Mother Vivian Shelby – The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, July 16, 2023
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
So, today’s visual for me as a beach person is: beautiful. Jesus on the beach. So many people on the beach that he has to get into a boat and pull out so that they can all see him and hear him. Beautiful. Now, he’s talking in parables. And this is one of the rare occasions where the disciples ask him to explain it. We didn’t hear that part today because if you notice there’s a chunk missing in the middle. And that’s where the disciple said, “Please, why do you talk in parables? Tell us what this means.” And then he does. The parable of the sower.
These are people of agriculture. If they themselves are not farmers, they have family members and friends who are farmers. So, they all understood this metaphor of sowing and growth. Matthew’s community also needed to hear this message. And to me, what that says is that two thousand years ago, more than two thousand years ago, they were wondering why some people come to Christ, and some people don’t. People hear the word but choose not to believe that Jesus is the Messiah. Why? And we’re still asking that question. So, Matthew is explaining well, through Jesus’s words, the three reasons that he says people do not follow God. One is that they really, maybe they’ve heard, maybe they haven’t heard, the word. The evil one comes like a bird and snatches the seed away. The word of God. And so it’s filled with other things.
The second reason is, the soil is really shallow and there’s rock underneath there and these people hear the word, sprouts up quickly but it doesn’t have any root enough to sustain it and the sun winds up killing it. And then the thorns choking, choking all the seeds that are trying to grow because it just kind of overpowers them. And then the good soil where things grow and multiply and everything’s great.
So, isn’t it interesting that this is all about the seeds assumed to be good? There’s no question about whether the seed is capable of growing. It’s all about the soil. So, the seeds are God’s word. God’s word is good. No question about that. But how does it grow? How does it spread? And it’s the soil that’s the issue.
So, they talked about this two thousand years ago because it was an issue. And it is an issue for us to this day. We talk about this quite often. Coffee hour, Bible study, Why do so many people not know God or not believe that Jesus is the Messiah? Obviously, it was a mystery then and it’s kind of a mystery now. So what Jesus is doing is telling us those things that can distract us. I hear a baby. Awesome. I love it when we have babies in church. So, what are the things that distract us? We have to be rooted, grounded in God so deeply, so strongly, that nothing can pull us up. Nothing can uproot us from that groundedness. So, we have to focus on that.
Then the bigger one probably for us, this day in our culture are the thorns. The life around us that we get distracted by. The cares and concerns of the world and the desire for wealth, he says. Again, this has been a problem for over two thousand years. That humankind gets distracted, gets pulled off the path, we lose our focus and we lose our focus on God.
So, what are we to do? Well, this is kind of a continuation of last week’s sermon on spiritual depth. The roots being grounded in God, being grounded in the word, having a good relationship with Jesus, which means you see him, talk to him more than once a week. They can be at home in your own private space. We need to have access to the word. We need to read books, go to Bible studies, do those things that are going to feed you spiritually to grow your roots deeper and stronger.
Then we have to keep our distractions in check. Think this week about those things that distract you. Is it your checking account? Being worried. Do I have enough money to pay my bills? Is it the car you’re driving? Are you desiring something brand new just because? Are you desiring something new because you need it and it serves a purpose? That’s okay. Are you desiring a new car because the car you have is not serving you well? Like it’s breaking down. So, all those things, you can find the reason why it’s okay. But if it is pulling you away from a life of joy and grace, it’s a distraction. So, that’s one thing we need to do.
The other thing and I thank the Tuesday morning, 7 AM Coffee Shop Grizzly people for this. We meet every week. Somebody said, “Well, What it doesn’t say, the gospel does not say, ‘Don’t sow.’” It doesn’t say: well, don’t sow on the path; well, don’t sow in the shallow soil with the rock and don’t sow in the thorns. Just sow in the good soil. The gospel doesn’t say that. So, I pictured this child just running around with seeds going, “Okay. Let’s just throw seeds everywhere. Doesn’t matter where they land. That’s not my problem.” And that’s what we have to do. Jesus is gone and ascended. We are now the sowers of the word.
So, we’re supposed to scatter that seed wherever it might land even if we think there’s no chance. No chance that the word will sink in. That’s not up to us. God can do anything, anywhere, anytime, any place. So, we have to be rooted, grounded in the word. And then we have to spread it around like confetti that never goes away, right? Like glitter sticks to everything, shows up in the bottom of your car three years later. That kind of sewing. And it doesn’t have to be over if you’re an Episcopalian like most of us good Episcopalians who think evangelism. It’s awkward.I don’t know how to sew the word. Well, guess what? It can be your smile. It can be your kindness to people. It can be you’re helping someone who needs help. It’s very easy to live that life if we’re not choking on the thorns of silly stuff.
Read the Bible. Go out and be nice to people. Love on them. I mean, it’s sad that the bar is that low in this world. But it’s true. People are so afraid and so lonely and so untrusting and for good reason many of them. But be that breath of fresh air for someone. This was very pleasant.
So, if you don’t want to be dancing around and throwing seeds because that’s too extroverted for you. Put a backpack on with the seeds in it and poke a hole in the bottom so that everywhere you go the seeds are just trickling out. Any method you choose. But that’s what God is calling us to do. Cause if we don’t sow the seeds, nobody will. And then how are people supposed to hear about Jesus? How? This week, think about how your roots are growing. I have a great Bible study coming up. You can join me. It’d be a lot of fun. It’s in the bulletin. And spread the word. Just scatter some seeds around. Let God worry about what happens. But we at least have to shout it out. For with God, all things are possible. Amen.