You’ve got greatness in you Rodney, never doubt it. You go to Robot City. You go meet Bigweld and you show him your big ideas. And Rodney, never, never give up.”
B. We are called to plants seeds of ENCOURAGEMENT in the lives of everyone we touch, our children, grand children, coworkers, neighbors, the people in the seats next to you, in front of you and behind you. We’re called to plant seeds of ENCOURAGMENT for the Kingdom of God.
Mom looked out the window and saw her daughter in the newly planted flower garden. Her daughter was strategically placing artificial flowers around the flower garden. Mom came out and asked the girl what she was doing. The little girl looked up at her mother and said, "I'm putting them here to encourage the real ones."
That little girl got the idea. We’re called to plant seeds of ENCOURAGMENT.
A. Second, we are called to plant seeds of HOPE.
If we don’t have hope, we’re dead in the water. Hope feeds our soul and gives wings to our faith. Hope keeps us going. Hope is a like a flashlight in the dark.
The movie Desperaux is about a mouse who would rather read books than eat them like all the other mice. Tiny and graced with oversized ears, Despereaux was born too big for his little world. Refusing to live his life cowering like a mouse, he befriends a Princess named Pea and learns to read stories of knights, dragons and fair maidens. Banished from Mouseworld for being more man than mouse, Despereaux is rescued by another outcast, Roscuro, who also wants to hear the tales. After Pea is kidnapped, Despereaux discovers he is the only one who can rescue her, and that even the tiniest mouse can find the courage of a knight in shining armor.
In one scene the Narrator says: “Did a book ever speak to you? Almost like it was written for you? Desperaux loved it all, every bit of it, the truth, the justice, the bravery, the sword fighting. He even loved things you wouldn’t suspect. The story said she was a prisoner but that wasn’t totally true because she had hope. And whenever you have hope you’re never really anybody’s prisoner.”
The scene zooms in on a princess looking out a window. She says to herself, “Someday my prince will come.” The Narrator asks, “But how did she know that?” And Desperaux asks, “Yeah, how did she know that?”
For us it’s because of “Hope” born of Christ. William Barclay in his commentary on Romans wrote: “The Christian hope is the hope which has seen everything and endured everything, and has still not despaired, because it believes in God. The Christian hope is not hope in the human spirit, in human goodness, in human endurance, in human achievement; the Christian hope is hope in the power of God.” (1)
Peter reminds us in his first letter: “Blessed
be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given
us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from
the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and
unfading, kept in heaven for you.” 1 Peter 1:3-4 (NRSV) Because of the living hope we have been born
into through Christ, we are called to plant seeds of HOPE.
A. Third, we are called to plant seeds of FAITH.
As Sowers, we are called to plants seeds. That’s our job, to make sure the seed is planted and the Word spread. Ours isn’t a difficult task, it’s not rocket science as they say. We are simply called to plants seeds. We may never see the Harvest of what we’ve planted. We may never see the fruit of our labors but if we don’t plant the seeds, there won’t be a Harvest. We are called to plants seeds of FAITH.
That’s exactly what Blanche does in the movie New In Town. The movie stars Renee Zellweger who plays Lucy, a high-powered executive consultant in love with her upscale Miami lifestyle who is sent to a middle of nowhere town in Minnesota to oversee the restructuring of a blue collar manufacturing plant. After enduring a frosty reception from the locals, icy roads and freezing weather, she warms up to the small town's charm, and eventually finds herself being accepted by the community. When she's ordered to close down the plant and put the entire community out of work, she's forced to reconsider her goals and priorities, and finds a way to save the town.
In this scene Blanche has given Lucy a present. Lucy says, “Oh, blanche, you didn’t have to get me anything.”
Blanche says, “Oh I didn’t get it, not like ‘store bought’ get it. I made it.” Lucy says thank you and takes it. Blanche goes on, “Just in case you want to start scrapbooking.” They look through the gift and come to a very forlorn picture of Lucy, who asks when Blanche took it. Blanche says, “Oh, it was awhile ago. You looked like you had the weight of the world on your shoulders. So alone. But you know, Lucy, you’re never really alone. Jesus understands what you’re going through. He’s there for you. And so am I.”
B. You and I are called to be Sowers of the seeds of Faith. We may never know how those seeds grow or if they ever do grow. Or in whom they grow. That’s part of what amazes me about God and being a pastor. I can’t tell you the number of people who have come up to me and thanked me for words in a sermon, a bit of counseling, a funeral and tell me how it changed their life or helped them through a tough time. Most of the time, I just Sow seeds of FAITH, HOPE and ENCOURAGEMENT.
That’s what we are all called to do. We’re not called to stand around and judge the readiness of the other person’s soil. We’re not called to judge whether or not they are worthy of the seed we have to sow. We’re simply called to SOW and plant the seeds of FAITH, HOPE and ENCOURAGEMENT
William Barclay tells this story related by a friend of his. In the church where he worshiped there was a lonely old man, old Thomas. Old Thomas had outlived all his friends and hardly anyone knew him. When Thomas died, this friend had the feeling that there would be no one to go to the funeral so he decided to go, so there might be someone to follow the old man to his last resting-place.
There was no one else, and it was a miserable wet day. The funeral reached the cemetery, and at the gate there was a soldier waiting. An officer, but on his raincoat there was badges of rank. He came to the grave side for the ceremony. And when it was over, he stepped forward before the open grave and swept his hand to a salute that might have been given to a king. T
he friend walked away with the soldier, and as they walked, the wind blew the soldier's raincoat open to reveal the shoulder badges of a brigadier general.
The general said, "You’re probably wondering what I am doing here. Years ago Thomas was my Sunday School teacher; I was a wild lad and a sore trial to him. He never knew what he did for me, but I owe everything I am or will be to old Thomas, and today I had to come to salute him at the end."
Old Thomas did not know what he was doing, he was just teaching Sunday School.
None of us ever know what we’re doing. We’re simply called to keep sowing seed. We have to leave the rest to God. We know what kind of soil we’ve become, we know how valuable the seed is. We may always be “A Stone’s Throw From: The Harvest” our job is to SOW seeds of ENCOURAGEMENT, HOPE AND FAITH.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
1. William Barclay, The Letter to the Romans
2. William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible, CD-ROM edition (Liguori, MO: Liguori Faithware, 1996) used by permission of Westminster/John Knox Press
Other References Consulted