Sunday, February 26, 2017

Parable: Mustard Seed & Yeast

I have been to Bahrain, Denmark, Japan, Kuwait, Morocco, the Netherlands, Norway, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom.  I have been to many other countries as well, but these still in some regards consider themselves kingdoms.  Most function from constitutional governments of some sorts but others have powers residing in an Emir or King.

At the end of our revolutionary war, having defeated an unjust tyrant and proclaimed our liberty from England, many wanted to make George Washington a king.  The very thing that our forefathers despised so much—all power vested in a single person—was what many proposed.  It took more than a dozen years, but eventually our forefathers came up with a remarkable document that we know as the constitution. 

The Hebrew people, living in the Promised Land in a tribal manner, looked around and saw powerful nations that all had kings and decided that they needed one as well.  Even though they would pay dearly with their sons and daughters, land and livestock, and reliance upon human might instead of God’s righteousness, they insisted on a king.

God obliged them with Samuel, then David, the Solomon, then a divided kingdom.

You can’t blame the people for asking.  In God’s promise to Abraham, he told the father of all nations that kings would come from his lineage. 

Kingdoms are impressive things.  Kings have power and authority and armies and fortresses and wealth.  Kingdoms come with crowns and thrones, trumpets and attendants, and so many other things that say: “Look at how impressive I am.”

And so this guy who is talking to a large crowd, so large that he has to push away from shore in a boat so he is not crowded and can speak to everyone, he says that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed.
Are you kidding me?

The Kingdom of God has to be something bigger than any kingdom on earth.  Right?  But this guy in the boat makes a point of how small the seed is.  The kingdom of God is like the smallest of seeds.

We know the man in the boat to be Jesus and this to be a very, very short parable about the Kingdom of Heaven.  We don’t know exactly which plant that he was talking about.  It may not be the mustard plant that we know today.

What we do know is that tiny seed would grow into a plant large enough that birds would nest in it.  Birds generally don’t nest in shrubs where their offspring would become breakfast for wild animals that would pass by.  Small seed—big plant, that’s the parable.

The Kingdom of God, the Kingdom of Heaven is something that grows.  That probably stood in contrast to what people expected.  You would think if you had existed for all eternity, then you might have already established your kingdom.  But Jesus tells those who would listen that God’s kingdom would grow.

How exactly, is left to some interpretation.  Short parables sometimes leave much room for interpretation and discussion.  Many would say that from a handful of disciples it would spread and grow throughout the world.  That seems reasonable.  It is a historical perspective for sure.  We have witnessed that and in many parts of the world, we still witness fantastic growth once the gospel has been shared.

Jesus followed this short parable with an even shorter parable.  The Kingdom of Heaven is like a woman mixing yeast into dough.  Before you know it, it is working throughout the dough.

Maybe the Kingdom of God is at work inside of us. Maybe the Kingdom of Heaven is growing inside of us.  Maybe our images of worldly kingdoms have distorted the kingdom that God desires for us.

If we truly desire eyes to see and ears to hear, we will know that our profession of faith is not the finish line, but the beginning of an entirely new journey.  Our race has just begun.

The Holy Spirit resides within us and is ready for us to experience the Kingdom of God.  The question is:  “Are we ready?”

Are we ready to grow?  Jesus said, that’s the way the kingdom works.  It grows.

We describe our discipleship as a walk or a race or a journey, but we must realize that none of these metaphors describe tourists. 

Empowered by God’s Spirit living within us, we engage the world and we grow.  We grow in fellow believers and we grow in our spiritual maturity.

The kingdom grows both externally and internally, except when it doesn’t.  Why wouldn’t it?  Do things get in our way?

I pondered this question for a while this week and when I was through pondering the question; I googled it.  I should have stuck with my own meditative thoughts.  I couldn’t believe the volume of things that people are saying get in their way of spiritual growth, growing in grace, or growing as disciples.  There is some stuff getting in the way.  Maybe we should go back to the parable of the sower and start making lists of weeds choking out spiritual growth.

I found some that might hit home with most people, even those who picked up their cross and took on the yoke of Jesus decades ago.

