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Happy Farmers

Sermon , Pentecost 6A , Sunday July 16, 2017, St Petri

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered round him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.’ 18 ‘Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 when anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.’

Seems to be some pretty happy farmers around at the moment here in the Barossa. Rain has fallen. Seed is in the ground. Green feed growing. Smiles all around! 

There are some very happy people around Jesus too. Disease healed. Mental illness and evil oppression within gone. New life and freedom for some families and individuals. And all by just his words! His words. Oh, they are like honey dripping from the hive! Sweet and alive.

But not everyone is tasting the honey. They are judging his words as just sour sap. 

Jesus hears about the plans the ruling elite have to get rid of him and he responds. He responds not by holding a protest march or even gathering arms and people to use them to protect himself. He responds by teaching them who he is, who God really is. 

The crowds gathering around him are so huge. Jesus is in a boat moored just off the sandy shore of the lake. Good plan. Sound skips across the water clear and true for a long way. This is a PA system without any cables!

And so, the Teacher who knows boats and fishing, now shows he also knows seeds and soil. He speaks of farming. 

This is the only parable of Jesus that has a full explanation for the listeners. It is easy to get the story. 

God, the farmer of life, sows his words into human hearts and some of those human beings hear the words and then sow those words into other people’s hearts.

Not everyone hears. Some people hear but then stop hearing. Only a few hear and keep hearing and so, produce other hearers and doers of this new life in words.

So, the obvious question Jesus raises here is, “how do I hear? And “what does he mean by ‘hearing’?

This ‘hearing’ is not like hearing the news or hearing a good joke or a great story. The original word eisakouo used here is ‘understanding/hearing is ‘deep understanding and doing’. Once you hear it you just do it. This is hearing that translates into living. 

This is hearing like you do in school when the teacher says, “This will be on the test”. This is hearing like when you are with your loved one at the last and they speak of what their will is for you as you keep living your life with their blessing. 

23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.’

This listening leads directly to doing. It is ‘obeying’ in the sense that the words have an immediate effect in how you go about living. 

So, Jesus is after is a deep attentive listening in the heart that translates into actually living/doing. Deep listening (the good soil) will translate into fruitful doing. 

But, just because he speaks does not mean everyone lives in his words. I think we know this. Just think of the people you know who have heard Jesus’ words….

Some of God’s word falls on the path. Like seagulls pinching your chips on the beach, so can it be that Satan can snatch that good gospel word away from a person giving that word no time to germinate. It is over before it began sometimes. 

Then gospel words can be received by another with great joy. They experience the relief and the renewal of sins forgiven, regrets replaced and love experienced. But then stuff happens. The heat and stress is too much. Again, there has not been enough time or space for the words to be heard deeply. The gospel stays at surface level. This is the rocky ground of our hearts and theirs: No roots, no depth. God’s word getting burnt off by heat of life.

And then there is the word strangled out of the human heart like toothpaste out of the tube as the heart gets overwhelmed, overtaken and overly fixated on issues, choices, worry, self-concerns or concern for others with little reference to or real trust in Jesus’ words. These are the thorns, overcoming and eventually choking the good seed planted in God’s good ground. 

But occasionally, it works well. There is good soil, which according to Jesus is a hearing heart; soft, open, tilled, receptive of the seed where the deep things of his grace and calling can and do take root and grow deeper and longer. 

23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.’

This is the deep listening that leads to understanding and doing. It is long lasting. This is the Divine word being heard and then done or “heeded”, or “obeyed”. 

Even better for us get to participate with this farmer. We are called to sow his Words like he does. So, this word becomes self-sowing and multiplying. Indeed, the fruitfulness can be massive – “a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown”.

So, I ask myself and you: how is the soil at the moment? How is the quality and amount of hearing – deeply hearing Jesus?

I actually suspect we are listening more deeply that we have for ages. That is what I am hearing from many of you. 

But you may know that you are a hard, compacted path; a wayward searching heart where there are brief moments of true joy in the gospel that soon give way to chasing a better deal, a better thing, a high experience, a new thing to “keep me going” in all my issues and troubles….. Or you may know that there are just too many thorns; too many weeds squashing the life out of your heart like that toothpaste out of the tube at the moment. 

But, do you notice that this farmer sows anyway? 

Jesus just keeps throwing out that seed no matter where it falls – path, rock, thorns, good ground. He just keeps casting out that seed. Not a very efficient way to farm!

Friend, Jesus is still sowing his words in you. He is as we speak. 

Thank God he is He is wasteful, indiscriminate and irresponsible farmer! 

His Word does its work on you. His law is a hammer. That hard path can be jack-hammered into a more receptive place for the gospel to find some good open soil to grow in you. 

The Evil One does not have to get a look in. By attentive receiving his love for you, that seagull Satan, can be warded off and yummy chips happily consumed can continue!

He is deep. He calls, “Deep unto deep”. He calls you who may be in a rocky place to go deeper. In this disrupted time, I am sure the Spirit is calling you to search deeper prayers, deeper songs, some old some new, alone and with others. 

As for the weeds and thorns – the issues and the worry? His seed will take root and because it is His words, his power, his transforming voice, you are able to outgrow the weeds and thorns. We don’t have to pull the thorns out. By attentiveness in the heart to his words and ways we outgrow them, overcome them, steer clear of them. Like excellent fertilizer, He gets to the roots and reignites us and inspires beyond the thorns.

And, as a young apprentice tiler lays the tiles like his boss showed him; a young farmer farms the place the way Mum and Dad taught him or her; you fish like your dad or uncle of grandpa taught you to fish; so for us. We ‘farm’ like Jesus – sowing indiscriminately on all the kinds of ground we find here in our community.  

We just sow. We just love. In the freedom of his love despite the worries and the misplaced goals and the hard -heartedness, we just go everywhere with the words of the Sower.

What happy farmers we are!


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