The Fifth Sunday after Pentecost; Proper 10A (July 13, 2014)

LessonsIsaiah 55:10-13 Psalm 65:[1-8] 9-13 (11) Romans 8:1-11 St. Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

Semicontinuous Series Genesis 25:19-34 Psalm 119:105-112 (105)

Prayer of the Day Almighty God, we thank you for planting in us the seed of your word. By your Holy Spirit help us to receive it with joy, live according to it, and grow in faith and hope and love, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Lesson

13:1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea.Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “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. 6But 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!”

13:18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 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. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 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. 22 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. 23 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.”

St. Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 New Revised Version Bible ©1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Sowers of Seed

I don’t know much about farming, but I understand that it has changed quite a bit since the 1950s when my Uncle Philip used to crank up an old John Deer tractor and head out into his 160 acres pulling a plow. I once read about a farmer in Iowa who has his combine hooked up to a laptop computer and a GPS tracking system. As he navigates through his fields, this setup creates a picture for him on a computer monitor of the yield he gets on the various sections of his field. After several seasons he can see which sections produce well and then judge how to most efficiently plant, fertilize and harvest the field. Then, the next Spring, he plugs that same information into his planter, and throughout the entire field he distributes just the right amount of seed in each section.

In our day, efficiency and productivity rule. It doesn’t matter whether you are planting seed, investing money, building a church, starting up a business, or riding a mountain bike in the middle of the Rockies. Anything that can make you more efficient is considered, and if it proves to be successful you buy into it. In the business world, whatever increases the yield is considered to be a possibility. Some companies spend millions of dollars on technology, all intended to make their workers just a bit more efficient or a bit more precise. Farmers are no exception: it’s neither unusual or impractical for farmers these days to have training in computer sciences as well as agriculture. And so the farmer in Iowa is not alone as he makes his way down the rows of corn during harvest, watching both the crops and his computer monitor. He is trying to beat the odds, and be just a bit more productive than he could have been without that equipment..

In this week’s parable, Jesus tells of a sower who makes his way through a field, distributing seed. But rather than carefully placing each seed in the spot where it could be most productive, the seed is sown indiscriminately; almost wastefully. The sower throws some of the seed on the road, where years worth of footprints have turned the hard soil in to concrete. Some seeds are blown by the wind into rocks, where there might be just enough soil for them to briefly take root, but not enough soil to support a plant strong enough to weather the midday sun. Some seeds end up in thistles, where other plants compete for soil and sunlight and water.

It seems odd to us that the Sower is so unconcerned about the seed that is being lost in the process. Who knows what a video monitor could have shown, if a satellite tracking system had been able to analyze his efforts? Would 20% of his seed have been wasted? 30%? 40%? More? The point is, the Sower doesn’t seem particularly concerned. The object is to get seed in as many places as possible, so that if there is a chance for it to grow, that might happen. Even an unlikely place for a plant to grow receives some seed, just in case there is enough soil there to produce a harvest.

Those of us who have been baptized into the faith have been called to sow seeds of faith in the lives of others. This parable addresses how and when and where we should do so.

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel: 1. What disciples seem to be unlikely candidates to serve as leaders in the early church? 2. What groups or individuals might they be less likely to include in ministry? 3. How is Jesus trying to stretch them with these instructions?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel: 1. Who do I think might be unlikely to respond to words of faith? 2. When have I not discussed my faith, because others seemed uninterested or opposed? 3. Who would I reach out to, if I really believed it is all up to God?