Here is one—forgetting God.  How could a Christian forget God?  There is this almost humorous cycle that we go through called sleep.  Some get more of it than others, but eventually we all sleep.

Then we awaken.  Day after day, we awaken.  How long does it take us to get our hearts and minds focused on God every time that we awaken?  The phone rings early in the morning.  The alarm doesn’t go off and we are behind from the git-go; or nothing special happens and we just forget that God belongs first and foremost in everything that we do.
It happens.

Want another one?  Of course you don’t want another distractor from growth, but do you want to hear about another one?

Negativity and complaining seem truly invasive these days.  Everyone and everything seems overly subject to ridicule in this modern time.  And since when did complaining become a career choice?

Did we forget Paul’s counsel to the Philippians?  Try to do everything without complaining and arguing.

There are days that I am ready to cancel our satellite service.  Complain, argue, complain, argue, complain, argue, complain—that’s the model—and I pay for this stuff.  If I want something to grow I add water and fertilizer, not kerosene and toxic waste.

Here is one that gets some people—restlessness.  We want things and experiences that we don’t have.  We are not content in our circumstances.  We make senseless comparisons. 

Why?  We are not doing the things that we know to do—that God’s Spirit is leading us to do.  We want other things.  James counsels us that when we know what we ought to do and don’t do it, then it is sin.

Up for another one?  Not going “all in.”  Perhaps this is the most difficult, especially in a time and place where we have so much.  Even those who have little have much in this country, but are we willing to say, “It’s all yours, Lord?”  What if he wants me to give more money or go to Africa or Asia and spread the gospel, or worse, to the guy across the street?

Think about a farmer who plants his wheat field and three fourths of the seed decides, “I’m not sure about this season.”  What sort of crop do you expect when only 25% of your seed is “all in?”

But what if?  We can easily talk ourselves out just about anything.  We can “what if” ourselves out of growing in God’s grace.  But we forget that in God’s grace is truly the only safe place to grow.

Instead of the prohibitive “what if;” we should substitute, “I wonder what God has in store for me today!”

OK, one more:  Judging others.  Maybe we should skip that one.  The old lumberyard in the eye is alive and well in 2017.  For as much as we want to follow Jesus, our judgmental nature often gets in the way.  We are not talking about discernment, but condemnation.  Discernment comes when we leverage the wisdom that comes from God and when we apply it with mercy.  Condemnation of others is not something that belongs to us.  We may condemn practices but not people.

Having grasped the salvation that we cherish so much and for which we paid nothing (not that it was cheap but that we did not pay the high price by which it came),  we think that others should pay more, if they are even qualified at all.

If we find ourselves sitting in the judgment seat, get up.  First of all, it’s not our seat.  Second, we are not growing while we are seated there.

These two short parables tell us that we are meant to grow in grace and God’s kingdom is meant to grow in us and for us to do that, we must take on the yoke of our Master.

It is not too hard for us, but it is a deliberate and daily decision to follow Christ Jesus.  If we find that we are doing something or even just thinking something that gets us off track, we need to get rid of that something.

We are to strip off, cast off, get rid of anything that hinders as we follow Jesus.  We are to follow him.  We are to grow in God’s grace, and because of this, God’s kingdom will grow in us and in the world.

While we want God’s kingdom to grow in numbers in the world; we are told that the love of many will grow cold and people are just going to look for preachers who will tickle their ears as we grow near the end of this age.  We will do all that our Master asks of us to plant seeds of faith wherever we go and some will take root and produce a bountiful harvest, but all that we really can know about the growth of the Kingdom of Heaven is what transpires in us.

These are two very short parables but they both are anchored in a huge concept—growth.  We are made to grow in God’s grace and God’s kingdom will grow in us.

Each parable begins with someone beginning with something small—the farmer with the mustard seed or a woman with a little yeast—and continues with growth that people witnessed and accepted in their day.  Growth was not a novel concept.

The Kingdom of Heaven growing in them, well, that’s something that has to grow on you.  It surely took some thinking and discussion, and probably didn’t hit home right away.  We have the advantage of hindsight and a comprehensive Bible.  We should catch on more quickly than the original audience.

Listen to these two short parables once more.  This time in the New Living Translation.

