The incredible thing about the parable of the sower and the seed, which we find in Mark’s gospel - chapter 4 and Mathew’s gospel - chapter 13, is that we can find ourselves as the sower, as the seed and as the ground at different times in our lives. In this season of Easter – a time so closely associated with new life and growth we are going to explore this parable in a few different ways. This morning we will look at … Jesus as the sower….at ourselves as the ground/the receiver of the seed….and at ourselves as sowers of the seed.
Jesus the sower:
“Jesus is the sower. We note that, with this image, He presents Himself as one who does not impose Himself, but who proposes; He does not draw us by conquering us, but by giving Himself: He throws the seed. He strews His Word with patience and generosity, which is not a cage or a trap, but a seed that can bear fruit. And how can it bear fruit? If we receive it.”
That was a translation of part of the address Pope Francis gave on July 16, 2017 to those gathered in St. Peter’s Square. Pope Francis says ….IF WE RECEIVE IT- SO HOW DO WE DO THAT?
First, we need to acknowledge and understand that God is extravagant when it comes to offering the seeds of the Gospel to the human heart. In the parable, the sower is throwing seed everywhere, even in places where the seed has little chance to grow.
If you’ve ever planted seeds, you probably prepared the soil, picked the best place, with the most sunlight during the day and whatever else was needed. The way Jesus spreads the seed is so different, it could be considered wasteful, not at all the way a gardener or scientist would do it. The seeds aren’t placed individually in the soil. It’s done in a way the shows there is an unlimited supply, no fear of running out, never rationed or held back. This shows how much God loves us. We don’t have to be perfectly prepared or in the right place, He’s going to find us, He’s going to include us.
AND SO…… If God is the sower in the parable
…who is the rocky ground…we are. …who is the thorny shrubs…we are……who is the trampled path…we are…and If God is the sower… who is the good soil…we are.
He knows this.
It’s precisely why he throws the seeds everywhere. He knows that you and I will certainly be in one of those 4 areas throughout our lives. He throws the seeds out everywhere because sometimes we are all over the place. And that’s the Good News for today. He’ll never stop trying to reach us.
He’s aware that today you might be the rocky ground and you might be the thorny shrub…and I might be the trampled path.
But He also knows that at some point we get to the good soil and his seeds will land there too and they will take root and grow and we will return his generosity with a rich and holy harvest.
So stay with it…Be patient with yourself because He’s patient with us.
If you’re on rocky ground right now… If you’re trampling all over his seeds on the pathway your life…if you’re tearing at everyone and everything with the thorns of your dysfunctions
Hang in there and keep trying to get to the good soil.
When you get there He’s still going to be sowing seeds. Remember He’s got an unlimited supply and He will continue to sow them.
He knows that eventually his seeds will land on our beautiful...tilled…healthy…rich…soil in the gardens of our hearts.
And that’s why we come back here over and over again to nourish our soul gardens and be ready for his seeds. We come back to school of leaders, back to grouping, back to ultreya. Back to be nourished and weeded and cared for so the seed will thrive and produce a good harvest.
Us as the ground/receivers of seed: PIETY/STUDY
In John we read that Mary, when she gets to the empty tomb, mistakes the risen Jesus for “the gardener.” Maybe it wasn’t an accident. Jesus is “the master gardener” who came to clean up his garden and lead it into an abundant and fruitful life.
Jesus’ parable of the sower is aimed at everyone: the people who listen, and even those who don’t.
We know that God can create growth in spaces where the most seasoned farmer or gardener wouldn’t waste good seed. But all seeds have unexpected, unexplainable potential and possibility. All of us have probably seen growth coming from cracks in sidewalks, driveways, even in walls. Wherever a seed is willing to break open and try - there is growth.
A passage that complements the Parable of the Sower is John 12:24 in which Jesus says, “Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” If instead of the word die, can we think of it this way… what a seed needs to do is “yield” or “relent” or “give in.”
For a seed to move from a state of dormancy to growth, it has to trust that the soil is warm enough, that there is enough moisture, and that there will be enough light to break through and grow.
Think of what will happen when we allow the compelling nature of God’s love to break through our “seed shells” so we give in to all that God offers and promises.
God-the-Sower uses rocky soil, rich fertile soil, and plants that were once thought of as weeds. If we pay attention to the Spirit… already creatively cultivating her holiness in us and all around us… our brokenness will make way for growth.
Even what might be considered weeds by some have purpose and value. They retain the soil’s moisture, reduce erosion when the roots hold on to soil, and attract birds and insects needed for pollination. Weeds are a part of an ecosystem we don’t totally understand, they are part of the natural world-God’s creation.
Everyone counts, everyone can contribute. We don’t or can’t always see it or understand it
God measures by a different set of standards. In the parable of the sower, we learn that God throws himself upon the earth and shares himself with each of us and does not expect anything in return.
In the end…. it is up to us how we respond to God’s call.
Will we accept the word of God and allow it to soften the edges and break up the hard earth in our own lives?
We have been given the personal freedom to choose to accept God’s love. By choosing yes, we agree to cultivate the soil of our lives, so we may bear abundant fruit.
