Sermon (transcript): Going to Seed

(my best re-creation, from notes)

“Going to Seed” ( Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23; July 12, 2008 )

Some of you look like you’re about ready to go to seed.

And I mean that in the nicest way. Really.

I don’t mean you look old! I mean that you look like you’re ready to spread the Good News, to pass on the love and blessing of God! I mean that you look like you’re ready to bring forth the next generation of people who know the love of God.

Jesus’ metaphor for the Word of God is a powerful one, and I think sometimes we might miss how potent it really is. But those of you who are farmers will know immediately how shocking Jesus’ story is here.

So the Word of God is a seed. Understand how important seeds are to people who live off the land, to farmers. Seeds are like currency. They are quite literally worth their weight in the currency of the day. They are livelihood. Life itself.

And so we really have to wonder about this sower, who is either very careless or very generous, because this sower just walks around, flinging seeds everywhichway. Throwing money in all directions. Casting a family’s livelihood here there and everywhere. Some seeds fall on the rocks–who sows on the rocks?, and some on the path–really? you’re going to put seeds right where you can walk on them?, and some among the weeds– maybe the sower just didn’t feel like weeding–I can resonate with that!, and only a handful fall on good soil where they will fetch a harvest. That’s roughly a 25% return on this seed-sowing investment. Not particularly good numbers. What a strange sower! What a crazy person! What a generous giver, unconcerned with whether or not the seeds yield any harvest at all.

And then we might stop to wonder about the soil. We may wonder, if the seed is the Word of God, the Love of God, the Blessing of God, what kind of soil are we? Are we open to the Good News? Do we take it in and let it grow in us? Or are we hardened, packed earth? Are we shallow, rocky dirt? Are we a weed-choked field? Because I know for me, there are plenty of times when I am like a hard-packed path, when I just close my ears to the Word I’m reading or hearing, when I shut out the love of God and others all around me. I know, speaking just for myself, there are times when I am like rocky ground, and I get really excited about an idea at first, but lack the conviction or the time or energy to go deeper, and so my enthusiasm withers and dies. I know, for me, there are times when I am definitely choked with weeds, when the concerns and pressures of life and the other things I think I have to do close in around me, cutting me off from growing in God’s love.

But the fact that we’re all here today, that says that at least for a time we have been good soil. The Word has found a place in our hearts, taken root, and begun to grow. We can yield a harvest.

So what happens next? The grain that was sown yields thirty, sixty, or a hundred-fold. How does such a thing happen?

We go to seed.

Seeds are such a great metaphor, you see, because plants don’t just grow and yield a harvest and that’s the end of it. Plants, when they are fully mature, become seed themselves, and give rise to a new generation of plants. That’s how you get more seed.

There’s a horrible situation that’s been happening in parts of Africa, where corporations who sell seeds are tampering with the genetics of the seeds they sell, making them infertile. Oh, the seeds will grow and bear their harvest, but they will not bear more seeds. Each year, the farmers will have to buy new seeds to grow next year’s crops, rather than using seed from the year before–you can see why seed companies would want to do this. What’s worse, if the genetically altered plants cross-pollinate with the natural plants around them, they render those plant infertile too. What an act of violence! What shameful destruction of the cycle of life! Going to seed is the most important thing a plant can do, because it is what assures the survival of the next generation.

Jesus didn’t think that he was the only one who could spread the Word of God. He counted on other people being sowers too. And after his death and the death of the first generation of disciples, did the Word of God die out? Did the seeds stop being sown? No! Those early members of the Jesus movement had themselves gone to seed; they had spread the Good News to a whole new generation of Christians, and the movement continued.

That’s where I think we’re at, as individuals, and as a church. I think we need to get serious about sowing our seeds in this community. I think we’re ready to take the love and the blessing we have received, take the Word that has grown in our hearts, and share it with others.

But here’s the trick. Here’s where it gets dangerous. Because, you see, we don’t sow our seeds in our own safe corners of the world. We don’t sow our seeds in some tidy little garden around a cozy country bungalow. We sow our seeds out in the wide, wild world. We sow them on the hard-packed path. We sow them on the rocky terrain. We sow them in the weed-choked fields, and we sow them– some of them– on good soil.

Who are we to be any more discriminating than the original sower was? Who are we to seek out only the soil that we think we yield a harvest, only the soil with which we’re comfortable? Who are we to be stingy sowers, as if we will ever run out of the seeds of God’s love? No, we can’t limit our sowing to the well-tilled fields we know, to our friends and neighbors who are so much like us we can anticipate their responses or know they won’t hold it against us if we say something that makes them a little uncomfortable.

We sow as the first sower did, indiscriminately, carelessly, generously. We share the seed with people whose hearts are hardened by old pain, by the struggle of life, people who have been wounded by the church and those who have professed God’s love in the past, people who have sworn that if just one more person walks up to me and tries to tell me about Jesus I’m gonna tell them what to do with that idea. We share our seeds with people who can be a bit rough and rocky, people who are initially excited, but who lack the time and energy and will to go deeper, people whose enthusiasm will dry up quickly. We share our seeds with a wide world full of weeds, with people who cannot or will not make God or church a priority. People with other time commitments– some that frustrate us, like Sunday morning golfing, or sports practice or catching up on sleep, and some through no fault of their own, because they have to work the weekend shift to put food on the table, because they need that one day a week with their distant family, because they are all on their own juggling the kids. We sow the seed in all these places, because we never know what good soil might be hiding underneath, looking a little rocky or hard or shallow. We never know how long seeds might lie dormant, or spring up and die and spring up again countless times before finally taking root. We sow the seeds in these places, because the sower sowed them in us, we who are hard and rocky and shallow, and yet the love of God took root in us.

So are you ready? Are you ready to go to seed?

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