Why plant the seeds if you aren’t expecting the harvest?

One time Jesus told a story that went something like this…

There was a farmer who planted a crop. Now this was not maybe what you would call a real good farmer. He, didn’t do anything to prepare the soil. He just went around scattering seed.

Some of the seed, Jesus said, “fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.”

When Jesus finished the story he looked at the crowd, and said, “Do you get it?” They didn’t. It was a pretty big crowd. There we so many of them in fact that Jesus had to tell this story from a boat cast off a bit from the shore of a lake so everybody could see him. But nobody in that whole crowd got it, not even the disciples who had already been hanging out with Jesus for a while.

So after the boat came back to the shore and Jesus climbed out, the disciples went up to him and said, not only do we, nor anybody else, have any clue as to what that story you just told us is supposed to be about, we can’t figure out why you are always telling stories, anyway. This isn’t the only story of yours that nobody has ever gotten.

So Jesus tells them why he tells stories. But we’re not here this morning just to tell stories about Jesus telling stories. We’ll get back to that in a bit. But now, let’s stand together for this morning’s opening prayer, and our first hymn. Watch out for the seed.

The story that we are talking about this morning is from the 13th chapter of Matthew’s gospel. A bit down in that chapter Jesus says why he tells stories.

Some of the stories of Jesus are what we call parables. This story is classically called the Parable of the Sewer. The literature about the parables of Jesus could fill a room many times this size. And I’m beginning to wonder if we don’t miss the forest because of the trees. Almost every commentary dealing with this chapter spends a whole lot more time on the various ideas about the place of parables in the ministry of Jesus than they do about the stories themselves.

I want to de-escalate this morning. We can call this the Parable of the Sewer if we want, but for our purposes we could just as easily call it a story about a farmer.

I think it is important when we look at the parables and stories of Jesus that we do not try to weigh them down with too many meanings. Usually it seems that Jesus is trying to make much smaller points with his stories than we allow. But with Jesus, less is a whole lot more, and as we strip away all the bulk we often add to his stories, we find something much more profound in its simplicity.

In most stories people tell, there is usually just one point. Now there may be lots of ways that point is being made, but it remains one point. If we want to find out the point of this story, I suggest we try to figure out what Jesus is talking about when he says this farmer is sewing some seed. What is the seed? If we figure that out, maybe we will do a little bit better than the disciples and the rest of the crowd with this story.

So what do you think the seed that is being sown in this story is? If you have read this chapter, you know Jesus actually tells us. Back earlier in the chapter when the disciples ask Jesus why he tells stories, anyway, we read this in verse 11, “you have been given insight into God’s Kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears.”

Jesus gives the disciples an explanation of this story beginning at verse 16. As we read it note how it begins.

In his story Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of God. That’s what the seed is. Jesus has come to plant an awareness of the Kingdom of God.

I offer this as further evidence that Jesus does, indeed, intend for us to take very seriously what we regard as rather unrealistic and way too idealistic ways of living that are outlined by Jesus in such places as the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus does believe we can live peacefully and humbly and gently with each other. He really believes we can trust God to be with us, and that God intends us to love everyone, including our enemies.

Jesus does believe in the power of non-violence, the importance of forgiveness, and the need for us to take down the barriers that separate us from God and one another.

All of that is the seed of the Kingdom of God that he planted. And when you plant something you expect a harvest. Jesus isn’t just spouting off about life in some ideal and unattainable world. He’s expecting what he says about God’s Kingdom to take root in our lives and produce a harvest. He expects, he really believes our lives can start looking like his, with all the love and mercy and compassion and forgiveness and peace and devotion to God that we see in his life. He believes the same Spirit that was with him is with us, and that we can do this thing.

The idea of the Kingdom of God was never far from Jesus. That’s what so many of his stories were about. He tells another story in this chapter that begins, “God’s Kingdom is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field.”

Then there’s another story after that one that begins, “God’s Kingdom is like a mustard seed that a farmer plants.”

And another one follows that starts like this, “God’s Kingdom is like yeast a woman works into dough.” And the chapter ends saying he kept on telling stories all day long. I can guarantee you, that even though we don’t have those stories written down for us, they were about the Kingdom of God. Biblical scholars refer to this chapter as the one about the Parables of the Kingdom.

Let’s get back to that story about the farmer sewing the seed of the Kingdom of God if you, indeed, agree with me that this is what this story is about. The seed falls onto various kinds of soil. Often we tend to look at those soils as signifying various kinds of people. There are the people who are the well beaten path people, those who seem like they are never going to let the seed take root in them.

There are people like the rocky soil where the seed gets planted, but never has a chance because its roots can’t go deep enough. There is the soil full of weeds, where things start out fine, but the weeds choke the plant to death.

Then there is the good soil, the people who let the seed take root in them and it produces a harvest of the Kingdom of God.

One of the things about stories is that you can see many different things in them, even if they do have a main point like the Kingdom of God. What if we saw these various soil types, not like the different reactions different people have to the message of the Kingdom of God, but the different reactions we have within ourselves to the Kingdom of God.

Maybe there are places or times in our lives where we refuse to let the seed even take root, where we never give it a chance. It’s like that well walked road where some of the seed in the story landed. “I don’t care what Jesus says, if our country goes to war, I’m backing the President all the way. That’s the popular opinion. It’s our duty as citizens. It’s the path we are all supposed to walk. You don’t expect the seeds of the Kingdom to grow there do you?

Maybe there are places or times in our lives where the seed wilts under the pressure we are feeling. Maybe we aren’t able to stand up to the pressure of living in light of the Kingdom when people are saying it doesn’t make any sense to live the way Jesus says we should live, or it’s too idealistic, or Christianity is nonsense.

Maybe there are places and times in our lives when the Kingdom gets choked because of our worries and concerns, because our schedules are so crazy, our kids are so out of control, or our mistakes have caught up with us.

Maybe there are places and times in our lives where the Kingdom takes root and we really surprise ourselves and others because something of God is showing in us, Jesus is alive and well in us.

At some times and in some ways we are better at this Kingdom of God thing than at others. But this is where grace comes in and maybe helps us do some of the ground work that farmer didn’t do. Maybe we can get some of the rocks out of the soil and do some weeding, and plant some things near the less traveled roads of this world, and find and even greater harvest of the Kingdom in some of those hard places of our lives.

The seed of the Kingdom of God has been planted. The questions for us is where has it landed, and what are we going to do about it? Is there a possibility the seed can land in us? Can we sew some of the seeds of the Kingdom ourselves? Can we bear witness to the Jesus who took God’s Kingdom as something very real, something that can take root in us and produce a harvest in our own lives?

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