Matthew 13 (NRSV): “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen! . . . When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
Sower, Seed & Soil (Part 1)
In Jesus’ parable, we are left with three ‘groups’: 1. The sower; 2. The seeds; and 3. The soil.
The trick of the parable, perhaps, is to recognize that we ourselves, as well as God, can play any or all of these roles.
We operate as the sower when we bring the Word of God to others, whether with our words or with our deeds.
We operate as the seeds when the Word of God works (or doesn’t work) upon us.
We operate as the soil, offering ground fertile or infertile – that is, the space in which God’s Word either finds root or does not – for ourselves and for others.
Some things to know about sowers:
1. We are all sowers. We are all proclaimers of God’s Word. We are a priesthood of believers, each and all of us called and charged with the gift and responsibility of sharing what we know with others. There is no professional priesthood that gets laypeople off the hook. It is not my job; it is ours, this proclaiming business. It is ours.
2. The sower’s job is to sow the seed – that is to proclaim God’s Word with our words and most importantly, with our lives. The response of the seed is not within our control – when we sow, we do the best we can and leave the rest to God and the other person.
3. A sower sows. A sower does not tell the soil it is unworthy of the seed. A sower nurtures the soil if nurture it needs. A sower clears the soil of rock before sowing rather than complaining that the soil is rocky when seed fails to take root. A sower works with rather than against the soil.
4. Sowers persist. A sower knows that sometimes the seed simply will not take root and germinate. The results are not within the sower’s control. Sowers sow. It is the seed which must do the growing. This is why a sower does not abandon tomatoes as a crop merely because of one bad year for tomatoes.
5. A sower knows that depending on the crop, he may never live to see the fruits of his labor; yet the sower trusts that fruits there will be.
Some things to remember about the ground, dirt, soil that we are:
1. Sometimes soil stays the same; mostly it doesn’t. Wonderful beds of soil have been made or lost over time to due changing weather patterns, changing river ways, to management and mismanagement.
2. What lays under the top soil isn’t obvious. You’ve got to do some digging to find out about the true value of the land.
3. Sometimes only time will tell when it comes to what we put in the ground – sometimes you just have to wait and see what will grow.
4. Soil is often affected by things beyond its control – chemical pesticides, weather (wind and rain) caused erosion, the formation of gullies (which travel uphill rather than down).
Finally, seeds might do well to remember that:
1. The germ of life lives within you.
2. The desire to respond to good soil and water and sun – to nourishment – is innate to who you are – you are a seed – you were made for growing. And like the caterpillar, who you are now looks nothing like who or what you will become.
3. You are a crop seed, which means that when you grow, it will not be – or not only be – for your own glory, but for the nourishment, the sustaining, of others.
As followers of The Way, we are all sowers, soil and seeds – sometimes for ourselves, sometimes for others.
Being a sower means being patient, diligent and persistent. . . and knowledgeable about the soil and seed. The farmer who quits the first time a crop fails isn’t much of a farmer. Likewise, a sower of God’s Word who gets discouraged at the first rejection isn’t going to be much of a sower.
A good farmer is one who understands the particular seed he works with, knowing in what conditions it will best grow, understanding the soil he’s dealing with. Likewise, a good sower doesn’t beat the soil or condemn the seed. Rather, the good sower does all he can to nourish the soil, remove the rocks, establish a rich top soil to give the seed the best possible chance to grow.
And being the seed is just doing that which we were created to do: grow.