What Kind Of Soil Are You, What Kind Of Sower Am I?

CALL TO WORSHIP: O God, it is right for us to praise you and keep our promises to you, because you answer prayers. People everywhere will come to you.
Happy are those whom you bring to be in your presence.
Let us think of Jesus, Going down to the Sea of Galilee to teach the people. Let us think of Him getting into a boat so that everyone can see him. Let us imagine that we are with that crowd, standing at the water’s edge.
We can hear the sound of the sea, the birds, people talking, all kinds of other noises. Wait now; Jesus is about to speak. What is the first thing that He says? ‘Listen!’ Let us pray.
Gracious God, like that crowd by the sea, we have gathered together and we want to learn from You. When You speak to us, help us to remember that You are the one who made us and who loves us.
Help us to be ready for when You have something special to say, just for us. Lord, speak. We are ready to listen. Lord, speak. We are ready to listen.
Amen.

HYMN 347: CROWN HIM WITH MANY CROWNS-StF

PRAYER OF ADORATION: Today, as we think about the work of the Sower, let us remember all that God does, and offer Him our praise. Let us pray.

The Bible tells us that the sower went out to sow.  We praise You that You have made the world so that it will grow the things that we need to live. Lord, we praise You for Your work of creation.

The work of the sower would mean that he would have to walk up and down the field many times as he sowed the seed, not stopping until the work was done. Lord, we praise You because You are always working.

As the sower walked up and down, he threw his seeds all round, making sure that all the ground was covered. Lord, we praise You for your generosity.

When the sower had finished, he would go home to rest from his work. Lord, we praise You for times of rest and refreshment.

We thank You for the rest that we can enjoy today. Give us glad and thankful hearts, so that we may remember all that You have done for us, and praise You as You deserve. Amen

TALK FOR ALL: WHAT LIES BELOW (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23)

What is your favourite way to eat potatoes? There are so many choices: baked potatoes, boiled potatoes, mashed potatoes, French fries, scalloped potatoes, and potato salad.

Potatoes are a root vegetable which means they grow beneath the ground. If you’ve ever had a chance to dig potatoes you know that exploring the soil below the potato plant and finding potatoes there seems magical. Digging potatoes is like discovering buried treasure!

Potatoes have a funny appearance. These little indentations on the potato are called eyes. When a potato is planted it is cut into sections with an eye in each section. If the potato has been planted in good soil, has had enough water and sun, it produces other potatoes on roots that grow beneath the soil.

Potatoes are a very common food all over the world. They are tasty and are filled with vitamins, minerals, and fibber; things that are very good for our health.

In the Bible Jesus talks about the need for people to grow strong roots. Jesus says, “What was sown on the good ground, this is he who hears the word, and understands it, who most certainly bears fruit” (13:23).

When people read the Bible or hear the word of God, and begin to understand it, they are choosing good soil which will grow strong roots. We receive God’s message and it becomes a part of who we are. Like the potato that grows, puts down roots beneath the soil, and produces other potatoes, the word of God grows and bears fruit in our lives. The fruit that people produce is love; that love will feed and nourish others.

HYMN 103: ...-GOD IS LOVE: LET HEAVEN ADORE HIM StF

PRAYER OF CONFESSION AND THANKSGIVING:  Loving Lord, the story Jesus told is about listening to You, and allowing Your word to grow in our hearts and change us. When we do this, we are like the good soil in the story. We come now to say sorry because we are not always good at doing that.

When we do not understand something in Your word, we can sometimes forget about it, instead of trying to learn more. When life gets difficult, we can blame You instead of asking You for help. We can allow all kinds of things to distract us from Your work. Forgive us Lord for not always being like good soil.

Help us to hear and understand the word of Jesus when He says ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ Then help us to keep listening to You, so that we may become more like Jesus. In whose name we pray.  Amen

READINGS: MATTHEW 13: 1-9, 18-23

HYMN 536: HE’S GOT THE WHOLE WORLD-StF

SERMON: WHAT KIND OF SOIL ARE YOU, WHAT KIND OF SOWER AM I?

Back before broadcasting referred to radio and television, this parable described the way seeds were planted. Handfuls of seed were scattered — broadcast — across the field. For countless generations, this was the way that farmers planted their seeds.

The people who gather around Jesus to hear the stories that he tells are familiar with this broadcasting. They have seen it done, done it themselves. It’s as familiar to them as the back of their hands. Jesus takes this familiar action and uses it as a conversation starter. He’s trying to get the crowd to see the world in a new way. He’s trying to get you and me to see the world in a new way.

It’s all so familiar to the people listening to Jesus. Some seed falls on the path, the hard track that the farmer has walked time and again through the field. Some seed falls among the rocks, the rocks that are, so it seems, almost everywhere. Some seed falls where thorns will grow. They all know that this happens, that much of the seed goes to waste. Too bad. After all, that’s life.

But some seed falls in good, rich soil and grows up tall and straight and yields an abundant harvest. They know that this happens, too, but they don’t know how, and they don’t know why. It’s a mystery! Yet they’re glad, so glad, when the harvest comes. They give God thanks, and rejoice together; they’re happy to have enough to eat.

For a moment, let’s put this story to one side and hear another story. It concerns a young anthropologist named Connie who works among aboriginal people in Australia. The community where she lives has a rich tradition of storytelling. Everyone gathers at night, a story is told, and then another, and another. Connie feels extraordinarily privileged when she is asked to join in this activity.

The first story told that evening is about the animal ancestor of this community and its adventures at the beginning of time. The story overflows with detail, action, imagery.

At the end of the story, Connie is delighted. “May I ask a question?” she says. “What does it mean?”

