7/11/99, P7A

“Crop Success and Failure”
Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-23

n our text Jesus illustrates four responses to the Gospel. The Good News always demands a response; even a non response is a response. For two thousand years folks have either embraced this remolding power to change, or they have chosen to go their own way to no-way. Just as the Sun rises every morning and we choose to get up and view its spectacular beauty, so we make decisions each day that determine our destiny. Choice is the main determinate in life building.

This is not a completely new idea that Jesus is expounding. Since the dawn of creation humans had been faced with choices. Eve and Adam made negative choices. Noah made a positive choice to serve God. The Old Testament Covenant required individuals to choose to comply with God’s will. The passage many of us have underlined in our Bibles that illustrates this notion is Deuteronomy 30: 19: “... I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life...”.

Jesus’ used common, everyday, familiar, metaphors to illustrate human responses to the options faced. Everybody in Jesus’ day, had some familiarity with planting seeds: You and I have either planted seedss, or have read about it. So, when Jesus got into that boat, tied or anchored to the shoreline, and addressed a large crowd of followers in everyday language. There was no high sounding theology; just a story. H.L Minken described high theology as: “...the effort to explain the unknowable in terms of the not worth knowing.” From Jesus we hear the truth in common words and stories that paint a clear picture for us. Through him we are confronted with a choice that is clear.

The first seed pictured “fell by the wayside...” (v.4). This is the saddest group because they, “Did not understand...” as Jesus went on to explain in verse 19. Still today, our greatest responsibility as contemporary disciples is to try as hard as we can to preach the Good News as simply as we can so that folks can grasp it. We fail in our task if we do not get the story across.

I receive it as a compliment when folks describe my efforts at preaching as being “Folksy,” or, “down to earth.” I am not aiming the gospel gun at theologians or Bible scholars, but to ordinary people who need to hear the Good News. I am willing to do anything to get The Word into hearts. I constantly remind myself that the eighty thousand who will experience this sermon through the modern miracle of cable television need to always hear God’s plan for pumping new hopes and dreams into our sometimes empty hearts.
We are on T.V. at prime time, but we also reach folks who can’t sleep in the wee hours. Only eternity will be able to evaluate how successful we were in touching the lives of these poor souls by having given them The Choice that determines destiny. Its and awesome opportunity that we share. Ultimately however, it is the working of the Holy Spirit in the heasrts of hearers that presents The Choice.

Several times at preacher’s conferences I have been described, and have depicted myself, as one who attempts to make the Gospel as clear as I possibly can so that folks might not miss out on this good seed that Jesus still sows in hearts, through our willingness to be used.

The second hand full of seed thrown out on the ground (broadcast sowing) “fell upon stony places...” (v.5). They believed the word initially; but, because they were living a hard life, their tribulation, persecution, temptations, sickness, and problems kept the seed from forming roots and their faith failed fast. (v. 21) The truth in Jesus’ analogy is that problems are inevitable in our lives. Yet, if we can become grounded in the Good News, we can have deep roots that can enable us to survive times in the dry deserts; or even in the times of surprise flooding in the desert, as Los Vegas is experiencing this very weekend. Life is full of surprises; but, through it all God is able to deliver those who have set down roots.

Many of us can identify with those who are like the “seed that fell among the thorns.” (7, 22). The cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, the lure of worldly attainment, can soon choke out that Word once experienced and believed for awhile. Maybe you know deep in your heart that the good feelings and deep assurance that you once had are no longer vital. Maybe you have gradually slipped away from those days when the implanted seed was growing and producing fruit. Worship that once seemed exciting has now become boring. You no longer hear the voice of God as you attempt to study your Bible. Your interests, and focus for living, has turned to totally worldly goals. The Good News for the person who feels their spiritual life failing is that the seeds can be replanted and that there is hope of rejuvenation.

A member of a former church had gotten old and about the only thing he could still do, was to tend a little vegetable garden. He had a son in law that loved him, but sometimes like to play pranks. The younger man brought the old gardener some “new and improved okra” seeds. My old friend proudly planted his seeds with care, one at a time: Not broadcast sowing upon unplowed ground, as in Jesus’ parable. He careingly watered his special little row of seeds every day, and was thrilled when the little green plants broke through the earth reaching for the sunshine. But, as the plants developed into stalks he finally had to admit that they were not okra plants at all, but were cotton stalks. He accepted the joke played on him and laughed at himself; but did another thing that pictures the story of New Life in Christ--- He replanted using real okra seeds that he purchased himself in a sealed package at the garden shop. God can do that for us!

Thank God for this fourth illustration: the seed that “fell into good ground, is he that heard the word, and understood it, and brought forth fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.” (v.23). It seems clear to me that our job as the Church is to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to hear the Gospel, and then to have it explained to them, so that they might be grounded, and grow in knowledge and grace. However, the real point of Jesus’ explanation of his parable is that the hoped for results is that those that choose to follow the word might eventually bear fruit. Or, that the tiny seed that was sowed might grow into a productive contributor to the effort of winning more and more to faith in Christ. The decision to follow Christ is a first baby step. Yet, the goal is that the baby might grow unto maturity. This seems to be Christ’s goal for our lives. The question that still confronts us is: Are we bearing fruit, or has our beginning faith been lost?

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

7/11/99, P7A