MATTHEW 13:1-9, 18-23

Like many other churches, The Episcopal Church has a church calendar.  The church year is divided roughly into two parts.  In the first half of the church year our appointed gospel readings guide us through the story of Jesus.  The season of Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas, in late November or early December.  The seasons of Christmas, Epiphany, Lent and Easter follow.  During these five seasons, Advent through Easter, we hear the life story of Our Lord: his birth; his baptism; his temptation in the wilderness; his early ministry, including the calling of his disciples; his healing miracles; his journey to Jerusalem; his final hours with his disciples; his arrest, his trial, his torture, his crucifixion; his resurrection and his resurrection appearances; his ascension into heaven; and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  The first half or our church year, our liturgical year, is the story of Jesus.

The second half is different.  In the second half, the Season after Pentecost, we focus on the teachings of Jesus.  Having walked with Jesus we now sit at his feet.  For about six months we learn from Jesus.  We focus on what he taught.  That’s what the Season after Pentecost is all about. 

For the most part, Jesus taught in parables.  For the most part, Jesus’ parables are about the Kingdom of God: what it’s like, how we can recognize it, and perhaps how we can participate in it.

So what is a parable?  A parable is just a story, an illustration, or an image that remains open-ended.  With parables, much remains unspoken and unexplained.  It’s up to us to figure it out.  Parables are challenges.  They make us think: what did Jesus mean?  What was he getting at, anyway?  And typically, who am I in this parable?  Where do I stand?

Today’s parable is very unusual.  In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus spells it out.  He explains exactly what the parable means.  His explanation begins with the words: Let anyone with ears listen!

Let anyone with ears listen. 

About sixty years ago the author Harper Lee wrote a very fine novel: The Kill a Mockingbird.  She also said this: People generally see what they look for and hear what they listen for.

Let anyone with ears listen.  You have heard the Parable of the Sower.  You have heard Jesus’ explanation of this parable.  Did you have ears to listen? 

The seed of the sower has been cast abroad.  That means it has fallen on you.  Believe it or not, the seed has fallen on you.  So where are you in this parable?  Where did the sower’s seed land?

Did it land on the well-worn path?  Are you walking the typical way of this world?  Are you in step with the culture, or are you on a journey with God?

If you are not on some kind of journey with God, the seed of the sower has very little chance of taking root in your life.

Are you walking on rocky ground?  If you’ve ever walked on rocky ground, you know that rocky ground has no stability.  Things shift constantly.  There’s no solid foundation, and no place for seeds to take root.

If you are walking on rocky ground, the seed of the sower has very little chance of taking root in your life.

Do you walk among thorns?  Are your primary concerns money, prestige, power, achievement, and the accumulation of things?

As long as you walk among thorns, the seed of the sower has very little chance of taking root in your life.

Bottom line truth: while the seed of the sower is cast abroad on everyone, even you, the seed of the sower only takes root on good soil.  Bottom line message: cultivate your own soil.  If you want the sower’s seed to take root in your life, if you want to bear fruit, don’t walk the common path of this world.  Yes, celebrate God’s creation, celebrate to the fullest, but walk with Jesus.  Journey with God.  Travel a stable path: a path with fewer rocks and fewer thorns.

No one has a perfect walk.  But some journeys are better than others.  The path you take is your choice.  Your path is up to you.

As the poet Robert Frost wrote some years ago:

         Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,

         I took the one less traveled by,

         And that has made all the difference.

The church is here to help you on your journey, to help you cultivate your own soil.  Don’t be complacent.  Don’t take for granted what we have here.  What we have here is a gift from God.  It is uncommon, and not to be taken for granted.  God is generous.  God’s blessing is cast out everywhere and to each of us.

People generally see what they look for and hear what they listen for. 

Look and listen.

The seed of the sower has fallen on you.  What you do with it is up to you.


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