All eyes are upon her. The elder looks at her gravely and says, “That is the one question you cannot ask.” A long time passes before she is invited again. She has asked the wrong question.

“What does it mean?” That was the wrong question for Connie to ask about the aboriginal myth. It may also be the wrong question for us to ask about the story of the sower, or any of the stories told by Jesus. “What does it mean?” is the wrong question if we think that by having an answer, we can somehow get a handle on this story, domesticate it, make it safe. The stories Jesus tells are not subject to our control. He tells these stories so that we can be transformed. He tells these stories, not so that we can ask questions about them, but so that the stories can ask questions of us.

Today’s story of broadcasting seed, with details so familiar to the crowd who come to hear Jesus, seems to me to ask us these two questions at least: What kind of soil are you? What kind of sower are you?

What kind of soil are you? The trick is that, from moment to moment, any of us can be any of the four soils that the story describes. For the sower is ever going forth to sow, broadcasting the seed, and whenever someone’s spirit is touched and aroused, that seed has found a place to grow.

What kind of seed are you? Sometimes my mind is utterly conventional, restricted by training and habit. The crust of custom remains unbroken. I avoid the pain of a new idea, a new commitment. I forget nothing old, and learn nothing new. My fixation of mind obstructs even the good will of God. I am a path made hard and bare by many feet, where the seed falls in vain, only to be picked up by bandit birds and carried off.

What kind of seed are you? Sometimes my mind is soft, shallow, sentimental. There’s emotion, but not action. There’s indulgence, but no obligation. My mind is eager, but unstable, and so nothing grows for long. The shallow soil of sentimentality and the hard rocks of cynicism conspire together to prevent roots from reaching out. The brilliant sunlight of reality burns away my fantasies, for in me there is no depth and no place to grow.

What kind of soil are you? Sometimes my mind is preoccupied, absorbed by the medley of the world, cluttered with its trash, incapable of observation, reflection, prayer. The hectic dance of activity, the endless tumult of events, leaves me without mental seriousness, the capacity to engage in sustained thought. The deepest, finest powers of my nature are injured. The growth that could be is choked off, strangled, by weeds of a hundred species.

The conventional mind. The shallow, sentimental mind. The preoccupied mind. Mercifully there are times where I am none of these, but am instead a rich, fertile, welcoming soil that accepts the scattered seed and produces a crop — thirtyfold or sixty or a hundred.

When I am such soil, then my task is to be patient. Growth takes time. Too much digging about, too much interference with the prospering seed may delay or defeat the harvest. But at other times there’s need for introspection. Then I may well ask myself:

How can I be more than a hard-beaten path?

What are the stones in my soul that prevent me from having depth?

Where are the weeds in my life that threaten to choke whatever grows?

What kind of soil are you? Sometimes I am rich soil that brings forth bountiful grain. When this happens, then my attention can move from the soil to the seed.

That seed which sprouts may come to me through the glory of the rising sun, the splatter of waves upon the shore, or the multitude and silence of the stars.

That seed which sprouts may come to me through some other human life, a person whose true example warms my heart and quickens my will, whose patience and good humour make me capable of the same.

That seed which sprouts may come to me through the community of faith as I respond to scripture and sacrament, participate in living tradition, and welcome the ministry that other Christians offer to me.

That seed which sprouts comes to me always through the mercy and action of God, but most readily when I open myself to God’s perfect gift of himself in Christ.

And when that seed sprouts, then I can become aware of how that seed continues to be broadcast even at times when I am not a soil where it can prosper. Divine generosity is imprudent, concerned with something more than outcome. Always and everywhere the sower goes out to sow, casting the seeds of new opportunity, new possibility, in every direction.

Do not hear the stories of Jesus in simply one way! He tells them in order to get conversation started. Today’s story asks us, “What kind of soil are you?” It also asks,

“What kind of sower?”

What kind of sower are you? Not only are God’s actions seeds that are scattered, but our actions done in the name of God are also scattered seeds. Each of us is meant to stride the fields of life broadcasting seed, doing actions great and small, but doing them in the name of God, with the divine harvest in mind.

It matters not whether what you do is something great in the eyes of the world, for any human deed is a frail thing. What matters is whether your action is a seed, something that, if it lands in welcoming soil, can yield a rich harvest. Then realize this — whether you put a bandage on a child’s skinned knee or endow a college, whether you take soup to a sick neighbour or establish a food bank, you are doing what we all must do — striding through the days of your life, broadcasting the seed of God’s purpose, seed that will take root in hospitable soil and yield a rich harvest — of kindness, of justice, of new opportunity — a harvest beyond your imagining.

What kind of soil are you?

What kind of sower are you?

HYMN 638: THROUGH ALL THE CHANGING SCENES OF LIFE-StF

PRAYERS OF INTERCESSION: Today, we have been thinking about The parable of the sower. We, as individuals and as a church circuit are like the soil where the seed is planted. The seed is God’s word.

As you come out and plant your seed, you might like to ask God to help you as You study His word; or you might like to pray for the church, here and elsewhere, that it might be a place where God’s word is preached and taught.

While you are waiting for others to plant their seeds, you might continue to pray for the church, or perhaps to pray for those with responsibility for growing our crops. So, as we plant our seeds. Let us pray.

Lord, as our seeds begin to grow in the soil, so may we grow in faith and in love of You. We offer all our prayers in the name of Jesus. Amen

The Lord’s Prayer

HYMN 639: THROUGH THE LOVE OF GOD OUR SAVIOR-StF

BLESSINGS: The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seeds for the farmer and bread for the hungry.

It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit.

It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.

Lord, write Your word on our hearts, and help us to be ready to speak it when You call us to do so. And may the blessing of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be upon you and remain with you always. Amen