“A Seed for the Kingdom”
July 6, 2003
I’m not much of an art aficionado, or maybe I should say that I’m not much of a painting aficionado. Now don’t get me wrong, I like paintings, and I can appreciate the skills and talents of painters, especially since I have neither the skill nor the talent for painting, except when it comes to paint by numbers. But, let’s just say that a trip to an art museum is not going to be at the top of my things to do list.
Interpreting paintings is not one of my strong suites, especially when it comes to trying to figure out whether or not a painting is abstract expressionist or cubists or surrealists or impressionists or whatever. It doesn’t matter how long I look at a painting, most of the time, I just don’t get it, or maybe I should say, that I just don’t see the painting behind the painting, let alone the message behind the painting.
I think my problem is that when I look at a painting, I expect to see what is only on the surface of the painting. If it’s a painting of a mountain waterfall, I expect to just look and see a mountain waterfall, not some hodge-podge of colors that only looks to me as if the painter spilled his or her paints on the canvas. But paintings are more than just pictures or colors on a canvas. Paintings invite the viewer to become an active participant in the interpretation of the painting, not just a casual observer, and they invite the viewer to begin to think about what they are looking at, to ask questions, to delve deeper into the meaning and nuances of the painting, so that fresh new insights and visions can be gleaned from the painting.
In many respects, parables are just like paintings. They are messages within a message, inviting the reader to become an active participant in its interpretation. Certainly on one level Jesus’ parables are within the grasp of all who read them, but behind the story on the page is another story that goes much deeper than merely the words on the page, and it is that deeper story that gives the active listener a fresh, new insight and vision into what Jesus is saying.
Our text for today is probably a familiar parable for all of us, and you have probably heard it called “The Parable of the Sower” or “The Parable of the Soil.” At first glance, these titles are certainly appropriate for what Jesus is describing, and many people, including myself, make the logical conclusion that the Sower is either God or Jesus, and the soils are the different human responses, and the seed is the word of God, and we don’t even have to guess at that one, because Jesus tells us what the seed is in verse 11. Simple enough so far, right? So far the parable is exactly what we expected.
We all know that not everyone hears the word of God in the exact same way, and neither did Jesus. Jesus wasn’t naive to the fact that his message didn’t always reach everybody like he wanted it too, and that his message on the kingdom of God feel on many more deaf ears than receptive ones.
We all know that sometimes the seed falls on some people and it has no impact on their lives. Their minds and hearts are hardened to the message of the word of God, and the word is ultimately lost, unable to find its way down into the core of their soul, carried away like gum on the bottom of a shoe only to be wiped off and discarded.
We all know that sometimes the seed falls on some people and it sticks for a while, and they begin to blossom quickly feeling that Jesus is the best thing they have ever heard of, but soon they become disenchanted and discouraged with Jesus. The whole idea of that carrying your cross thing is more than what they bargained for, and so they soon run off to some other spiritual fad that comes along.
Sometimes the seed falls on some people, only to be chocked out by their overcrowded lives. They hear the truth but the truth is slowly suffocated, unable to find a time in their busy schedules, unable to compete on the priority list, and so it just slowly dies out.
But then sometimes the seed falls on some people, and it takes root, and it grows into a vibrant faith. The word of God stimulates their hearts and minds, they become receptive to the workings of the Holy Spirit, they do not let the trials and tribulations of life extinguish the Spirit of Christ in them. For the seed has effected a change in their life. Their mind is open to new possibilities, to receive God in new ways. They are always willing to learn, and they are prepared to hear. They are able to actively listen for God’s word in their lives and in the world. They are able to listen to the voice of God as God speaks to them in their daily lives. They are able to understand what God’s word means for them and are prepared to accept it, and do it, and they are able produce fruit a hundred-fold.
Well, for those of us who expected to see a mountain waterfall, we can stop now, because we have seen just what we expected – a mountain waterfall, nothing more and nothing less. But just like a painting, there is more to this parable than meets the eye, or should I say the ear, and if your not paying attention you will miss it, because at first I missed it too. Listen again to what Jesus says is the meaning of the parable.
Jesus’ says that the seed is the word of God. Okay, that is what we said before, but then Jesus’ makes a shocking twist. He says, “the ones on the path are the ones who have heard…” And again he says, “ones on the rock are those who when they hear…” And again he says, “as for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear…” And again he says, “as for the ones in the good soil, these are the ones who when they hear…” My friends, we are not the soil, we are the seed, the very seed that is to become the word of God in the world, the very seed that is sown by the Sower to the ends of the earth.
My friends, we too are disciples of Jesus Christ, and like the disciples before us, we too have been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, the secrets of the kingdom of God that it is God who reigns over the world, that it is Jesus who is Lord and Savior, and that it is Spirit of the living Christ who rules even now in our hearts and minds.
My friends, we have been given the secrets of God’s divine plan of salvation in Jesus Christ, the secrets of living in a Spirit-filled way of life, and the secrets of eternal life, not because of any special quality we have, not because of how good or faithful our soil might be, but because God chose to give them to us. Call it divine predestination, divine election, divine will, or even just a divine mystery that defies human comprehension, but whatever you call it, we have been given the secrets of the kingdom of God.
It is this knowledge that is to become for us more than just something we know or believe, it is to become a part of the very person we are and of the ministry in which we do. The very circumstances and commitments in which we find ourselves in our daily lives determines whether the word of God is truly a reality for us, whether or not we are truly a seed for the kingdom of God, and even whether or not we will be a part of the bounty that will be God’s kingdom.
Are we THE word of God? No way, now how, not ever. But are we the word of God in the world? You better believe it. How we go about our lives tells others, many times without words, what we believe about kingdom of God, about whether or not the word of God has any influence on our lives, about whether or not we are truly living in the kingdom.
My friends, we are not given the secrets of the kingdom of God so that it can only be kept within our hearts of good soil, but it is to be a light for others to see, to hear, to experience, to know, and, through God, to believe. We are the seed that is to proclaim and witness the fact that the kingdom of God is not just a glorious hope for the future, but a joyful and abundant reality here and now.
Jesus did not come so that everything would remain hidden but that everything would be revealed. Through his blood, sweat, and tears he proclaimed through words and even more so through his actions that he was the true Word of God incarnate, the very Word of God in the flesh. Like the Gatorade commercials, where the athletes sweat the color of the Gatorade they have just drank, so too must the word of God fill us up so much that it comes out of our very pores, that through our own blood, sweat, and tears we too become an active participant in God’s mission in the world, and a vibrant and fruitful seed for the kingdom of God.
In a few minutes we will be communing together as we partake in the Lord’s Supper, when we will again come to the table seeking, asking, and hungering to be filled, knowing and trusting that through the body and blood of Jesus Christ, we will not only be filled, but we will also be nurtured, renewed, and transformed by the word of God so that through Christ we will continue to become loving servants and faithful witnesses of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and faithful members of Christ’s body as we grow and work together as seeds for the kingdom of God. Amen.