Here is another illustration Jesus used: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed planted in a field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but it becomes the largest of garden plants; it grows into a tree, and birds come and make nests in its branches.”

Jesus also used this illustration: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.”

As we grow in grace—and we have to be willing to grow—God’s kingdom grows in us.

As we take on the yoke of our Master and learn from him, the Kingdom of Heaven grows in and around us.

We must not focus on how small the seed or the amount of yeast seems in comparison to something else.  We know—because Jesus said so—that both will grow and spread and become the fullness that we need.

There is a Kingdom of Heaven that is surely beyond our comprehension in size, scope, and every human dimension.  God’s Kingdom will be something beyond our imagination.

Within it is our inheritance that’s been waiting on us since before the creation of the world.  It will surely contain what eye has not seen and ear has not heard but that the Lord, our God, has in store for us.

And for those who are worried that it will come under terrorist attack, there will surely be two United States Marines posted at the gates.

There is a kingdom that we will come to know in due time, but there is a kingdom that we are to come to know now.  I’m sure that it is one in the same, but while we live in these vessels of flesh and blood, the realization that the Holy Spirit lives within us is that the Kingdom of God is growing inside as well.

The invisible Spirit that was given to us when we professed Jesus as Lord is manifested in the growing of the kingdom inside of us.

The word of the week is GROW.  Let us grow in God’s grace.  Let God’s kingdom grow in us.


Friday, February 17, 2017

Parable of the Weeds

My yard normally starts turning green before most others in town.  I don’t spray and seldom put anything on it.  So, in late February or maybe March, my yard is turning green.  It’s mostly weeds mind you, but it’s green.

I have walked this church parking lot with my jug of Round Up probably 50 times in the last 10 years.  Why?  Because in the hottest of days on pavement that you would not walk on barefooted, weeds find a small crack, grow, and sometimes thrive if not brought to justice by fast moving fishing line or chemically induced death.

Were I preaching in Colorado or Oregon, I might have a typo on the Facebook post a week before the sermon.  It would just be a missing letter.  The notice would read:  “Join us this Sunday to see what Jesus said about weed.”  That might put a few extra in the pews.

Of course the following week, I might have Colorado farmers protesting in the parking lot when the literalists planted marijuana seeds in their wheat fields.

The parable of the weeds is interesting.  It came at about the same time that Jesus delivered the parable of the sower.  Both of these parables he explained to his disciples after he gave them to the crowd.  Think about the dynamic at work here.

Jesus spoke to the crowd.  The crowd then had time to discuss the parable and Jesus had time to explain it to his disciples.  That means that the disciples were likely in the boat with him, at least as he was speaking to the crowd.

For Hebrew families that often spent much time in the Synagogue, discussing what the rabbi said, was probably a common thing.  Today we demand a constant influx of information.  We want audio, visual, and in some cases the ability to interact.

Two thousand years ago, the interaction was probably taking place, but in small groups.  Some of those groups may have been families.  We don’t know exactly how the teaching and parables that Jesus delivered were received and discussed, but think about the power of that dynamic.

You hear the morning’s message or perhaps messages and then you discuss them the rest of the day.  A certain hymn strikes a chord in your spirit and you have to share it with the people with whom you spend the rest of the day.
Most modern workshops have some lecture and demonstration and then small group activities.  Some people just love a good lecture but most learn better with small group discussion or activities.

Jesus teaches the crowd and then he spends some more time just talking with those closest to him in the boat or later in the house which he had left earlier that day.  Was the crowd just sitting there dumbfounded waiting for the next teaching?  I doubt it.

Parables seem to naturally evoke follow on discussion.

I think the parable struck a chord and evoked many, many discussions while the crowd was gathered or while they were on their various ways home.

So, what do we have in this parable?
·     The Sower or the Farmer is the Son of Man.  Yes, Jesus is talking about himself.  He sowed good seed.
·     The field is the world.
·     The seeds here are those who have received the Kingdom of God.
·     The weeds are the sons of the evil one.
·     The evil one is the devil.
·     The harvest comes at the end of the age.
·     Angels are the harvesters.
·     The weeds do get plucked out and thrown in the fire.  That won’t be a good day to be a weed in any parable.
·     That leaves the wheat for harvest and what a fantastic and wonderful harvest it will be.  The righteous will shine like the sun.

