Seeds of the Kingdom


Seeds of the Kingdom
Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23

In Jesus’ parable of the sower and the seed points to God’s great generosity in spreading His Word over the earth.

The Sea of Galilee looks a bit like any beautiful lake near where you live – Caddo Lake or Lake of the Pines.  The Sea of Galilee is crystal blue, this body of water is surrounded by rolling hills, some of which are wooded and are farmlands.

Jesus was sitting by this magnificent body of water unraveling the mysteries of the universe when his listeners began to multiply.  His ever-faithful disciples sought to make the most of the occasion, so they borrowed a boat and invited the crowds closer to the shore.   Jesus used the boat to be his pulpit. 

Jesus’ words about God’s rule were lofty, yet down to earth.  Maybe he pointed to the west where the crowds could make out a speck of a man on the hillside planting his crops.   They were all    familiar with the motion – walking along the farmer was making wide sweeps with his arm and a quick flick of the wrist.  He was sowing seeds.  He was planting his crops.  The breeze that cooled the crowds gently lifted the seeds scattering them.

“See,” said Jesus, “That’s how the kingdom works.”  “That’s how God rules in people’s lives.”  “Watch the farmer.”  “See the seeds.”   Jesus spoke in a language the crowds understood.

I grew up among farmers who wore bib overalls and chewed Cotton Bowl, Brown’s Mule and Days Work tobacco.  They had grime under their fingernails and caked on dirt on their boots.  They raised corn, soybeans, peas, butter beans, sugar cane and some cotton.  Most of these farmers had a few cows, some pigs, a few goats and some even had some sheep.  Most of them had chickens.  These farmers always complained, but never in a whining, whimpering way.   It was just their nature to complain; mostly they complained about the weather. 

In the springtime they became restless.  Their fields waited for them.   They were waiting for the right season to plant their seeds.  Kind of like it is natural for a dog to trot, it is natural for a farmer to plant seeds.  That’s what they did.  They were farmers.  Farmers plant seed in order to grow crops.  Nothing else matters if the farmer doesn’t plant seed.  All the plowing, all the fertilizing, all the cultivating is useless if some seeds are planted.  The one thing the farmer knows is that “he can’t reap what he has not sown.” 

Farmers work with the earth in a unique kind of partnership with God.  They tend the earth; they break it up; kill the weeds; water the soil.  Whatever the crop they wish to grow, they do the same thing.  They take part in a great mystery placing the seed in the ground.  They cover up the seed, and they have completed their task.   Now all they can do is sit and watch the crops grow. 

Farmers have gained a lot useful information about farming over the years, but they still must take part in the great mystery – they must plant the seed.  Sometimes the seeds grow and sometimes they don’t.  Some of the seeds come up and grow into a beautiful harvest.  Some of the seeds fall into the grown and die without ever becoming a harvest.

In some years the harvest is bountiful and in some years, there is next to nothing.   Next spring is always a test of the farmer’s endurance, his persistence, and his bank account.  However, the desire is always there to try again and see what happens.  Farmers are people of faith.  Year after year, after year, after year it’s always the same; the same process – the same endurance, the same persistence, the same planting, and the same faith.  Why do farmers sow seed?  They sow seed  to reap a harvest.   Farmers plant because they are farmers; that’s what farmers do.

God is like a farmer.  God farms the universe.  The very nature of God in his radiant holiness and love, his forgiveness and compassion, flings out into the galaxies with explosive power earthward toward the Living Word of God into a variety of places.  In some the Word grows and some dies.  But God insists on continuing to send out the Word.  For it is God’s nature to send out His Word.  God is restless until the seeds are sown because God is God. God is a sower. 

God will never hoard His living Word.  God cannot rest until it is scattered.  You and I occupy the places where the seed falls.   The seed that God plants, is a living Word that has power to change lives.  As the soil must be receptive for the seed to grow, so the human ear must be receptive for this Word to accomplish its purpose.  Do you know about the mystery of “selective hearing.”  We hear what we want to hear and what we are ready to hear.

Old Jim is about 13 years old, and he hates English.  It was not the language he hated; he just couldn’t wrap himself around the dull lessons.  He sits through his English class three days a week, but he never seemed to hear what was going on.  He hears, instead of music going on in his mind.  He was thinking about the fishing trip coming up this weekend.  He was thinking about riding his horse just as soon as he got home from school.   Old Jim has ears to hear but he never seems to hear what the teacher is saying.  

