That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
Farming is certainly a lot more sophisticated and scientific than it was in biblical times. Could you imagine having to plant your seed in the spring using the broadcast method on land that was prepared by turning it over by hand or with a primitive tool pulled by a donkey or ox? Even the Amish are more sophisticated than that. Today a farmer could do in hours with his massive machinery what would have taken dozens of laborers hundreds of hours to accomplish. And although we do not have crop reports from biblical times as to the exact yield per acre, we know that even in the past several decades yields today surpass those of the past as farmers employ scientific research in genetics and weed and pest control to their farming techniques. Certainly the “armstrong” method of farming in the past was much more difficult and unpredictable than it is today.
And yet, we can understand the example that Jesus uses in this parable even though farming methods have changed. I don’t think we have to go into great detail explaining what he is talking about.
But what is Jesus talking about? Is he giving advice to farmers on how to plant their crops? Is he presenting some new information on how the whole sowing, growing, and harvesting scenario works? Is his main concern how to be a more productive farmer with a great yield and earnings potential? Of course not. He is using a well known scenario to emphasize what we can expect when we “sow the seed”, i.e. preach the Word of God.
Our role as Christians is referred to in different ways. We are . . .
Children of God
Parts of the body of Christ
Stones in the church of Christ
In this example we are farmers who sow the seed. Our mission as a congregation is what?
Last Sunday after church some of our members and their relatives and friends gathered for a private baptism. This is part of the mission on the church. “Go and make disciples of all nations. Baptizing the in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” During the baptism I emphasized the other aspect of the mission of the church. “Teaching them to observe all things. Whatsoever I have commanded you.” Recent experience (which has been going on for decades to our chagrin) is that even though those who are present promise to teach God’s Word to the newly baptized, this is NOT a priority for them. Most of our members habitually excuse themselves from any type of formal way of being students of God’s word showing that they do not understand the true purpose of the church.
While the family was gathered for the post baptismal meal, something else happened in relation to the perceived mission of the church. A person from the area came into the fellowship hall looking for some financial aid. He didn’t come to church to hear the word of God. He didn’t need any food although there was plenty. He wanted some gas money. Although uncommon here, requests for such aid are sometimes made as people see the church as a source of financial aid. (Side note: Our choice not to do so causes me to be uncomfortable in light of what Jesus teaches about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, etc.) My other concern is that it seems that every time someone asks for financial help, they have little or no regard for what Jesus commissioned the church to do . . . i.e. baptize and teach the Word of God.
Our denomination takes seriously the command to preach the Word of God. If you have every visited our seminary in Mequon, you will see this inscription above the door leading into the library/chapel area. Khruzzoto ton euangellion. What does this mean? Preach the Gospel. Our pastors are some the best trained preachers in the world when it come to studying the Bible and being able to correctly handle the word of truth. The emphasize is on doctrinal accuracy and practical application although some more emphasis could be used at time in art of public speaking.
Our seminary does not push the art of public speaking and create great orators. Why not? I think it is because of faith in the power of God’s Word. We read what St. Paul said about his own ability or inability when it came to public speaking and trust that even if the pastor mumbles, loses his place, repeats himself, speaks in a monotone, or goes on and on and on, as long as he is preaching God’s Word, it will bring results.
What kind of results to we desire? Well, when the sower broadcast his seed, what type of a yield did he expect?
Illustration: I remembers when I was very young in grade school, my brother and I were going to go into the “farmer’s market” business growing watermellons. We planted the seeds and expected 100 watermellons to grow which we would sell for $1.00 apiece. I had similar expectations when I purchased my first fishing rod and I was going to go out early in the morning and catch Northern Pike. Neither venture was successful. But we had hope!
The farmer has hope that his planting will result in productivity. Modern farming methods advance the level of success but even now farming is a risky business. One farmer told me he doesn’t need to go to Ho Chunk to gamble because planing seed is all the gambling he needs.
Jesus recognized that preaching the word is risky business as well and that we won’t always see the results we may hope for. You would hope that since the Word of God is preached here for the past 148 years that our congregation would be growing and beacon of education instead of experiencing lower attendance, a loss of services, and fewer and fewer willing volunteers and a sense of pessimism. What is going on?
Love of many will grow cold.
We cannot control how the word of God is received by others. We seek to sow the seed (how?) But the reception of the Word is dependent on the receiver. The old addage, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink is painfully true in regard to preaching and teaching as well.”
It has been said that the only person you can control is yourself. Spouses who try to improve their mates and parents who try to force their children to do this or that don’t always accept this truth. You cannot control how people will respond to Jesus when you share the Word of God with them. But you can control what type of soil you are?
Illustrate all four responses and encourage the fourth.