Sower, Soil, Seed

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Matthew 13: 3b-19 presents to us the well-known parable of the sower, in which seeds are sown on four types of soil – only one of which is good soil that produces good crops. Usually our sermons focus on the types of soil. Today, I’d like us to focus on some of the key characters, and imagine that we are that character.

1. The Sower. The key thing that stands out about the Sower is that he is careless. He scatters seed carelessly, without thinking. He is given a bag of precious seed, that presumably had significant value and a limited supply. And he scatters it left, right and centre without thought for where it might land.

If we are the Sower, then God is calling us to be responsible for the opportunities God gives us to do the work of God in the world. We should not be careless; we should be responsible. The opportunities we are give to do God’s work are precious and we should treat them all, even the tiny ones, with a sense of gravitas and reverence.

2. The Soil. The key thing that stands out about the Soil is that it is not conducive. Some of it is compressed and hard, exposing seeds to the elements and birds. Some of it is rocky and shallow, not allowing seeds to take root. Some of it is riddled with weeds that dominate the soil and do not allow the seeds the opportunity to breathe and grow. It is only the fourth Soil that Jesus says is ‘good’. It is good because it is able to create a conducive environment for the seeds to grow and mature.

If we are the Soil, then God is calling us to be receptive to the voice of God. Jesus ends his parable with, “Whoever has ears, let them hear!” Some commentators argue that the soil refers to our ears – it is our capacity to be hear God’s voice, to receptive to the seeds God drops in our ears, that Jesus is calling for.

3. The Seeds. Arguably the hero of the story is the Seed. Ultimately, the Seed is central. The key thing that stands out about the Seed is that is wasted. We know that seeds are a precious commodity; there are seed banks around the world that serve to preserve this precious commodity. But in this story, three quarters of the Seed is wasted – it cannot grow, cannot flourish, cannot produce a crop. Only one quarter of the Seed is productive. Imagine if only 10 hours of the work you do each week is actually useful or productive, and that 30 hours are wasted. How disillusioning that would be!

If we are the Seed, then God is calling us to be fruitful. Jesus wants us to be productive – to produce more than we started with. He is looking for a small input and a large output. Indeed, he quantifies the productivity: “it produced a crop – a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown”. That’s a big increase from the current 25%. And now Jesus says, if we have ears, then hear!

This is a central message of this parable:
we must be fruitful and productive.

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6 thoughts on “Sower, Soil, Seed

  1. Genevieve Geekie says:

    Thanks, dear Adrian

    It is becoming more and more challenging to be fruitful and productive in our (MY) shrinking world.

    (Stop being negative, Genevieve !!) XxXx



    • Dear Genny

      Thanks for that observation! I am mindful that we are not all in the workplace in the way that I am. And that Covid has closed in our worlds to a greater or lesser extent. I think the fruitfulness needs to be context- and person-specific. I head an academic department that teaches social work, which gives lots of opportunity for all kinds of social justice, social care, developmental fruitfulness – which all seems very conducive.

      But if you’re retired and stuck in a small room in a retirement village, being fruitful in this way may not be possible, or certainly not to the same extent. If so, then what might fruitfulness look like? I guess that’s a topic for another sermon!!

      But off the cuff, I think of prayer as something that most people can do and that constitutes real spiritual work – I remember Fr John Streak often saying that he saw his primary role as priest being to pray. And in our modern/technology era, I think phone calls and emails and text messages can also be real pastoral work that one can do from the confines of a room. And if one has finances, which not everyone has, sharing those in targetted ways to support specific individuals or causes or projects can be a meaningful way to help others be fruitful – it is like composting the soil into which others may plant seeds.

      Perhaps these are all vital and valuable ways of being fruitful/productive.

      Your message has been fruitful in prompting me to think beyond my own context (stuck at home, but working with several hundred students and several dozen staff) towards the contexts of others. Thank you for that. You have blessed me.

      Take care dear Gen


  2. Genevieve Geekie says:

    Just started counting my blessings, as my grandmother encouraged me to do every day : five wonderful children; five wonderful in-law children; 14 FABULOUS grand-children; two magnificent great-grand-children,and a whole menagerie of friends. HOW DARE I COMPLAIN !!!!



    • Ah, this makes me grin and laugh! What a blessing to have this sequence of generations and the love and joy I’m sure they bring (plus the occasional tears and worries, I’m sure).
      Psalm 127:3-5 says:
      Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.
      Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.
      Blessed are they whose quiver is full of them.
      They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.


  3. Isobel Wilson says:

    Thought provoking sermon,


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