Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fourth Sunday After Pentecost: The Farmer went out to plant

Text for this week: Isaiah 55:10-13; Psalm 65: 9-13; Romans 8:1-11; Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

I was back home at the end of June, visiting family before our move out here.  My brother and I were talking about his field.  This is a bean year, and the plants were very small, only 2-3 inches.  I nodded at the field and asked, “You just get those in?” 

He answered, “Yeah, it was so wet this spring.  I planted a few weeks ago.  I don’t know, they just aren’t coming up good.  The ground may have been too wet.  Think I’m gonna have to replant.”

The prospect of replanting was dismaying.  All that wasted seed. 

A farmer went out to plant…

You know, I don’t remember a time when seed wasn’t purchased at the elevator.  I remember my dad or uncle coming home with a truckload of seeds, all neatly bagged.  I remember how careful they were dumping the seed in the planter, trying to spill as little as possible. 

There was a time when a farmer carefully hoarded seed from one harvest to the next.  It was cleaned and stored and protected as best he could from mold and mice.  That seed was precious – it was the future, it was life - the next year’s harvest and seed for the one after.  Late winter might be a lean, hungry time, but the wise farmer endured some hunger to ensure there would be seed for the spring. 

You just didn’t waste seed.

A farmer went out to plant…

He’s a no-till farmer – in fact he’s a no-preparation-at-all farmer.  He just goes out and starts broadcasting that precious seed.  He sows on the path between fields.  He sows in the rocky, sandy places where nothing really grows.  He sows in the weedy areas.  He sows in the deep rich soil.  It doesn’t matter.  He sows liberally, generously everywhere.

The farmers listening to Jesus that day would have been shocked by such carelessness with precious seed.  This is a neglectful farmer, a foolish farmer.  All that wasted seed.  Who would do such a thing? 

Would you plant that way?

The Farmer goes out to sow…

I think it’s the extravagance of the farmer, the almost careless generosity with the seed that catches my attention when I hear this parable.

Jesus tells us that God is the sower.  Often when Jesus tells parables about God and the kingdom of heaven, God acts in ways that surprise or even shock us.  God is the shepherd that leaves the 99 to find the one. God is the woman who spends the day searching for a few lost coins.  God is the employer who pays everyone a full day’s wage, even if they only worked and hour.  God is the father, who although insulted and discarded by his son, eagerly awaits the son’s return with loving arms and lavish gifts.  None of this makes sense to us – it’s inefficient, wasteful, spendthrift.

We see wasted seed and inefficient farming methods.  But what if the point is the abundance of the seed – the infinite grace and love and mercy of God as demonstrated through Jesus Christ?

God the Farmer goes out to plant God’s Word….




God sows with abandon even in places where there is little or no chance of results – in hard places, in stony soil, in weed infested ground, in good rich earth.  God isn’t worried about wasting seed.  The seed is God’s Word and God’s word is never wasted, it never dies, it never returns empty.  It produces an abundant harvest, in its own time, in places and ways we never expect.

Isaiah tells us, God’s Word goes out and “it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” 

Throughout the Bible, God sows the seed of the Word – to Abraham, and Isaac and Jacob, to Joseph in the land of Egypt.  To Moses and the children of Israel who complain in the desert, who want to go back to Egypt, who ask for a golden calf to worship before the wilderness journey and a king to rule them after they enter the promised land.

God continues to sow the Word.  Prophets proclaim the Word of the Lord to kings, and often the kings ignore it or punish the prophets. The Word follows the Israelites into exile and home again to rebuild a nation.

God sows the Word yet again.  This time the Word comes in flesh, in the form of a baby.  Jesus walks among us, healing, teaching, and proclaiming the good news of God’s kingdom coming near.

We know what happens next.  Jesus, God’s Living Word wasn’t received with joyous abandon.  The weeds grew up and choked the life out of the Seed on a cross.  

But that didn’t stop God’s love from breaking in – no, Jesus’ crucifixion showed just how far God was willing to go for love.  Jesus’ resurrection testifies to the ultimate power of God’s love, to the life-giving force of God’s word. 

The Farmer sends new laborers out to plant…

Jesus once told his disciples that the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few – pray for the Lord to send laborers to the harvest.  Little did they know they were to become the first of those laborers. Jesus’ dying and resurrection becomes seed for his small group of followers.

They begin to preach and God’s word is sown again, into a world that rejects it.  Yet the harvest is abundant – 3000 people on just that first Pentecost. 

And like the Farmer who taught them, they also sow with abandon on the dry hard path, in the rocky dirt, in the weedy wayside and on the good, rich soil.  And the harvest is thirty, sixty, even a hundredfold – beyond their wildest dreams.   

The Farmer still goes out to plant…

God’s word does not return empty – it returns harvests of thirty, sixty, a hundredfold.  When the Farmer sows, no seed is wasted, even if it falls on places where we least think it will grow. 

And maybe that’s the good news in this parable for us today.  God’s word does not return empty, it fulfills God’s purpose.  We can rest assured that no matter where we sow the Word, God is providing the harvest. 

That assurance frees us to sow with abandon, as the Farmer has taught us:

·         To be generous with the grace God has given to us. 

·         To be extravagant with our time and resources.

·         To dream dreams and take risks for the sake of the gospel.

·         To live together as a called community of people in whom the God’s love and mercy has taken root and grown deeply.

This is my first Sunday here – the start of our ministry together.  I wonder what God is planting in Campbell County?  What do we think God is doing in our midst?  What do we wish God was doing here? 

God calls us to the fields to plant – God sends us out to sow the good news of the kingdom of God with abandon on the dry hard path, in the rocky dirt, in the weedy wayside and on the good, rich soil. 

I look forward to the harvest God will bring.

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