Do you know how electricity works? Right, in the middle of the night, you gotta get up and it’s dark so you flip a switch and – boom – your room is bathed in light, just like that. But how does that process work? Some of you maybe understand it. There’s a lot of stuff like that in the world. Stuff that we use daily, like our cars, or our phones, or the internet, and we maybe sorta understand how those things work, but we don’t think about it too much, do we? And we just trust. We trust the process. What about this, do you know how a seed works?
Some of you here are maybe gardeners or you have some sort of farming background, so you could explain this better than me. But here’s the basics of a seed. A seed has an outer coating for protection, then there is an embryo on the inside that potentially becomes the grown plant, then there is this endosperm that is the food and nutrients for the embryo that keeps the thing alive until it grows and gets food from the sun. But it’s a lot more complex than that.
So, that seed coat also has chemicals in it that allow that seed to determine the right environment to grow. This is why, sorry kids, if you eat a watermelon seed, you’re not going to grow a watermelon in your tummy. Your stomach is not the right environment for that seed to grow into a big beautiful green watermelon baby. It needs the right amount of moisture, the right kind of soil, and soil temperature to grow. It’s a complex process, and most of us just trust the process, and we don’t think much more beyond that.
So, just look at this parable from Jesus with me. There is this farmer, and he’s casting seeds all over the place. And from what we read here this guy doesn’t seem to have a clue as to what he’s doing. He’s reckless with his seed spreading. Some of the seed he throws on a path where birds eat it, some on rocky ground where it can’t take root, other seed he casts amongst thorns and weeds where it gets chocked out, but then there was some good soil where his seed landed, and that seed grew quite nicely. And what you see here is that this farmer doesn’t understand how that seed grows, but he trusts the process. That some of that seed will grow if he just throws it out there. Yet, you look at this, and 75% of the seed that he throws out there is seemingly wasted. At harvest time, he will get no return on ¾ of his seed. That’s not good business. It seems wasteful. But, now, jump ahead and Jesus explains all this.
He tells us that the seed is the “message about the kingdom.” It’s the Word of God. It’s about him. The one sowing that seed, the farmer, that’s anyone who shares God’s Word. It could be me, or you, or whomever. The soil, the places where that seed lands, well that also could be me, or you, or someone else. And, often the question, we wonder when we hear this parable is which soil am I?
And I want us to think about this because every type of soil, every heart, every person in this parable received the Word of God. So, let’s take some soil samples here. There is that first soil, that hard soil. Right? That’s the heart that hears the Word of God, right the seed is cast out, but it never germinates. This is someone who is constantly connected to the Word of God, but there is no personal connection, no fruit of faith. There is this intellectual knowledge, there’s a curiosity, but Jesus and his Word don’t really relate or connect to your life here and now. You’re just here maybe because you like the people or the school, or this place makes you feel better…is that you? It might be, and I’ll be honest the more we look at these dirt samples the more uncomfortable I think we will all start to feel, because maybe this is me…so let’s keep going.
The second soil sample is one that’s full of rocks and shallow dirt. Here is someone – again, maybe you – who has come to know your Savior, Jesus, and it’s just rocked your world; it’s changed your life, and you’re so full of joy and emotion, but that’s all your faith is, it’s emotion. There are no deep roots. So, when the burning sun of trial and trouble comes into your life your faith will wither and die because you were expecting only blessings not hardships. So, once the blessings stop coming, so do you. That’s soil #2.
Let’s move on. Two more soil samples to go. Now, this third sample, this is the hardest one. This soil is a heart that has faith – you got good roots – but there’s also thorns. So, this third soil is someone who knows Jesus and has a decent faith life, but there is this division. You love Jesus, but you’ve also grown to love thorns, your career, or your money, or your intellect, or a certain person, and those things start to crowd out your Savior. These thorns they slow, stop, or even begin to kill your growth as a Christian. And now you know too much, so you can’t go back and renounce your faith, that doesn’t seem right. But, you also can’t go forward, and so your miserable in a way, because you’re stuck. You’re being choked; you’re heart is divided, and it’s a terrible thing!
