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July 2014 Sermons:
The Reverend Joyce Smothers

"Seeds Everywhere" — July 13


“Seeds Everywhere”
July 13, 2014
First Presbyterian Church of Hokendauqua
The Reverend Joyce Smothers

Matthew 13: 1-9, 8-23

I want to tell you something that may surprise you. The Gospels were written several decades after the events in Jesus’ life took place. Stories had been told, sermons had been preached, and questions had been answered, long before the stories of Jesus were set down in writing.

It’s hard for us to imagine what it would have been like to write history in those days. Can you imagine having to rely almost entirely on the memories of eyewitnesses? It would be a lot harder to write a book about President John F. Kennedy if we didn’t have newspaper clippings, films, books and the Internet to help us. Some people remember things JFK did more than fifty years ago. Those of us who were alive then, remember what we were doing on the day he was shot. But it’s been more than fifty years, and we’ve forgotten quite a bit about his presidency.

Matthew had no history books. All he had were stories, passed on from one person to another, nothing but people’s memories—on which to base his gospel. Imagine how difficult it must have been for him to distinguish the stories from the sermons Peter and James and John were preaching about Jesus. What people remembered best, was the fact that Jesus was a great storyteller. He told many parables. Some of them had surely been forgotten by the time Matthew wrote the gospel. However, there were some that everyone remembered clearly. The sower parable is one of the best-known.

I don’t want to disappoint you, but some scholars think the explanation of this parable, the one we find at the end of this gospel reading, may not have come from Jesus himself. It could be part of an early sermon preached by a disciple. At any rate, it’s not the only explanation we could make. What do you think? Is this parable about the sower, the seed, or the soil? Where in the story do you find yourself? Where is God? What does this parable say to you?

There are people who feel like the sower. Did you notice the careless way the sower sows the seed? No farmer would intentionally sow seed on a road or among thorns. The sower in the parable is like Johnny Appleseed in the Disney movie. He throws seeds all over the place. He doesn’t prepare the soil at all. How wasteful!

Does the sower remind you of yourself? Do you freely give whatever you have? People like the sower are generous. They share the good news of God’s love with everyone. Are your kindnesses ignored or rejected sometimes? The disciples experienced a lot of rejection. I feel like that when I give money to a homeless person who comes to the church door. No homeless person has ever rejected my money, but I don’t know if the gifts do any good. Will they go for food or transportation or drugs? I’ll never know what happens. Perhaps I do wrong to give to a person I don’t know. But I could not do otherwise.

It’s discouraging, when we don’t find out what happens to people we have tried to help. Sometimes I feel that way about young people who get confirmed and then never come back to church. It’s like waiting to see crops shoot up from the seeds we have sown, but not seeing anything good happen at all. Remember that there is rocky soil out there in the world, and there are brambles too, and hard ground that makes it nearly impossible for some young people to take root in faith. We must keep on trying.

Have you ever loved someone unconditionally, only to see them squander his or her life? And at the same time, aren’t there people who respond to love in a way that multiplies the love? As a sower, do you ever wonder if you shouldn’t be more careful about how and where you sow your seed? The sower in the parable reminds us of the need to be generous, not stingy, in passing on the Word of the Lord. God’s grace is meant for everyone, everywhere, not just the purest of heart.

On the other hand, some of us feel like the seed in the parable. We feel like God has put us someplace — and left us there — either to grow or to die. Sometimes we blame the sower for putting us where we are. We may grumble about being wasted—or we may decide to make the best of where we are. If you know the story of Joseph from Genesis, you will remember that he is sent to prison, after his master’s wife makes a false complaint that he has attacked her. He makes friends with well-connected prisoners in that Egyptian dungeon. He gets promoted to warden. Eventually, he comes to the Pharoah’s attention. His fortunes begin to rise.

Most of us have been sown in good soil, so to speak. Life has been good to us. We have been given enough nutrients and water to grow. And yet, some of us seem to produce more than others. When I think of the churches that have survived for years in the Soviet Union or Communist China, I see how good the spiritual soil has been for us. Yet some Christian communities in China and Russia have continued to grow in difficult conditions.

Compare their situation to ours, here in America. We have freedom of expression, and yet we find fewer people in this country responding to God’s call to ministry. The same thing has been happening in Europe. If you see yourself as the seed in the parable, what kind of soil have you been thrown upon? How are you responding to it? Is there a way for you to be more fruitful?

The most common way to read the parable, is to see the believers as the good soil, where word of God is able to take root. This is the understanding of the parable that we hear in Matthew’s gospel. There are other ways to hear it. How do you hear it?

If you are the sower, I believe God is calling you to increase your generosity. Be like Johnny Appleseed! Sow your faith and love everywhere. If you are the seed, God is calling you to take root, even if the soil all around you is rocky and full of brambles. If you are the soil, God calls you to receive God’s word in faith and allow it to grow. As a congregation, we can be the soil, the seed and the sower. We are called to minister—all of us—in a certain setting. We are called to receive the Word and allow faith to grow within us.

What is God saying to YOU in this parable? Let the Word take root in your life. Share it with people who are shallow, rocky, or wasted. There is far more good in the human race than we can imagine. God is faithful and will prevail. It’s not all up to us. But we can help God’s grace to take root, so it will grow in the lives of the people around us.


Let us pray. Almighty God, we thank you for the seeds of faith you have planted in us. Grant us the courage, we pray, to release the things in our lives which choke us and prevent us from growth. We thank you for helping us to flourish in spite of ourselves. In summer, we confess we would rather stop growing and giving and just rest in the shade. Keep us mindful, O God, that you did not call us to be cool and comfortable but to minister to the needs of a weary world. AMEN




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