There is the parable in basic Kiplinger or PowerPoint format.  Again, we have a parable told by Jesus followed by his own explanation.  Do we need further explanation?

Have you ever wondered why?  If not, check to see if you have a pulse.  We ask that simple question all the time. 

Why was that the answer to my prayer?
Why didn’t I get an answer to my prayer?
Why did she have to die?
Why did he get cancer?
Why does March Madness continue into April?
Why do bad things happened to good people?
Why doesn’t God pluck the weeds up sooner, like now?

The answer to that question and the other why questions lies in the answer to two other questions.

First, do you believe there is a God?  By God, I mean an all-powerful being that brought everything into existence.  I am talking about a sovereign being over and above all things through which there is nothing in this world or in this universe that he did not bring into existence.  Do you believe in God?

Considering the target audience here, I would expect an overwhelming number of yes answers to that question.

Second, do you believe that God is a God of love.  

Specifically, do you believe that he loves you and will never stop loving you?

I would expect most Christians to answer in the affirmative; however, I know that many still wrestle with God’s love and their circumstances being dynamic.  But the truth is that God’s love is steadfast.  He never stops loving us!

So the answer to why didn’t God answer that prayer or why was this the answer or why must the weeds be allowed to grow with the crop until harvest is that God loves us and will never stop loving us.

Some folks will not like that answer.  It doesn’t square with my question.  Well, I’m not going to lose any sleep over the fact that some don’t like that answer.  Jesus answered a whole bunch of questions with something that did not fit into expectations. 

Sometimes we think that we can frame our questions so that God can only answer us in one or two ways.  Good luck with that.  Sure, that’s going to work.

God is love.  God loves us.  He will never stop loving us. That’s the answer.

But it doesn’t make sense.  Think about it.  When God told the people whom he had delivered from bondage in Egypt to go into the land he was giving them, he told them not to make any treaties with the people in the land.

If they don’t die in battle or run away, don’t make treaties with them.  Why?  Your sons will marry the good-looking gals, have kids, and before you know it they will all be worshipping some false god.

God’s instructions seemed brutal, but simple.  Don’t have anything to do with them.  Smash their altars and other religions symbols.  These people will lead you away from the one true god and you will prostitute yourselves with images of wood and stone.

God was directing some segregation.  He didn’t want any weeds in his wheat then.

Paul counseled that bad company corrupts good character.  Don’t hang out with people of bad moral character.  Share the gospel with them but don’t become who they are.  Your mission is to lead them to Christ not let them lead you away from him.

Paul is stern in his admonishment.

But Jesus says that God will let the wheat and the weeds grow up together.  He does note that some of the wheat might be lost when you pulled up the weeds.  He does offer some facts in mitigation here.  God’s desire is that none perish.

He didn’t say that he would not pluck up the weeds, he just said, “Not now.”  Everything can grow until harvest.

The weeds grow in judgment.  We grow in grace.

There are casualties in every war.  This is good and bad, good and evil, disciples of Jesus and disciples of evil.  But, if we were careful—if God was careful—we could minimize those casualties.  Right?

Jesus won the victory at Calvary.  I have decided to follow Jesus.  Do I really have to follow him through all of these weeds?

The wrestling match going on inside of me between my old self (who wants to be in charge again) and my new self is enough challenge without having to live in the midst of evil.  Why do we have to wait?

God will never stop loving you.  But we want God to pluck up all the weeds that the evil one planted. 

He will.  When it is time for the harvest.  God loves you.

From the time sin entered the world until the time when God will send his angels to pluck up anything and anyone that causes sin or does evil, there will be sin and evil and people doing evil in the world.

We must believe that God is sovereign.  He is just.  His timing is perfect.  He is a holy God.  He detests sin and rebellion and everything that turns people from him.

But more than all of these things that we seem to readily comprehend, God is love.  His love for us is everlasting.  So as we grow and the weeds grow on the same earth together, know that God loves you and will never stop loving you.

