Gospel Mark 4:1-9
Again he began to teach beside the lake. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the lake and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the lake on the land. He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: ‘Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns , and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.’ And he said, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen!’
What a great week of Vacation Bible School we had this year! Thank all our leaders --- for their time in helping us RENew our faith this week, for all our kids as they engaged and learned about God’s love growing in them and sharing their growing faith with all of us – it was certainly a week of ReNewal for all of us!
This year’s VBS theme was ReNew: Grow in Faith, Change the world. All week we explored the parable of Jesus known as the Parable of the Sower while at the same time explored ways that we are called to care for others, the community, and the world around us. We explored the parable all week learning about birds, weeds, rocks, seeds and good soil. We explored how God’s love is a seed growing in us, how God’s love is taking root in us, how God’s love helps us grow, how God’s love helps us face challenges, and God’s love calls us to live in harmony with each other and with creation.
The theme of God’s love is deeply rooted in the parable of the sower…. No pun intended. Unfortunatly I think that many people mis-interpret the parable. I think most approach the Parable of the Sower as an admonition for us to be Good Soil, thereby comparing our faith lives to those various growing conditions of path, rocks, weeds, and good soil. That we, as followers of Jesus, often end up more as paths, rocks, and weeds then we do Good Soil. And while I think that is a perfectly fine understanding of the parable, I don’t think it’s the only – nor do I think it’s the most fruitful interpretation of this parable – pun intended, so let me explain.
I think far too many of us blame ourselves for not being good enough soil. Well if I just prayed a little more, or came to church more often, or read the bible, or participated in faith formation activities I would have more of this “faith” stuff. As if we could take our seeds of faith and choose where and when it might be sown and grow. Did you notice that the sower doesn’t pick where the seeds lands? And any farmer worth their weight wouldn’t have wasted the seed on rocks, paths, and weeds anyway. So I think this parable of Jesus is just as much about the extravagance of the sower as it is the bountiful return from Good Soil.
God is in the business of sowing seeds – of planting life, of cultivating a harvest. God has been doing that work since the very beginning of creation when God called forth life and molded humanity in God’s image giving them power to care and tend to the created garden. God called forth life again with Noah and the ark, setting a sign in the sky of God’s promise and covenant with creation to never destroy life again; instead only bring about more life. God gives us new life in Jesus Christ, the love of which is planted in our baptism and grows into a bountiful harvest by the working of the Holy Spirit.
God is working life in each of the scenes in the parable too – the birds are sustained by eating the grain, the roots in the rocks are grown amid difficult circumstances, the seedling in the thorns tries to make a go of keeping up with the thistles around it… all are instances of growth and life. God is in the business of growth and renewal. God is in the bountiful harvest business. I think that Jesus’ parable for us today is a reminder that we have been planted in the good soil that is Jesus Christ. When we follow in Christ’s ways of caring and healing, loving and forgiving, showing mercy and justice – we create the environment of good soil for seeds to grow and grow and grow.
By virtue of your baptism and not your life circumstances, you are the seed planted in the good soil! God has given us rich ground to sink deep roots and bring about an abundant harvest. We dwell richly in the Word of God that sustains us, nourished by sacraments of water, bread and wine, we grow together in Christian community as the abundant crop yielding 30, 60 and 100 fold.
This week our kids learned about being that good soil, about how to cultivate it in their own lives and in the world around them. They celebrated being God’s seeds of love in the world and saw that through their actions and care for others, they can bring about renewal and change.
So maybe it’s time to renew our understanding of this parable, maybe it’s time to renew the way we see ourselves – not as those seeds that land in the rocks and weeds, but instead see our role of being the seeds that God has planted in Good Soil – to bring about an abundant harvest. Because growing in the fertile ground of God’s grace, frees us to grow in amazing ways. We are able to live in harmony with creation, tackle the challenges around us like issues of justice and mercy, sink deep roots in God’s amazing love of all people and grow in faith and love of God, our neighbors, and the whole planet. This is the kind of renewal that God has in mind for us, this is the kind of seed that wild and crazy sower went out to sow. And so let anyone with ears listen to the truth of our crazy amazing sower God. Amen.