Among Christ’s parables about the land, this one about the sower and seed stands out in its teaching about how the seed of the gospel is sown and works in the field of life. No other parable shows us how the devil, the allure of the world and the cares of life conspire to root us from our lives in God.
Our world is full of distractions—the rocks, thorns and birds that conspire to prevent God’s Word and His calling from taking root and bearing fruit.
Those of us who have had a backyard garden know that it requires effort. Each day we have to check on it. If it hasn’t rained, it needs to be watered. If there are harmful bugs and choking weeds, we need to get rid of them. If not, these things will overgrow or kill the plants. Even if good ground is properly cared for …. when it’s left to itself - everything else moves in. Nothing useful can grow until it is cleared out. We need to be aware of what is growing.
And we need to know when it is time to harvest. For us as receivers of the seed…hearers of the word … it might mean it is time to grow in faith, it might mean it is time to go out into the field and become spreaders of seed ourselves. It might be time for ACTION.
Us as sowers: ACTION
Let’s hear what scripture tells us about our action.
We reap what we sow- Galatians 6:7-10
Make no mistake: God is not mocked, for a person will reap only what he sows, because the one who sows for his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows for the spirit will reap eternal life from the spirit. Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up. So then, while we have the opportunity, let us do good to all, but especially to those who belong to the family of the faith.*
Requires patience- James 5:7-8
Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You too must be patient. Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand.
Avoid wanting credit for what grows- 1 Cor 3:3-9
Whenever someone says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human? What is Apollos, after all, and what is Paul? Ministers* through whom you became believers, just as the Lord assigned each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. Therefore, neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who causes the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters are equal, and each will receive wages in proportion to his labor. For we are God’s co-workers…
Give Generously 2 Cor 9:6
Consider this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
How to do we sow and reap this harvest?
We can’t think, pray, read our way to a harvest.
Let’s suppose you want to plant a vegetable garden.
If you sowed seeds into the ground, you’d expect to see those things growing when it came time to harvest.
But, if you wanted to plant a garden and you hoped and prayed and read about tomatoes, but didn’t actually sow a tomato seed, well, you’d get nothing.
Everything you sow today will be reaped in your harvest tomorrow.
To have a successful harvest you must know what you’re planting.
So you want something different? Is there some habit you want to change? Is there someone God has put in your life that you want to get to know, to make a friend…?
You have to know what you want to “plant”, what you’ve been given to “plant” and have clearly defined goals you can sow every day.
St. Jose Maria Escriva once wrote: “May Our Lord be able to use us so that, placed as we are at all the cross-roads of the world- and at the same time placed in God- we become salt, leaven and light. Yes, you are to be in God, to enlighten, to give flavor, to produce growth and new life. But don’t forget that we are not the source of this light: we only reflect it.” (St Jose Maria Escriva, Friends of God, 250)
At the end of the story, Jesus says “they who have ears, let them hear.” In other words, he wants us to be aware, to learn something and take action.
To get the few that bear fruit, lots of seed must be sown by lots of people. So regardless of whether or not we think we have green thumbs, we farmers are being commanded through this parable to get the seed out there, sowing it everywhere we go, undeterred by the birds, the weeds, and the scorching sun.
So the parable of the sower has a twofold message:
As seed, our job is to get busy growing.
As farmers, our job is to get busy sowing.
The images of seed sown and leaven kneaded into dough, both of these reflect the reality of our lives, God’s call, and our cooperation with His grace.
The seeds, the living Word, have been planted within us. Then, we’re to become the seed, the salt and the leaven for the Divine Sower who continues His redemptive mission in a world waiting to be reborn in Him.
However, the power contained in the yeast is not activated unless it is mixed and kneaded into the dough. We can’t just think about it...talk about it.
It isn’t usually flashy because when you work the leaven in, it’s hidden to the eye… but it transforms that loaf! So it is with us in our culture!
All we are asked to do is to mix it up.
We have to get in the loaf. We must be in the world - where Jesus is - in order to be used to accomplish His ongoing work of redemption. Leaven that is not used in time spoils and loses its ability to work; it must be active or it becomes useless. Once hidden in the loaf, active leaven always raises the dough. That’s how it is with our cooperation with grace.
We pray for those in our lives with overgrown or overcome hearts. Often the stresses and circumstances of life can create a small clearing where a seed can actually germinate and take root. (plants in cracks in sidewalk) These divine moments can be opportunities to offer ourselves in the process of sowing, watering and reaping. We pray to be aware of those moments…when God is putting us with that ONE person in need.
FOR THOSE GRACE FILLED MOMENTS
It all begins with awareness/care..one person, one seed, at a time.
Right now you are holding a “bag of seed” – the word of God in your hand. The word of the Kingdom of God is always being sown in your life.
You can spread it wherever you go OR you can keep it for yourself.
St. Josemaria Escriva wrote,
"The sower went out to sow, to scatter the seed at all the crossroads of this earth. What a blessed task we have. We have the job of making sure that in all the circumstances of time and place the word of God takes root, springs up and bears fruit."