Jul 14

The Sower

Last week we heard from the Song of Solomon, or the Song of Songs, about the love God has for us. God calls us into a garden that he has prepared for us, a garden of fruits and flowers, a garden of life and intimacy with him: Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away! We might think of the kingdom of God as that garden, the place where God calls us and meets us. The kingdom of God is not just about heaven, of course. The kingdom of God is here, now, already breaking in, already changing lives, already setting the universe on the course of redemption and resurrection. God’s salvation and love is for all that God has created.

            This week, and for the next few weeks, we listen to parables from Jesus about life in the garden. And these parables, just like the Song of Solomon, can only be understood if we accept one fundamental truth about the Bible: the Bible is about God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Bible is not about me; the Bible is not about you. The Bible is about God—the Lord.

            Now, fortunately for us, for you and me, the God the Bible is about—the only God, the one True God—is also the God who invites us to get involved with what he is doing, the God who loves us, who cares for us, and who invites us to participate in his life. The Bible is about the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Miriam, Ruth, Mary, and Jesus. Saying the Bible is about God frees us from making the Bible about us. Saying the Bible is about God frees us to find our place in God’s story, instead of us trying to squeeze God into the little room left in our crowded stories.

            So let me say it again: the Bible is about God. And if the Bible is about God, then the sower in this morning’s parable is… Jesus. Yes! The Sunday School answer is once again the right answer. Jesus is the sower. And the parable of the sower is about Jesus, about God.

            Listen carefully. I don’t care how many times you’ve tried to share the gospel with someone. I don’t care how frustrated you are that some people listen to you and others ignore you. I don’t care about your passion for evangelism. You are not the sower.

            Listen again. I don’t care how many sermons I’ve preached. I don’t care how congregations have responded. I don’t care how hard it is to figure out why some people respond to my preaching and others don’t. I am not the sower.

            Jesus is the sower in this morning’s parable. Jesus, sent by the Father, went out to the field—the garden, the kingdom of God—to sow seed. 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—only to wither away, since they had no root. Other seeds fell among thorns, which choked them out. And some seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain.

            The seed, Jesus explains, is the word of the kingdom. What is that? It is the gospel, the good news, that Christ proclaims in the Sermon on the Mount, in the invitation to his disciples, in the call to Israel and all the world to follow him. Some people hear the word and respond faithfully, bearing fruit in generous yields. What fruit? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). Many others, however, do not yield fruit. They get snared by the traps of the devil, trapped by fears of persecution and danger, or caught up in worldly desires—especially the desire for money. See Judas.

            Why does this person respond in faith and that person get caught up in distracting desires? Jesus’ parable doesn’t even try to tell us. There is no answer. There can be no answer. To pretend there is an answer is to pretend that there are good reasons—or any reasons at all—not to follow Jesus, that there are good reasons—or any reasons at all—not to listen to God. There are none. So if you’ve been telling yourself reasons and excuses not to follow Jesus, give them up. They’re no good, they don’t fly, and you’re better off without them. And if you claim you’ve heard the Word of God and been changed by it, show us your fruit. Where is your joy, your peace, your patience, your gentleness, your love?

            This parable, though, is not about you, and it’s not about me. Like everything in the Bible, it’s about God. And this is what the parable of the sower tells us about God: God’s love, for you, for me, for everything and everyone God created, is extravagant beyond all measures.

            So often, when we love, even when we say we love as much as we can, we hold something back. We say we love our friends and family, but we guard ourselves against getting hurt. We claim to love our neighbor, but we make sure we’re taken care of first. We say we love our enemy, as Christ commanded us, but we arm ourselves with weapons and words to strike deadly blows. We claim we love our Lord with all our heart, our mind, and our strength, but we hold back a little just in case. Our love has limits. By the grace of God, we seek to love beyond our limits, but we are still moving on toward perfection.

            Not so for God. God, in Jesus Christ, is the sower who spreads seeds on all the land. He throws his seeds carelessly to the wind, knowing that some of it will fall on fertile soil and some of it will fall on barren ground. Christ does not say, “I will only share the good news of God’s kingdom with the best, the most important, or the ones I know will respond well.” Christ walks out into his garden and starts scattering seed. Christ does not hold back the best seed for the best parts of the garden; he offers the same to everyone—just as he offers the same to everyone at the table.

            This is how great God’s love in Christ is: that he is willing even to let some, perhaps most, of the seeds go to waste for the sake of the bountiful harvest that comes from the seeds that do land in good earth. Our love has limits; God’s has none. God’s love is extravagant, wasteful, unrestrained, and beyond all human reason.

            Friends, this is the good news for us this morning. God loves us so much that the words of the kingdom of God are given even to such undeserving souls as you and me. The parable of the sower invites our response. Not the one too-often declared, that we should try to be good soil, as if we could earn our way into hearing God’s word. No. The true response to the parable of the sower is for us to pray that the Holy Spirit would so fill us that we might produce fruit worthy of the gospel. The true response is to celebrate the gracious love of God that spills over all boundaries and all borders. The rest is up to God. Thanks be to God. Amen.