The Sower – A Parable About God & Life
Sermon by Rev. Steven McClelland on The Parable of the Sower. Focus on why the parable has nothing to do with us and everything to do with God. Check out Kelly Crandell & Bill Ucker’s solo following the sermon.
Do you know what’s great about this time of year? It’s called ordinary time. It’s the time apart from the extreme highs and lows of the year. The high of Christmas, the heaviness and sorrow of the Lenten season back to the extreme high of East through Pentecost. In the secular world this time of year would be called “Miller time.” But I like our term for it – ordinary time.
Our story takes place in ordinary time. The parable talks about ordinary things, like sowing seeds and waiting for the harvest. A parable designed to get us to look at nature, parables designed to show us, in ordinary life, extraordinary things about the kingdom of God.
Such is the parable of the sower. It’s an easy parable to follow.
The commonly accepted evangelical protestant view of the parable is that Jesus was going around throwing out “the word.” We want to prepare ourselves to be really good soil so that when Jesus throws “the word” on us, we can put it into action and finally make it into something.
But this isn’t what the parable is about, because God is the sower not Jesus. Jesus is the seed. And what God sows is the logos – the word made flesh. And God sowed that word everywhere. In fact, it’s already been sown. And while it’s nice to see ourselves as the different types of soil, what the soil really represents are all the conditions found in life.
Or as the writer of Ecclesiastes’ put it – There is a season for everything under heaven. Before we arrived on the seen so to speak God had already sown the entire creation including the Christ. Everywhere – in good soil and bad, among rocks and among thorns. This sowing of the word into the entire world, and into all conditions of life, has already been done without any participation on our part whatsoever.
Now that might not sound like a big deal but to those who originally heard this it would have sounded to them like this. “What? No! God has not sown the word everywhere. We Israel are the light to bring the word to all nations.” Or no there is only one true church or only one true way to Jesus.
In other words this parable is not about us. It is about God. Think about it? There is nothing spectacular about seed. For people expecting a triumphal messiah who enters the world with force, the seed is a very weak image. Seeds are tiny. They fall to the ground, get covered over and then they die.
But it is precisely after they have died that the real work begins. The message of the parable is that the seed – the Word made flesh – sown into the world doesn’t look like much. It can be hard if not impossible to find. It does its work out of our sight, mysteriously.
Now if you were to ask human beings if this is a good way to do things – Throw your seeds over everything, everywhere on all types of soil, hard, rocky, thorny – we’d want to do an efficiency study because this sounds very costly and wasteful. Wouldn’t it be better just to throw the seed on the good soil in the first place?
This is the way we want this parable to read. But the parable tells us something very different. The seed has already been sown. Its not about to be sown. We are certainly not sowing it. We do nothing to it, for it, or even against it. We don’t even kick things into gear so to speak.
Furthermore not only does it not require anything of us. It simply works. The seed, which is God’s word, is not waiting to be put into effect. It is already in effect.
But what about the birds that snatch up the seed and carry it away? So what? The seed is still going to land somewhere. Have you ever noticed trees growing up in city street cracks or in places where there are not other trees? The reason is birds. Birds carry the seed everywhere.
But we still think it’s about us. Don’t we have to do something to help this along? It’s like saying and we do – “Well God has done everything you say Steve, but at the very least we must repent, or confess our sins, offer some sacrifice, a goat, or eat fish on Friday. We need to make ourselves into good soil so that the Word can work. Once again wrong.
The four types of soil reflect the human condition which all of us share. They are a statement of reality, meant to cover the bases of existence. We all live our lives in the context of pain and trouble. We all endure “rocks” and lack “root” in the face of oppression. We all live amid the “thorns,” which are the “cares of eternity,” and “the deceit of riches.” This “chokes” us and doesn’t it? Isn’t that an accurate description of our reality?
But we also grow in the good soil better translated as the “beautiful earth” because that too is part of our reality. We are here aren’t we? We don’t put the Word into action Christ has already saved the world but the Word prospers in some conditions more than others. In “beautiful earth,” it “bears fruit” for the world.
Now in Matthew’s theology, “bearing fruit,” means living out the kingdom of heaven. This has nothing to do with piety, nothing to do with syrupy pronouncements, nothing to do with vague decisions, nothing to do even with worship. It means “following the one who is the way, the truth and the life, which means imitating Jesus.
With Jesus as our model of what the kingdom of heaven looks like, “bearing fruit” means actually doing what Jesus teaches and does in Matthew’s gospel, which has to do with such things as gender equality, open table fellowship, non-hierarchical living, embracing the human dignity of all, resistance to oppression, and resistance to religious corruption.
“Bearing fruit” is what it means to live each day the way Jesus lived life each day. And this is how we know that God has already created his kingdom because when we live in it we produce and when we don’t we die. But not to worry when you die you simply add back to the life cycle. Your life either says yes to God or it says no. But in the end God always wins, because life wins and continues with or without us! Amen