Listen! What Seed Are You?
7th Sunday after Pentecost
Listen! What Seed Are You?
Text: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
Sunrays beam down with radiant light and calming warmth. Toes sink into the cool sand. Hardly a ripple appears on the tranquil waters. Cool breezes keep a light perspiration from becoming a heavy sweat. Peace. Serenity. Tranquility.
But not on this day. A dust cloud of sand was kicked up as people pushed and shoved and leveraged their way to the front of the crowd. This place of peace was disturbed by shouts and screams. This sandy solace was overrun by a massive mob. “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus! Help us! Heal us! Teach us!”
He improvised. The vessel used so often for catching fish would now be used for catching men. The boat for fishing would now be a pulpit for preaching. Jesus hopped into a boat to go a little off shore. Preaching from the boat gave Jesus some space so all could see. Preaching from the boat gave Jesus some natural amplification as his voice would carry and be louder over the water.
So he began to speak to them in parables. A parable is an earthly kind of story—something we regular people can easily understand. But it is an earthly story with a heavenly or spiritual meaning—something not everyone can understand. Jesus told his disciples that he taught in parables so that the unbeliever would become more confused. But he also taught in parables so that the believer would become more enlightened and would grow in faith.
Today we hear one of these parables. Jesus wants us to relate to the earthly story. He wants us to understand the heavenly meaning behind it. Jesus wants us to become more enlightened. He wants us to grow in faith. So, Listen! What Kind of Seed Are You?
No one has ever or will ever confuse me for having a green thumb. Our winter and summer have been terribly dry and hot, but our home lawn is in much sadder shape than it should be. And we have the idea of our school starting a garden out back for the students to learn from, but I certainly shouldn’t be the one to maintain it.
You may garden as well (or poorly) as I do. You might rival Martha Stewart. But regardless of your agricultural abilities, we all can understand Jesus’ parable. We all know that seeds grow in good soil. We know that seeds need water and sunlight. We know that seeds and weeds are not a good combination. Whether or not we can do it ourselves, we get how it all works. That’s the beauty of Jesus’ parable.
Keep those basic seed principles in mind and listen once more to the parable, “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
It doesn’t take much Bible knowledge to understand that Jesus is comparing the seeds to people. It is also pretty easy to figure out that the seeds snatched up by birds are the bad part of the parable and the seeds that grew and produced an abundant crop are the good part of the parable. But what does the rest mean? And which seed are you?
Jesus takes out the guesswork as he explains. Listen! Verse 18: “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.”
The seed snatched up by the birds are people who hear the word of God but reject it. Satan snatches away the Word of God shared with that person. This would not be you. Maybe at one point of your life you rejected God. But you’re here now. You’re listening to the Word of God.
No this seed is like the woman who called me two Sundays ago when I was at Kohl’s. With heated words—and curse words—she made it clear she did not like someone putting our door hanger on her doorknob. I said, “I’m sorry . . .” but she cut me off and said, “Well act like it and never come back.” I was going to say, “I’m sorry you’ve had such a traumatic experience with religion previously in your life. Would you like to talk about it?” But she cut me off at “I’m sorry” and hung up. This seed is like the man who called me when I was on vacation and at the Milwaukee Public Museum. He told me never to mail him a postcard again and to save our money. I tried to tell him that they only cost about 15 cents and it is a mass mailing advertisement and that he probably doesn’t call Dominos and yell at them for doing the same. But he also became more and more irate and hung up on me too. This seed is like your uncle Bob who will walk out of the room if you start talking about God and doesn’t want anything to do with church.
But you’re here. I assume you want to be here. So this seed is not you. So keep listening! Verse 20: “The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away.”
These seeds are people who hear and believe God’s Word with joy but have no real roots. When problems come, they fall away. This would not be you either. These seeds are also unbelievers. You’re here at church. You’re listening to the Word of God.
No this seed is like the people I’ve taught in Bible class that were so excited to learn about God’s Word. They cried when they heard the good news about Jesus. They sat in our chairs and cried tears of joy during my sermon or during a beautiful hymn. But then life happened. The economy went bad. Money was tight. A family member died. (Or any number of other problems.) Suddenly they stopped coming to church. They turned away from God for help and looked to themselves. They left our church. Worse, they left God.
