Sunday Sermon 26th March - The Sower and the Seed
The Sower and the seed
Call to worship
Hymn 169(JP): My God is so big
Time for all
Hymn 292(JP): Wide, wide as the ocean
Reading: Luke 8: 1-5 Amanda
Hymn 241: Isaiah the prophet has written of old
Prayer of Dedication
Hymn 132: Immortal, invisible
Welcome to our reflection for 26th March.
And just before we start just a reminder that if you want to send us prayer requests then use the email address below and we will send it off to our prayer team.
It can be as simple as ‘Hi, could you pray for my wife, she’s going through a rough patch just now.’
And I will send that over to our prayer team who will pray for you and your situation.
Our sermon today is about responses. How do we respond to the message of God in our lives. And it isn’t as clear cut as you might think.
But we will hear that after Amanda’s give our reading and prayer for today.
So this man is struggling with his wife; agreements here there and everywhere. And he has had enough of it.
So he decides to go to the local minister to seek advice.
‘I can’t cope with all these arguments,’ he says, ‘what do I need to do to make it stop?’
And the minister says, ‘You need to learn how to listen to everything your wife says.’
So the man goes away and does that.
Then a month later he comes back to the minister and says, ‘That isn’t working. I have learnt to listen to everything my wife says, and we are still arguing. What else do I need to do?’
And the minister says, ‘Now you need to learn to listen to everything your wife doesn’t say.’
The problem with wives, or husbands, AND also the BIBLE, is that there is what is said, and what is implied, and what we think is implied.
And that’s a problem, because sometimes what we think is implied isn’t.
That is the case in our passage today.
It starts with a new section of teaching...
‘Some time later...’ it says, the sign that we have dealt with one lot of teaching, and are starting something new.
And it talks about disciples travelling from town to town, and also some women that accompany them, as kind of unofficial disciples. And it is clear that it is the women who are supporting the mission financially.
And Jesus tells a parable to them and the crowd about his message and the responses that he expects.
Not only does he tell the parable, this is one of the few times Jesus explains the parable.
His message, directed to our heart, is like seed that falls on the ground hoping to germinate.
Some of the seeds fall on the hard path where it is easily seen and the birds take it away, and that is like people who hear but the devil has already claimed them; maybe with overabundance and greed, maybe with hatred or anger.
Some of the seed falls on rocky ground, and that is like those who hear the word and it grows super fast super early, but has no real depth, so when hardship comes it has no resilience, they only expect good times and blessings and when bad times come they easily get discouraged and give up.
Some seed falls on thorn bushes, and that is like those who have faith, but it is just something they have along with heaps of other priorities, and when all the other commitments start to distract them they put their faith lower down the pecking order and it never really develops.
But some seed falls on good soil, and it grows and matures and produces wonderful, amazing crops. And that is like those who commit to the faith and it shows in their lives.
Here is the message.
Our responsibility is to scatter the seed, get the message out there, but don’t expect the seed to always grow.
There are many reasons why people don’t hear the word.
And here is the implied message.
Three quarters of the time you are going to fail.
So the temptation is to just give up.
It’s hard being rejected, and to be rejected that amount of times.
And it is embarrassing to put yourself out there just to be rejected.
Ask anyone, anyone, who has asked someone else out, and got the, ‘Oh I just saw us as friends.’ reply.
I had a friend that when he went to a party would ask 20 of the girls there to go out with him. If he got one then it was a successful night.
I was the kind of guy that if I got one knockback that was me an emotional wreck for weeks.
I once heard a sermon that basically said that we should be like my old friend.
The minister talked about empty churches and that was all the fault of the congregation, because they never asked people to come to church.
They were too embarrassed to ask people to come to church.
And he said, ‘Look at the example of this parable. Three quarters of the seed don’t respond. So don’t be discouraged, in fact be encouraged. If you want 25 people to come to church ask 100 people. 75% of them will say no but 25% of them will say yes.’
All of this implied by this parable.
And I am not too sure that was what was meant to be implied.
I think there is a deeper, harder, message implied.
You see this section doesn’t start with, ‘People kept coming to Jesus from one town to another; and when a great crowd gathered, Jesus told this parable...’
The parable starts that way, but the section doesn’t, the section starts with, ‘Some time later...’ and Jesus travelling with the twelve disciples, and the women.
So maybe this parable is as much to do with describing how the word is taken in by the disciples as it is the crowd.
So let’s do that.
Let’s look at this parable as if Jesus is describing how the word touches the disciples.
There are those that the seed falls on the path and Satan, maybe through greed, has already claimed that heart, could that be Judas who betrayed Jesus for money?
There is the seed that falls on rocky ground, full of enthusiasm but no resilience, easily withers under pressure, could that be Peter who denied Jesus when pressurised into defending him?
There is the seed that grows among thorns, where the distractions of self interest overwhelm the growth of the seed, could that be the other disciples who ran away to save their own skin rather than defend Jesus?
Then there is the seed that grows on good soil, that matures and the word is seen in their lives, could that be the women who stood by Jesus as he died, who were the first at the tomb on Easter morning hoping to anoint the dead body, who loved Jesus and showed that love when it was easy and when it was hard?
If that is what is implied then that is a very different story.
Instead of expecting 75% of the ground to be a waste of time and just giving up, it implies that the ground is never a waste of time; we never give up on the ground, whether that ground represents other people hearts or even our own.
Just because the ground isn’t ready at one point, doesn’t mean that it will always be that way, at some point in the future it may be ready to take the seed.
There are so many of us that have struggled in the recent past, and been struggling for a while, and it is easy to give up on ourselves.
Enthusiasm that we once had seems to have waned and grown dim.
We may even doubt that it was ever there.
We think that maybe we should just give up.
Just because we fail doesn’t mean that God has given up on us.
If Jesus here was describing the disciples,
and the scriptures were implying that he was,
then he knew that most of them would fail, but he didn’t give up on them.
He just kept on giving them the message that they were loved, and waited for the ground to be good enough to handle it.
And maybe that is the message you need to hear today,
that God hasn’t given up on you,
or maybe that God hasn’t given up on someone you love.
His message is still there for you, still there for them, and maybe the next time they hear it there is the chance that it will take.
Our work then, is to keep on listening to the message of God for ourselves, and to keep on giving out to others, so that when the time is right, there is seed to grow.
Let us pray
you have called us on the great adventure of living,
and you want us to experience it to the full, always digging deeper,
risking more in the search for what is real and lasting and true.
We are beginning to see that life is a journey, a quest, that we go on,
each at our own pace..and only as far as we want to,
knowing that you are with us as a constant and faithful companion.
You were there in the past...
Those early memories of a hall where we used to go to Sunday School, with its tiny wooden chairs, the piano tinkling and the pennies dropping into the plate,
where we first heard stories of people long ago whose lives were touched and changed by Jesus.
And you were there as we grew and the relationships we had at our workplaces, maybe getting married, maybe watching the next generation grow as nieces and nephews, sons and daughters.
How have we grown?
Have we felt the shiver of excitement as we caught a glimpse of something bigger than ourselves,
something worth living and even dying for.
We remember the questions, the answers that didn’t quite hit the mark, that left us confused or uncomfortable, questions of purpose and meaning, questions of relevance and legacy.
One day all this will pass, one day we will pass.
Our earthly lives finished and the possibility of judgement made.
How did we live our lives?
What judgements would we make of all that we had done, of who we had been?
Lord we pray that we may reflect well on our lives, and so act on those reflections that when the day comes, we may not have the regret of saying to ourselves...’if only.’