Then about a week before final exams, Jim realized he was failing.  He fears the wrath of his parents.  He starts paying attention in English class.  He takes notes.  He begins to hear what the teacher is saying.  The teacher marvels at Jim’s sudden attention in class.  He begins to ask questions.  He seems to be frustrated that he doesn’t know the material.   The teacher reminds, “we’ve been talking about this for six weeks, weren’t you listening?”   You have perfectly good ears, what’ve you been doing all this time?”  Jim has ears to hear, but he has not heard. 

We don’t always hear well.  Many of us come to church every Sunday.  Some of us have attended church since we were knee-high to a grasshopper.   We gather in the house of God, knowing that God is scattering the Word around us, but many times our minds are like Old Jim’s mind in English class, our minds are just somewhere else. 

There are times when our hearing is sharp and acute, and our consciences are laboring as we reflect on our lives.   Sometimes we realize that the living Word has cut deeply into our receptive spirits, and we hear.   God gives us a revelation.  We get insight we’ve never heard before.  Our faith begins to sprout and grow like a tender plant.  When our receptive spirits begin to hear the power of the Word it begins to cut to the core of our being and we are literally “born again.”

Many sit here as though chiseled in stone, buffering, and protecting ourselves with a hardness exterior.   We just simply don’t want to hear.  We don’t want the living Word from God to get to us.

Then when something happens to shake us into reality, like old Jim realizing it is a week before finals, fear cuts us through, and we are desperate for the Word.  When we start feeling bad and the doctor tells us we have a dreaded disease.  When we are told that the outcome is not good.
We seem to think nothing but the Word.   We cram.   And cram.   And cram. 

Then there are other occasions when we are completely surprised and caught off guard by the power of the Word.  The atmosphere in the service, the singing of a particular hymn chokes us up, we hear a prayer aiming straight at our heart, the Word seems like a sword that is hurled directly into the depths of our heart.   The Word hits us like a Mack truck, cutting to the core – rebuking, correcting, instructing us in the ways of right living.   In 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, f or reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness.”

In Hebrews 4:12 tells us “the Word of God is living, and powerful, and sharper than a two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of the soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

Sometimes we hear the Word, and it makes sense.  We hear words we have heard a thousand times before, we hear something new and we are glad.   Dear sisters and brothers, the power of God is in great simplicity.  God’s Word is being spread in our midst with a broad sweep of the arm and a quick flick of the wrist.   Some seeds fall on the path and are trodden down.  Some seeds fall on rock- hard heart.  Some seeds fall among the thorns and are choked out.  But sometimes when the seed is right on target, we hear.

Christians, we are like a farmer.  We have been commissioned to sow the Word of God.  That’s our nature.  That’s what we do!  When we’re faithful to sow the Word, God will bring the increase.  His Word will not return unto Him void.   It will bring forth fruit.  There is no doubt about that.  It’s true.  One hundred percent true because God is Truth.

I challenge you to sow God’s Word.  Give someone a Bible and encourage them to read it.  Share a few verses with them.  Pray continually for the sown seed to take root and bring about the harvest.  Invite a friend to church.  Invite them to attend a Bible study with you.  Get the person exposed to God’s word, and God will do the rest.   The power of the Word cannot be over-rated.  It must be sown, and we are the sowers.

Let us pray:  Dear God, we know that it is not your will that anyone should perish, but that all should come to repentance.   We know that your great love held Jesus on the cross; that You sent your Son to earth to seek and to save that which was lost.  We know that we have all sinned and come short of your glory.  We know that we are all deserving of death and eternal separation from Your great loving, presence.  Yet, we know that we have but to repent and receive the great gift of eternal life through your grace [unmerited favor] through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

Dear God, we know that there is a great need in our world for men, women and children to be confronted with the gospel, the power of God unto salvation to as many as will receive it.  We know, O God, the Kingdom method, the Kingdom process, is to spread the Word – to broadcast the seed to the four winds.   We know that nothing ever happens until the Word is sown.   Lord, forgive us for being so short-sighted.  Forgive us for not spreading the Word.   Lord, forgive us for allowing people to go along in the comfort of their own lost-ness.  

We know that some of our attempts to spread the Word will be fall on deaf ears, some will be hostile toward us and the Word, but some will hear, receive and be changed by the power of the Word of God.  Give us grace to be bold in sharing the Word.   Give us such love for humanity that we cannot live without sharing the Word with our neighbors, our friends, our family.  Empower us, O God, to be ambassadors of God in this alien world in which we live. 

Heal all who will accept your healing through Jesus Christ; minister to all whose lives are hurting today who will allow You to embrace them with Great Love, forgiveness, and tender care.

We pray in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.   Amen     

Sermon preached on February 19, 2012, at Liberty Christian Church

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