You aren’t these seeds. You’re here in church! But here’s the bigger question—Are you becoming this seed? By this point in our church’s short history I’ve taken a vast majority of you through our Bible Information Class, People Close to God. Many of you are newer to the church. The story for most of you is the same. You start coming to church and you go to Bible study with me with such great joy. I’ve seen many of you hearing God’s Word with big smiles on your faces and big tears of joy in your eyes.
But then life happens. The economy went bad. Money is tight. A family member dies. You get busy. Your marriage is rocky. How have you responded? Did you turn to the Lord in prayer more? Did you read God’s Word more? Did you come to church more? Or are those things sometimes the first you cut back on? You aren’t this seed right now because you aren’t an unbeliever. But are your actions leading you to become this seed? What Seed Are You?
There’s a third seed. Listen! Verse 22: “The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the Word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.” Seed number three is essentially the same as seed number two, but it is a seed that hasn’t died yet.
Are you this seed? Does your day make you so busy and so tired that you just don’t have time to read the Bible? Are your friends such bad company and bad influences that they make it hard to live like a Christian? Do you keep having “things pop up” that make it hard for you to get to church? You had a little cough last week. You have a dinner party to prepare this week. There’s a dance recital or a ballgame to attend next week. Did you first come to church or to Bible study with such great joy and enthusiasm, but now it’s just what you do, just part of the routine, just another to-do list item? Do the troubles of your life make it hard for you to thank and praise God? Do the problems of your life make you desperate and destitute?
Isn’t it amazing how well we all understand gardening! We know seeds need good soil. We know seeds need water and sunlight. We know what seeds need to grow. We get that. Yet isn’t it also amazing how poorly we apply this parable to our own lives?
We all have many weeds in our lives. We have bad influences. We have excuses. We have problems. We have temptations. Satan tries to use every one of these to lead us to sin, to choke out our faith, and to leave us dead to God and food for Satan’s plucking for all eternity in hell.
Friends, this is why Jesus came. He came for seeds being choked to death by sin. He came for seeds left for dead and scorched on the rocky ground. He came for all of us who disobey him and have no hope of growing and living on our own. The Bible reminds us that all of us in the world were like that. We were, “dead in our transgressions and sins” the Bible says.
This is why Jesus came. He came to die for a world full of the spiritually dead. He died to pay for our unbelief, or our apathy, or all the other weeds of temptation and sin we allow in our lives. His death brings us new life so that we can be seeds that grow and flourish and even go on to live in God’s eternal garden of paradise forever.
Listen to Jesus! Listen to what he has done! Believing and clinging to the good news of his forgiveness makes you like the final seed in the parable. Listen! Verse 23: “But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”
We know how gardening works. We know that seeds need good soil and water and plant food and sunlight. That’s what makes this parable so beautiful! Jesus explains this spiritual matter in very simple terms so that it can be very simple to understand.
We know we don’t want to be seed one or seed two—the unbelievers. We know that too often we act like seed three, being choked by weeds. We know we want to be seed four. So how do we do that? “The one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the [person] who hears the word and understands it.”
The point is: Feed Your Faith. If you want to grow in your faith, grow in your relationship with God, and grow as God’s plant-child, then feed your faith. Get some S-O-N light. Pray to Jesus. Listen to Jesus when you read. Listen to Jesus when I read. Proclaim what Jesus has done and praise him for it. Water your faith. Nourish it with God’s Word. The more you study God’s Word, the more you read God’s Word, the more you sing God’s Word, the more you hear God’s Word, the more you will grow and the more you will produce God-pleasing fruit in your life—just like seed number four.
Listen to Jesus. Believe in Jesus. Take joy in what Jesus has done. That is what makes you seed number four. He will make you sprout with life now and for eternity in heaven.
This morning we have another special first for our congregation. This morning we have the first fulltime addition to our pastoral staff as Jacob Hoff will be installed into his office as vicar at this congregation. How will he help our congregation grow? Maybe his charming personality will bring more people to the church? Maybe his cute new baby boy in two months will bring more people to the church? Maybe his wonderfully thick Michigan accent will bring more people to the church?
Maybe. Maybe those things could get people into our building. But they won’t cause seeds to grow. Jacob, and brothers and sisters in Jesus, there is only one thing that will cause each of you to grow—the good news of Jesus our Savior. And there is only one thing that will cause others to grow—the good news of Jesus our Savior. So Jacob, and Christian friends, be in the Word and share the Word—and watch how God makes people grow!
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