6th Sunday after Pentecost
July 12, 2020
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
“Seeing, Hearing, and Understanding”
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you all in the name of God our Father and our Good Shepherd Jesus. The text that engages us today is the Gospel lesson read from Matthew chapter 13 and the familiar “Parable of the Sower.”
My dear friends in Christ Jesus,
When I learned to drive, it was on the backroads of the extreme rural area where my parents lived in northern Minnesota. For me, driving in the “city” was a trip to Baudette, which doesn’t even have a stoplight. When I lived in tiny, remote Baudette, I rarely went to Minneapolis or St. Paul because I was literally too scared to drive there. I didn’t know about on ramps and off ramps and merging traffic and freeway exits, although that has changed…I am a good city driver now.
In the early 1990s, I made a trip from tiny Baudette to Lincoln, NE. I had never driven this trip before and it offered its fair share of challenges to an exclusively rural driver like myself. My inexperience caught up with me outside of Omaha, NE. While attempting to drive around Omaha, I saw a sign that contained a series of arrows. I saw the sign, but I failed to fully comprehend what exactly they meant. I began to exit the freeway on the wrong ramp…a ramp that would lead me into downtown Omaha which is precisely where I didn’t want to go! In a moment of panic I stopped the car on the exit ramp and pulled over to the side. I knew where I wanted to be and the ditch that divided our car from where I wanted to be wasn’t too bad and so, in true “Dukes of Hazzard” fashion, I yanked the wheel to the left, drove down into the ditch, came roaring back out on the other side, and got back onto the correct freeway. My family wondered what on earth was I thinking?! Had I not seen the sign? Oh, I had seen it, but I failed to understand it.
The parables of Jesus are earthly stories that have heavenly meanings, that is, parables teach us using earthly images that we can better see, hear, and understand, but that doesn’t mean we always do. Today’s Gospel lesson, one of Jesus’ most well-known parables, is that kind of parable. The parable of the Sower teaches us about God’s Word; the fact that His Kingdom comes by His Word and we are encouraged to see in our mind’s eye the images, hear the words, and perhaps more importantly to understand the implications for us in our Christians lives.
In the Parable of the Sower, the Word is given to the world. God Himself is the Sower and the seed that is sown in His Word. Those seeds, the Word of God, are sown throughout all of God’s creation.
But, as the parable teaches, not all the seed falls on fertile ground. Agriculture in 1st century Palestine is pretty different from modern agriculture. Today, most cash crops have the seed directly placed in the prepared ground for maximum effect and higher yields. But in 1st century Palestine, they planted like most of us plant grass seen in our yards. They broadcast the seed, that is, it was thrown by hand or a hand-held device that sprinkled the seed onto the ground. Some of that seed found a good place to take root and grow, but some did not. Instead of fertile ground some of that seed fell onto a compacted road or path, some onto rocky terrain, and still other seeds fell among thorns.
As I said earlier, a parable is an earthly story that has a heavenly meaning. So too with today’s parable. The seeds that fell upon the path were eaten by birds. These seeds represent someone who hears the Word of God, but fails to understand it and the evil one takes away any chance for it to prosper and grow. The seed that fell on rocky ground is for someone who hears the Word and receives it with great joy, but that seed never really quite takes root and hold in that person’s life so that when persecution and hard times come, that person quickly gives up and falls back into sinful ways. The seed that falls among thorns is someone who hears the Word, but the worries of this life and the deceptions of wealth and an abundance of commitments “choke” the life out of the new plant making it unfruitful.
We may like to think that the parable only applies to others, but not so fast. The reality is that all of us, at one time or another, has exhibited a hard heart that doesn’t allow the Word of God to penetrate it. We have shown a shallow response to God’s Word and in a sense fallen away at times. We have held on to worldly concerns and fears that have choked the hope and joy out of our lives that should be ours in Christ.
But here’s another reality. Jesus is the Seed AND the Sower. He IS the Word and the Word describes His work to save us all from our sinful behavior – our hard hearts, our falling away, our failure to trust in Him alone. In John 12:24, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” In exactly the same way, our Lord died, was planted in the grave, and rose again to provide the Good News of forgiveness and salvation and new life for us all! His Word encourages us to see, hear, and believe; to understand the true value and importance of God’s Kingdom despite tribulation and bad information and persecution in this life.
When the Word of God falls upon good soil, rich soil that receives the seed and nurtures it, the harvest that is created is an amazing yield. Those who see and hear and understand the Gospel produce such rich fruit of the faith that the yield level is 30, 60, or even 100 times what was sown. Good seed on good soil bursts forth in limitless potential. What are you doing to help nurture the growth of the seed? Are you seeing, hearing, and understanding or are you just jerking the wheel left and right in crisis mode day after day? How are you allowing the seed, the Word of God, to enrich and bless your life? What is your Bible study life like? What about the consistency of your worship attendance? Are you seeing, hearing, and understanding or are you taking too many wrong exits ramps in your life? How is the seed of God’s Word being nurtured and tended to in your life?
There are a lot of things that I don’t understand. I don’t understand what there is to love about “love bugs.” I don’t really know how an internal combustion engine works. But I do know and understand that Christ died for me and for my sins. I do know that God’s love and grace wants all people to be saved and to come to Him. And I do know that eternal life is available to us by our faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. And by the working of the Holy Spirit and the Seed, the Word of God, you know it too. Now…how will it change your life today? How will it change your tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year? How will it change your eternity? You know the answer to that, right?