There is evil in the world.  The Evil One is still at work. People do evil things.  Sin seems to continue unchecked in vast parts of the world, some of them too close to home for our liking; and God will never stop loving you.

While the comparison seems to fit awkwardly with this parable, we do have a commission to take the gospel to the entire world.  This parable doesn’t say that we can turn a weed into wheat, but the point of this parable is not all inclusive and does not discount what we have been commissioned to do and what we have learned from the entire biblical witness that we have.

It is a parable of the end of the age and between now and then, evil will be in the world.  Every generation from now until the end of the age will have to contend with evil in the world.  There is no worldly formula that gets rid of evil.

Listen to Jesus explain this parable once more.

The One who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world; and the good seed—these are the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.  Therefore, just as the weeds are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age.  The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather from His kingdom everything that causes sin and those guilty of lawlessness. They will throw them into the blazing furnace where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.  Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. Anyone who has ears should listen!

If your heart and your mind is inclined to receive the word of God—the truth—then receive this parable as Jesus gave it to us.  Have ears to hear.

God will remove sin and evil from our dwelling place in his time.  So, we must trust that he is sovereign and holy and just and that he knows precisely what he is doing.  More than that, we must know that God loves us.  In the middle of this weed infested world, God loves us.

God will never stop loving us.  We are called to love one another.  We scatter seed everywhere that we go.  We grow in God’s grace fully trusting that he will never leave or forsake us even when we can’t tell if there are weeds in the wheat field or just a little wheat in a field full of weeds.

Maybe, if we are faithful to our commission, there won’t be quite as many weeds for the harvesters to pluck at the end of the age; but our walk, our race, our earthly journey will have some weeds.

We who have answered the call to follow Jesus will accept that fact, we will know with certainty that God loves us and will never stop loving us, and we will focus on our mission and commission and being God’s love in this world and not the weeds and obstacles planted in our path.

If you have ears, then hear and understand.  This is the way that Jesus said it will be.  This is the world into which we have been sent with God’s love.

Whether we like it or not is irrelevant.  God loves us.  He has sent us into this world full of weeds with love and good news.

We live lives of love and proclaim the gospel as long as we live or until the harvest, whichever comes first.


Friday, February 10, 2017

Parable: The Sower

Is there a Christian anywhere who has not heard this parable.  It seems to be one of the most popular. 

Since the time we discussed the Parable about things that don’t go together, Matthew’s account of Jesus records many healings, a sending of the disciples on a mission to proclaim that the Kingdom of God is near, and a listing of the 12 disciples that followed him for about 3 years.

Simon—Jesus called him Peter—and Andrew.
James and John—the sons of Zebedee.
Phillip and Bartholomew.
Thomas and Matthew—the tax collector.
James and Thaddaeus.
Simon—not Peter but the Zealot and Judas—yes, the disciple who would betray Jesus.

Jesus had more direct and stern teaching.  If you acknowledge him before others, he will acknowledge you before his Father in heaven.  If you disown him, he will return the favor.

We also received some of the most comforting words in the New Testament. 

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.

For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

The encounters with the Pharisees became more intense.  Jesus healed on the Sabbath and told the Pharisees that was Lord of the Sabbath.  The Pharisee wanted their own sign.  They wanted Jesus to perform for them.

As we set the stage for this parable, we find Jesus venturing from a house, possibly even his own house as he was in the region of Galilee.  He went to a lake and finding that large crowds were gathering, he constructed his own amphitheater by getting into a boat and pushing off from the shore a little.  There he would sit and teach this large gathering that surely had common people and the Pharisees alike.

You need to read ahead just a bit to his explanation of the parable, but Jesus was talking about sharing the Kingdom of God and so the told the parable of the sower.

The sower sows the seed which is the word of God.  Who is this? Jesus and his commissioned fit the bill; otherwise known as the church.  Yes, we are these people.

The seeds falling on the road represent those who hear the word but dismiss it almost immediately.  Comparing synoptic gospels, we see that the wicked one (Matthew’s version) or Satan (Mark's wording) is what takes the word away.  That sorry ole…

The seeds falling on the rocks represent those who hear the word, but only accept in a shallow way, perhaps only intellectually.  These types of people reject the word as soon as it causes them affliction or persecution.

