To download a podcast of my sermon, click here.
My sermon this week was base on Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23.
The Parable of the Sower is no less fruitful (get it?) for us today than it was 2000 years ago.
The parable itself is pretty straightforward, made all the more so because it is one of the few parables that Jesus actually bothers to explain.
The tendency is for the preacher to follow the line that Jesus took: the seeds represent us and our individual faith/truth/enlightenment journeys, and each of the different fates of the seeds represents a way in which our journeys can be lived (or, more often, fail to be lived).
The first seeds fall on the path, and birds come and eat them. The path represents the heart that is either hardened or lacks comprehension, so the seeds of wisdom cannot penetrate.
The next seeds fall on stony, shallow ground, and while they spring up quickly, the wither away just as quickly because the soil is not deep enough for the roots to find purchase or substance. This, Jesus explains, represents those of us who find faith/truth/enlightenment quickly, but are then discouraged when we realize that the "high" passes away. Faith is not an easy journey filled with sunshine, lollipops and rainbows, and many people who come to faith do so in a very sudden and visceral manner, expecting that they will always feel that way. But true enlightenment is a lifelong process that takes effort, evaluation and reevaluation.
The next seeds are strewn among the thorns, and the thorns choke the good seeds out. The thorns, Jesus explains, represent the distractions of the world which can consume us and thereby make it impossible for enlightenment to take root.
The next seeds do OK.
That is the common line. But there is another way we can see ourselves in this passage.
What if we are not the seeds, but the sower?
What if the seeds represent not the seeds of faith/wisdom/enlightenment which may or may not be sown in our hearts, and which are seemingly prone to the caprice of elements over which we have no control?
What if our role in the world is meant to be much more active?
As any farmer will tell you, they only have limited resources to work with. No farmer would be so careless as to throw seeds on a path, on stony ground, or into the thorns. Farmers have to treat their resources with more care, or risk crop failure, bankruptcy and starvation.
OK, maybe I'm exaggerating, but the point remains: you and I only have limited personal resources to work with, whether that be time, talent or money. This applies to individuals as much as to churches and any other organization or company.
Are we using our resources wisely?
Are we doing what we do best and really focusing on that, or are we madly dashing off in all directions expending our energies on things that will never bear fruit?
Don't get me wrong, I am all for trying new things, both as individuals and as churches, but there is something to be said for being a little more focused in life, for finding out what we are really adept at and putting our energies there.
Are there relationships which are depleting our energy? Are we involved in so many activities that we do them all poorly, and should we maybe reduce our activities and do them well instead?
Today, may you spend your energy wisely, and may it bear fruit.