Sermon on 13th November 2016
The Revd Dr Anderson Jeremiah, Lancaster Priory
The sower, the act of sowing and the seed (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23)
The events of the past week may have pushed some of us to think that we are in a lion’s den, just like Daniel. Nothing to protect ourselves from the lions but only pray to God and wait for his intervention. I am tempted to focus entirely on that story. But I am going to look at the parable of sower to help us look beyond the hatred and fear that has come to define our societies.
The sower, the act of sowing and the seed. Let us remind ourselves that it is a parable and we shouldn’t get ourselves entangled in the details. However, we should be attentive to the greater truth offered in the story.
The sower seem to lack fundamental knowledge of sowing. He is throwing the seeds everywhere! In the path, on the rocky ground, among the thorns and eventually gets to some good soil. Is it lack of knowledge about sowing or the sower is intentionally sowing the seeds everywhere? I would rather like to think the sower is being extravagant, indiscriminate or reckless. The sower scatters his seed carelessly, recklessly, seemingly wasting much of the seed on ground that holds little promise for a fruitful harvest.
The act of sowing doesn’t discriminate between the rocky ground, the thorny ground or the path. All those terrains get the same treatment. The seed is sown in all types of grounds. If he/she were to be a traditional farmer, he would have been careful to sow the seeds only in the well prepared ‘good’ ground, which would have given forth fruits hundred fold. In spite of where the seeds feel, they all made an effort to spring up and grow. It is only the external conditions that determined whether those plants continued to grow or died!
Now if we have to make sense of this parable, the sower could be referring to either God or Jesus. The seed pointing to the gospel. Now contrary to many of our understanding, God is the sower who is sowing the seeds of hope and love indiscriminately and recklessly. The terrain doesn’t matter, it can be thorny, rocky or good fertile soil. The gospel is sown in every type of ground. The message of love, hope and peace belongs to all. Going beyond labels, categories and group mentality. It is the external circumstances that determines if that message of love and hope could survive and bear fruit. This interpretation poses significant challenges to us, followers and disciples of Jesus. As a visible sign of Christ’s body in the world, we are called to be the sower! We could also be the seed and the ground. If we are the sowers, what kind of message are we sowing in our communities? Are we being reckless and indiscriminate in our sharing the gospel so that everybody has a chance or are we being selective in sowing, in some case even sowing seeds of hatred and discrimination?
There might be tendency among us to stereotype certain types of soil with specific groups and actually blame those groups for the failure of the seed to take roots. If we honestly search deep within, I am sure we could find evidence of several kinds of soil in our lives and in our congregations! It is important to take note that Jesus is not exhorting his disciples to “be good soil,” as though we could make that happen. If there is any hope for the unproductive soil, it is that the sower keeps sowing generously, extravagantly, even in the least promising places. The gospel gives us ample evidence that Jesus did not simply give up on his disciples, in spite of their many failings. He squanders his time with tax collectors and sinners, with lepers, the demon-possessed, and all manner of outcasts. Yet he promises that his reckless sowing of the word will produce an abundant harvest. We can only trust and pray that he will not give up on us either, but will keep working on whatever is hardened, rocky, or thorny within and among us.
Dear friends, as those entrusted with carrying on the message of love, peace and mercy, we might consider the implications of this parable for how we witness to Christ today. Too often we play it safe, sowing the word only where we are confident it will be well received, and only where those who receive it are likely to become like us. Jesus’ approach to mission is quite at odds with our play-it-safe instincts. He gives us freedom to take risks for the sake of the gospel. He endorses extravagant generosity in sowing the word, even in perilous places. Though we may wonder about the wisdom or efficiency of his methods, Jesus promises that the end result will be hundred fold.
This weekend we have been thinking about the valuable loss of life during the world wars and the loss of life since then in numerous wars and conflicts. The recent upsurge of right-wing populism and the political fallout from that, not just in America, but in our own backyards. fruits of people sowing seeds of hatred, fear and discrimination. This context reminds us that now is the time, more than ever, humanity needs love, peace and mercy. We need to go beyond the divided worldview, of those who agree with us and those who don’t.
The divine attributes of Love, Mercy and Peace embodied in Jesus, have the potential to enable us to bear fruits hundred fold. Jesus through this parable of sower behoves us to be the sowers of hope, love and mercy, indiscriminately, extravagantly and recklessly. Amen.