The seeds falling among the thorns represent those who hear the word, and take it to heart, but allow worldly concerns, such as health, money, relationships, jobs, and other cares of this world to choke it.  In the Proverbs 3:5 dichotomy, they rely on their own understanding.

The seeds falling on good soil represents those who hear the word, and truly receive it spiritually, causing it to bear fruit.  This is our memory verse for the month being lived to fruition.

Little children, we must not love with word or speech, but with truth and action.
1 John 3:18 HCSB

Good soil produces truth and action.  These folks respond as doers of the word.  They produce fruit for their Lord and for the Body of Christ.

Here is a question for your consideration.  Jesus told the parable and then he explained the parable to his disciples, so who would be crazy enough to try to preach a parable that Jesus already explained?

Have a great week.  See you same time and place next Sunday. Amen.  Right?

Maybe, not so fast on the wrap up.  Here is another question.  What are we supposed to do with this parable?

The beginning of the answer lies in verse 18. It says:  Listen to what the parable of the sower means.  Most of our Bibles give subtitles to different sections to include the parables, but here Jesus gives the parable a title.  He called it the Parable of the Sower.

What difference does that make?

Consider our human inclination.  We would probably title this the parable of the soils:  Road, rocks, thorny, and good.

Our own understanding would lead us to come up with standard procedures for evangelism with accompanying corollaries.   Such as:

·     Roads are for traffic not planting.  Save you seed for more fertile ground.
·     Rocky soil should be better prepared before planting.  If you are not up for the serious labor of cleaning up the rocks, then save your seed for other opportunities.  Leave the rock clearing to people with stronger backs and save your seed.
·     Weeds and thorns are only in it for themselves.  They don’t share well so don’t waste your seed there.  Really, are you going to carry a weed eater with you?  How many gallon jugs of Round Up do you want to haul around.  You’re an evangelist.  Leave the weed clearing to people who are out of work.
·     If you follow these basic tenants of seed sowing, you will have plenty of seed for the fertile ground.

If left to our own understanding, we would probably start classifying people we know as rocky or thorny

“Man, sharing the gospel with that yahoo was like dropping good seed on a newly paved interstate.”

If left to our own understanding, we might just skip sharing the gospel with a lot of people.  What’s the point?

Most of us would probably not make this parable about the seed.  That part is simple.  The seed is the word of God.  There is no bad seed.  The seed is good.

So let’s consider this parable from the perspective of the sower as this is how Jesus titles these analogies.  The sower scattered seed.  It went everywhere—on the road, in the rocky soil, among the weeds, and even in the best of ground. 

Why was there no rebuke from Jesus about where the sower scattered seed?  Should the sower not have planted more wisely?  Should Jesus not have titled this parable the Mostly Foolish Sower?  Really, seed was landing everywhere!

Consider what Jesus charged his disciples with at the beginning of Acts.  He told them that once the Spirit had come upon them, they would be witnesses of Jesus and his gospel in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the rest of the world.  Think about that.  Put yourself in the shoes of these Hebrew followers of Jesus who were soon to take this good news and share it.

Jerusalem—of course.  God’s chosen people, you betcha!

Judea—yeah, ok, sure.

Samaria—Really?  Nobody likes those people.

The ends of the earth—the rest of the world is full of pagans, heathens, and people who don’t put gravy on their chicken fried steak.  You can’t be serious.

But Jesus was to be shared everywhere.  The gospel was to reach the ends of the earth.  God’s desire was and is for none to perish.  Of course, Jesus did not reprimand the sower in his own parable.  The sower did exactly what the sower was to do.  He scattered seed.

So, what is the point of the parable?  Win some. Lose some?  Some get rained out?

So baseball metaphors don’t work well with the parable.  What then?

This is the parable of the sower.  It is about the sower.  The sower scatters seed.  That’s what he does.  He or she does not carry the burden of the response around after the seed is scattered.  Jesus told us that his yoke is easy and his burden is light.

Could we possibly bear the burden of not only sowing seeds but bearing the responsibility for the hearer’s response?  That’s a double-edge sword for sure.

