July 16, 2023
Seventh Sunday After Pentecost
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
Dear fellow ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ,
grace and peace to you
from the one who sows extravagantly. Amen
The parable of the Sower
is such a good rich parable
and frankly, one of the easier parables to understand,
given it comes with an explanation,
and it’s tempting to jump right in
and try to find ourselves in the parable.
Are we the sower?
What does this say to us?
Are we the seed?
Are we the soil?
And if we’re the soil,
what kind of soil are we?
I’m sure over the ages
there have been many sermons
where upon the pastor,
having climbed into the pulpit,
has looked down his nose at the congregation
and admonished the congregation to be good soil,
accompanied of course by his definition of Good Soil.
Are you good soil?
Heaven help you if you are not.
Now don’t get me wrong,
there is much to be gained
from reflecting on each of the perspectives
found in the parable,
and throughout our lives,
we are sower,
we are seed,
we are soil.
But if we jump straight to trying to use this parable
like some spiritual psychoanalytical tool,
or like one of those internet quizzes
(take this quiz and we’ll tell you what kind of soil you are!
Don’t forget to share your results with all your friends!)
if we turn in on ourselves right away,
we will miss the foundational meaning of the story,
a story that is not about us but God,
and what this story says about God
impacts all the other interpretations.
And what this story says about God,
is that God is recklessly extravagant
with God’s own powerful word-
the 25 cent word for that is profligate.
Based on this parable,
we have a profligate God.
Now usually that term is used with a negative connotation,
you could say that the prodigal son
was profligate with his early inheritance.
In this parable the sower is similarly reckless with what is given to him.
Think about it
The point of sowing
is to scatter seeds where they will grow
to produce many more seeds,
the best place for that is a field
that has been plowed and prepared to receive the seed,
seed which is a precious finite resource,
so a good sower,
who even though they didn’t have the precision
of the planters used by farmers today,
would be careful to make sure
that most of the seed would make it into the prepared field.
But not the sower in our parable,
their seeds are going everywhere,
on the packed hard path where people walk,
on rocky ground with only a thin layer of topsoil,
among thorns and weeds
that are wildly stronger than any deliberately planted seed,
oh and some seeds do make it into the field
to grow and yield with varying amounts of success.
It seems like a lot of good seed is wasted on birds,
and rocks, and weeds
but this is how God chooses to sow.
To scatter the Word all over the place,
even the places that we would consider a waste,
and yet what is ultimately good soil
what is needed to grow is defined by the seed
to the right seed
a crack in the sidewalk is good soil,
and we’ve all seen plants pop up in unexpected places
I saw a picture recently that someone took on a highway on-ramp
of a sunflower in full flowering glory
poking up out of a storm drain,
defiantly alive surrounded by concrete.
God’s word is like that,
flourishing in the most unlikely of places
and God makes sure that it gets to those places.
Because God knows that the Word is powerful,
powerful enough to work in spite of human logic or impatience.
we heard God proclaim the power of the word
through the prophet Isaiah in our first reading
using another nature image,
that of rain:
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
God’s word is powerful,
God spoke the world into being after all.
And yet God extravagantly, recklessly
scatters this powerful word about,
even knowing that it will bounce off some
and some will be inspired for only a moment
and some will be distracted by the calls and cares of the world
but God also knows that sometimes
the word will be heard at just the right time and place
and it will take roots in us, and grow and mature
So God keeps offering the word
Throwing it out there
And this reckless extravagance is good news for us-
and here we can start to add in a little self-reflection-
God’s profligate nature is good for us
because we are not always ready
to receive the word of God when we encounter it,
but God keeps offering it,
until it gets into the right crack
or maybe enough manure and compost, wind and rain
have come through our lives creating good soil within us
and at last word takes root in us and grows strong,
This is how our God works
Offering the goodness of God to all.
Again and again and again.
God keeps sending God’s word,
extravagantly, recklessly, relentlessly,
wasting it on us, on those around us
until it accomplishes the thing for which it was sent
and for that I say Thanks be to God Amen