This is a sermon I preached on September 22 for my preaching class Encountering the Living Word at LSTC. The Scripture I was assigned was Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23, a sermon for Ordinary Time in the Liturgical Calendar. I was allotted 5 minutes to preach. Here is the final result.
A few years ago, I was home from school on break helping my mom with her Day Care children. We were outside planting seeds for a science lesson. As you can imagine with four children under the age of five the activity wasn’t what you might call orderly. While I was helping Aiden, a spirited 4-year-old boy, I noticed that while some seeds made it into the pot he was planting in, most landed on the patio. “Be Careful” I said, “the seeds won’t grow there.” Like any curious child, Aiden looked up at me and asked “Why?” “Well” I responded, “The squirrels will come and eat them.” Aiden thought about that for a moment smiled, and replied, “I like feeding the squirrels. They might be hungry.” Realizing that my logic had been bested by a 4 year old I let it go, not realizing at the time that I had just been taught a very important lesson about ministry.
In our Gospel lesson today Jesus tells the Parable of the Sower, who, upon first glance, does not seem very skilled at his job, scattering seeds not just where they were most likely to grow, but upon all types of soil without discrimination. Seed is scattered where birds can consume it, where the sun can burn it up, where thorns can choke the very life out of it, but when it lands on “good soil” it grows providing enough grain to sustain the entire community.
This parable provides a beautifully simple illustration of God’s ministry through Jesus Christ, teaching and preaching the gospel message not just among those whom his society would deem as “good soil,” where the religiously devout would surely be found. Instead, Jesus shared his message everywhere; amongst those deemed “other” forced to live life on the fringes of the dominant religious society of the time. While the Sower’s practices seemed shoddy at first by our standards, this is God’s farm, and this is how God in Jesus chooses to spread the life-giving and nourishing good news of love, hope and grace.
Throughout history that seed has taken root and sprouted in the hearts of God’s people and it is through that same very generous gift that the seed of calling took root in each of us as we discerned what it means to be leaders in ministry. While I cannot speak for everyone I can say that for me, by some miracle that seed took hold no matter how much my fear, my insecurity, and my conviction that God had called the wrong person tried to choke the life out of my blossoming calling. I was so afraid of what God was calling me to do with my life I didn’t share it with anyone for months, hoping that if I didn’t think about it then maybe it would go away. There was no way that I could handle the sort of responsibility that ministry entailed, nor did I believe that I was a strong enough person to possibly do anything effective. My calling, by all accounts, didn’t land in “good soil.” Thankfully God didn’t care, and scattered seeds of pastoral care, spirituality, theology, a healthy dose of perseverance, and a supportive community into the garden of my life, and by God’s grace the seeds grew.
Led by God’s example in Jesus Christ, we are called to sow those same seeds of Grace and Love to all whom we encounter. Our church pews and our communities are filled people whose lives are so bogged down by circumstance that we may question whether what we say or do will have any impact. But when you think about it, sowing God’s word isn’t about us, but about those whom we encounter. It is not for us to judge who is receptive enough to hear about the welcoming message of God’s Kindom, because if it were then chances are we would not have been deemed worthy ourselves. God’s gospel message is meant for ALL people, because God’s Grace and God’s Love are that great. And so, with God’s Good News rooted in our spirits, we are then able to go out as God’s migrant farm workers, into the fields of ministry to sow, in hopes that just maybe those seeds will have the chance to be tilled, nourished, and grow thirty, sixty or a hundredfold. So go my brothers and sisters, sow God’s Grace, feed some squirrels, and know that God’s message will take root. Amen.