Our human nature would be to claim the credit when the seed landed upon good soil and produced good fruit; likewise, we would accumulate guilt and blame and probably even remorse when the seed landed upon the road or in rocky soil or among the thorns.

We are the sowers.  We scatter seed.  Elsewhere in our instructions, we do find that we should do some watering and fertilizing when appropriate, but in the context of this parable; we are the sower and the sower was not judged for where his seed landed.

The sower did what sowers do.  They scatter seeds.

Jesus did not say to save your seed for good ground.  He did not say to be stingy with your seed so it doesn’t run out.  The parable is about the sower and the sower scatters seed.

We must resist our human nature to classify people based on this parable.  To do so leads us to some outcomes inconsistent with a God who loves us all and gives us all a chance to respond to his grace.

Jesus did not further explain the parable.  We are left to discern in the full biblical witness that we have received or just leave the tough parts alone and stick to what we know.  I will proffer a perspective at the former.

The soil is not a classification of people ranging from eternal reprobate to the elect.  It is the condition of the heart, perhaps the mind and soul as well.  Those conditions can change.

Not mentioned in the parable is the Holy Spirit.  The sower does his or her part and sometimes, the seed lands upon fertile ground and the response is immediate and we celebrate.

Often, the seed will not germinate in our presence, but we are not to be discouraged.   We must not be discouraged!  The parable tells us there will be a variety of responses.  It does not say that the sower is witness to them all.

The sower distributes his seed and it lands where it lands.

We also need to realize that among the people who heard this parable in its first telling where some Pharisees.  Despite what Jesus had already done, these religious leaders wanted Jesus to prove himself by doing something at their beckoning. 

Jesus told them, “Tough luck guys.  You get the sign as everyone else—the sign of Jonah.” 

He told his disciples that he used many parables because some of these yahoos would only take the true meaning of what he taught and try to put more burdens on the backs of men.  He told his disciples that they were blessed to have eyes to see and ears to hear.

Jesus told his disciples, who always seemed to be dumbfounded, that many prophets and righteous men would have loved to have gained their understanding.  Jesus used the words of Isaiah to tell his close followers that true understanding comes from the heart.

So many had calloused hearts and therefore they had become blind and deaf.  They could not understand the parables with hearts so hard.  Jesus spoke to those whose hearts were good soil and ready to receive the seed and produce fruit.

The disciples would come to understand what Jesus taught not because they were intellectuals, but because he was shaping their hearts.  What he did not finish, the Spirit would complete.

This is the same Spirit that can take a hardened heart and break it in an instant or over the course of years and decades.  This is the Spirit that we must trust as we witness to others.  When we share the gospel with others, we trust fully in the Lord and we do not rely on our own understanding.

We do our part.  God has not given us more than we can handle and we should not be claiming personal glory when people respond and become fruitful disciples.  We don’t drown in guilt when they do not respond.

We do our part.  We scatter seed, among many other things that we are called to do; but in the context of this single parable, we scatter seed.

The parable is titled The Sower.  It is not titled The Seed.  It is not titled A Study of the Various Types of Ground—Parable by Jesus and 10-year study by Oklahoma State University.  The parable is titled The Sower

We scatter seed wherever we go.  We take the gospel to the folks across the street and to the ends of the earth.  That’s what we do.

We don’t judge who might receive and who will be as hardened as a blacktop road in January.  We don’t walk away thinking that the seed we planted will be burned up or choked out before you know it.  What a waste of time and effort.  To do these things discounts the work of the Holy Spirit.

We scatter seed.  We pray for God’s Spirit to precede us and be with us and be with us as we share the good news and continue to work when we have departed.  We scatter seed.

Our desire must be as God’s desire, that it land on good soil and produce much fruit.  That is always our hope.  God desires that none should perish.  That is our motivation with every seed that we scatter.  Consider this part of the parable once more.

As for what was sown on good soil, this is he who hears the Word and grasps and comprehends it; he indeed bears fruit and yields in one case a hundred times as much as was sown, in another sixty times as much, and in another thirty.

What are we to do?  Scatter seed with an easy yoke and a light burden.  We do our part.  We scatter seeds.

We share the gospel wherever we can.