That leaves us with that fourth soil. This one’s the good one. We all want to be this soil. This is the person who hears God’s Word and is not conflicted. You understand the Law, which leads you to constant, daily repentance. You don’t excuse, defend or try to make up for your sins; you simply confess them and lay them on Jesus. You also understand the Gospel, which leads you to regularly and joyfully receive the forgiveness Jesus won for you on the cross. You like being in God’s house and are watered daily by his Word. And, as a result, you’re reproducing the love, peace, joy, forgiveness, hope, and mercy that you have received from Jesus in abundance – just like one sunflower seed produces thousands more.
These are the soils. So, which one are you? That certainly sounds like a reasonable question, but it really has nothing to do with this parable. And, it’s not because we’re not dirt – we are! We came from dirt and will return to dirt (Genesis 3:19). The problem though is that no matter what kind of dirt you are, you don’t actually produce anything. I mean go home today, find some nice dirt, put it in a pot, water it for a few days, and nothing will grow.
Ah, but that’s not quite true, is it? Weeds will likely start to grow in that pot – somehow there are always weeds! The point is dirt doesn’t produce anything beneficial on its own, and neither do we. We are sinners, who are by nature dead in those sins, capable only of producing more and more weeds. But, what happened? What happened in your life? At some point, a farmer came and started to scatter seeds.
And so, I’m not entirely sure what type of soil you first were when the seed of God’s Word was planted in your heart. I also don’t know every kind of weed, and thorn, and rock that might still exist in your life, but I do know that none of that ever-stopped Jesus from working faith in your heart. He pulled the weeds of sin from your life. He allowed your thorns to be pressed into his skull, and he took your rocks; they buried him under one. He did all this not because you were more deserving than those around you, not because your soil was better, but because, by grace, he was determined to make you his own. And so, he made your soil rich and good and perfect for the planting of his Word, and then he planted that Word deep in your heart, and it took root!
Because, in the end, it’s the seed – the Word – not the soil, that matters. The good seed of the Gospel planted in you at your Baptism, watered by confession and forgiveness, and fed by the body and blood of Christ – can, and will, do things that we would think are impossible. The seed makes you good and clean in God’s eyes even when you feel dirty with sin. The seed gives you confidence that God will provide, even in times of physical or financial, or emotional distress. And, that seed, will take you from a six-foot hole in the dirt to a new life, body and soul, in heaven with your Lord and your God. That’s the process, and you’re a living example that it works. So, trust it and don’t forget to use it.
Look, in our first lesson, what did God say? Through Isaiah, he said, the seed, his word, “It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” So look at that farmer again for a moment, what a terrible farmer. He’s reckless in how he scatters the seed. He doesn’t seem at all concerned about where that seed falls, and his return? It’s not great. A 25% success rate is abysmal. Yet, the farmer sows. He trusts the process. Jesus is telling us to trust the process too.
Again, I don’t necessarily know how a little seed figures out when it’s time to break out and grow, but I still enjoy eating the food that seed produces. Likewise, I may never understand how just sharing God’s Word – preaching it, teaching it, reflecting on it – how that will create and strengthen faith in, not just my heart, but in what I might think are the hardest of hearts. But, I don’t need to understand how it works. I just need to trust that God says it will work.
And, here is the other thing, you don’t need years of training to share the Word even though many of you have better training than those prophets of old with your years of Sunday School, Lutheran Elementary School, confirmation, and beyond – you’re far more qualified to share this seed than you think – and our church doesn’t need all the right programs and people, though those things are nice. All we need is this: the very Word of God. It’s only this that brought you to faith, and it’s only this same Word that will plant that seed of faith in the hearts of others.
Our responsibility then is to scatter the seeds of God’s Word, the good news of Jesus Christ, out into the world when and where we have the opportunity and to trust that the God of the universe will create the right circumstances and environment in which he will spring forth spiritual life. You see this then? Our calling is not to create faith in the hearts of the people around us, but to sow the seeds of faith and trust that God will do the rest. Trust the process. He will do the rest.