The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Year A (July 12, 2020)

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Sermon by the Rev. Dr. Delmer L. Chilton

Sixth Sunday After Pentecost                                                                      Romans 8:1-11; Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

For many years as a preacher, I focused on the easy, three-point sermon or Bible study about why people fall away from the faith.

1) Some people are just too involved in the world to pay attention to spiritual things; they hear the word, but not really, these are the path.

2) Other people get all excited about the Gospel for a while, but then their excitement dies down because they don’t grow in their faith; they are the rocky ground.

3)Then there are the ones who lose their faith when trouble comes, when sickness and persecution and trial attack their lives. These are the ones in the thorns.

Then this classic three-point sermon ends with an admonition not to be bad soil, not to be hard of heart, or not to be too busy with the world or let the normal difficulties of life kill your faith. And the remedy for being bad soil is to be good soil; which usually ends up sounding like, “Be good little Christians and listen to the pastor and come to church a lot and be on a committee and your faith will grow.” Which is all very nice; but really isn’t what Jesus is talking about in this text.

It was a conversation with my farmer Daddy that got me to take a different and better look at this parable. Daddy said that he always wondered why Jesus had the farmer in the story do such a silly thing as throw the seed in places everyone knew it wouldn’t grow.  That, to Daddy, was just plain wasteful, and for my daddy, if waste wasn’t sinful, he thought it ought to be.

When I took a deeper and more thoughtful look at this story, I realized Daddy was on to something.  Jesus wasn’t preaching to the “soil,” he was teaching the sowers, the disciples. Jesus’ point in this story was NOT to fuss at those who fail to receive the Gospel, or those whose faith begins to fade or those who abandon the faith in the face of trouble. His point here is to encourage those of us who go out to sow the seed of the Kingdom of God.

When I was in college, I worked on a tobacco farm in Eastern North Carolina. Our mechanical harvester was malfunctioning. The conveyer system that lifted leaves from the ground to the processing platform ten feet up wasn’t working properly, and leaves were dropping out behind us. We kept stopping and starting while trying to fix the machine.

There was a precocious 6-year-old boy who was a friend of the family and was watching us work. He observed our troubles for a while and then walked up to the Farmer and said, “Well, You can’t elevate’em all, can you Mr. Virgil.”

“You can’t elevate’em all” is at least a part of Jesus’ message in the parable of the sower. Even Jesus could not always “elevate’em all.” Over in the last chapter of Matthew is one of my favorite lines in the Bible. Matthew 28:16-17 – “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; BUT SOME DOUBTED.”

But some doubted! What do you have to do to convince some people? Jesus got himself killed and then God brought him back from the dead and these eleven, who had been with him from the first, saw him in his resurrected state and yet, some doubted!

“You can’t elevate’em all, can you Mr. Virgil?” That’s point one of this parable. Here’s point two. “You can’t elevate’em all,” but we must try. A good farmer prepares the soil, and then carefully avoids the path and the rocks and the briars. A good farmer doesn’t waste his seed and his efforts on spreading seed where it is unlikely to grow. But we’re not farmers, we’re preachers.

Each and every follower of Jesus is a preacher, a teller of Good News, and we are called upon to spread the good news that God loved the world so much that Christ came down from heaven to live among us and died to save us from our sins.  And also that God loved the Christ so much that God raised him from the dead, and also that God loves each one of us so much that God will raise us from the dead.

That’s the Good News. And it’s our job to tell everybody. And, all too often, we don’t. We don’t even try. We waste time to deciding who might be the right people to tell it to. We spin our wheels calculating what sort of folk will fit in with us at our church. We focus on figuring out who WE want to be a part of OUR church, and that’s just wrong.

In this parable Jesus shows us that to be good sowers of Gospel seed, good preachers of the Kingdom, good spreaders of God’s love and mercy – we have to spread it to everybody; whether they deserve it or not; whether they are likely to receive it or not; whether we like them or not.  It doesn’t matter if they are Paths, Rocks or Briars; it’s our job to throw the Gospel at them. We are called to sow the seed of the kingdom, indiscriminately, wildly, exuberantly tossing out bouquets of God’s love to everyone around us. Who knows; they might need it and they might grow.

Amen and amen.