September 4, 2011
In Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23, Jesus compares faithful stewardship of our gifts to a sower who went to plant seed. Rather than making neat furrows like modern farmers, broadcast sowing was the norm of the day. Like the statue in Kew Gardens (above) portrays, the farmer took handfuls of seed and flung them across the field as he walked along. “Some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
The musical, Godspell from the 1970’s, has a song (All Good Things) that is an adaptation of the Parable of the Sower. We are reminded that no matter what we propose to do-in life, ministry, in our sowing and planting that it is ‘God who gives the increase.’ (I Corinthians 3:7) “We plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land.. But it is fed and watered by God's almighty hand.. He sends us snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain... The breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain...”
Last spring our grandson helped plant a garden in our backyard. Every time he visits, he goes to check the plants. He was very proprietary about the produce, too. When Grandpa picked the first tomatoes without his presence and permission, it caused quite a fuss! For a 4-year old he has stayed quite focused on ‘his’ garden. Our grandson was pretty sure that he had to ensure the plants grew well. Many of us do the same thing in our ministries. We shoulder all the responsibility for the results and get disappointed and discouraged when the results don’t measure up to our standards.
God gives the increase, but we have to nurture our ministries, like our grandson did the garden. It is easy to get distracted from our good plans and abandon our projects. Jesus tells his disciples “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.” (Matthew 13:19-22)
Fall is a good time to evaluate how our ministry is going. We all want to be the fertile soil that grows abundantly. Labor Day celebrates the workers of the fields and factories and companies of America. Most workers want to take Henry David Thoreau’s words as their motto. “Be not simply good - be good for something.” As Christians, we have a larger field and we plant seeds for eternity. All we do as ministry, be it simply a smile or as complex as heading up a mission trip, is ‘good for something.’ Godspell’s music states that God only needs one response: “No gifts have we to offer for all thy love imparts but that which thou desirest, our humble thankful hearts!"
The beginning of the ‘program’ year also offers new opportunities to try out some new prayer routine or Bible study. Maybe we’ve always wanted to try out working in Sunday School or some other ministry at our church or volunteer at a school or shelter. Pray about it and then go ahead and plant seed in that ministry remembering “All good gifts around us are sent from Heaven above.. Then thank the Lord, thank the Lord for all his love..I really wanna thank you Lord! All good gifts around us are sent from Heaven above.. Then thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord for all his love.”
What kind of seed do you sow? What kind of seed are you growing? Does your garden need some nurturing?
Next week we'll be back to looking at Acts as Saul begins his many missionary journeys.