There are many ways that you can help pull rocks out of the soil. Which one is God calling you to?
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Please sit.
Now, I dare say everybody in church today has heard the parable of the Sower. It’s one of those wonderful parables that we teach in Sunday school because it’s so easy to teach, there are such good colouring in drawings you can do with it birds picking up seed and things being scattered everywhere. And often we only hear the short version of this piece of scripture. We only ever hear the parable. What we don’t hear is the rest of the piece of scripture where Jesus is explaining to the disciples why he teaches in this way.
And I think that is more important for us to hear than the parable itself. The parable, if we’re not careful, gives us an excuse to say, oh well, things go out and sometimes they’ll work and sometimes they won’t. Every single one of us is a sower of the seeds of our faith in other people.
I’m not the Sower, Jesus isn’t the Sower. We are all sowers of the faith in other people.
Every single one of us has a responsibility to plant that seed in somebody else. They may come to Jesus Christ and to know his love and to know his care and to know his healing, as he talks about here in the Gospel of Matthew. But if we only pay attention to the first part of this Gospel, to the Sowing, it is easy for us to disregard that responsibility. We can say, well, people know I come to church. People know that I’m a Christian, I’ve talked about Jesus, but that seed must have fallen on the rocky ground or it’s fallen on the edge of the path, or it’s fallen in thorns.
It’s an excuse to say, well, these things happen. And when the time is right, that seed will plant in that person.
Now, if we didn’t read the second part of this scripture, that’s where we would finish off. We would think, let’s go look for the places where I can sow good seeds. Let’s go look for the good field, let’s go look for the good soil. And where there is good soil, that’s where we’ll plant. We’ll go to the places where people are ready to hear the message of Jesus Christ.
I don’t know about you. How many of you have tried to grow vegetables in your garden? I have. And you don’t just go out into your garden and put a seed in and kind of hope that it works. Even in good soil, you have to turn the soil over.
You have to kind of get the right nutrients in it. You have to dig the hole to the right depth. And then you plant the seed and then you care for it and it grows. Good soil doesn’t just happen. Good soil requires preparation.
Happy are you with ears to hear and eyes to see. Jesus is saying, Listen, you are the disciples, you are the good soil. You already know the story of Jesus Christ. Your hearts are open. We need to help the people who are on the rocky path, who are in the weeds, who are in the thistles, come to know us.
And the way to do that is to start to prepare the soil. It’s to start to prepare people’s hearts. It’s start to prepare people’s minds so they are ready to receive the seeds that it may grow in them. We don’t say, oh, we’re just a sower, and we throw our seeds and wherever they fall, they go, no. Jesus says, we have to prepare the soil.
We have to prepare people’s hearts. And my gosh, this prophecy from Isaiah that Jesus quotes, I mean, Jesus quotes scripture all the time, but this prophecy from Isaiah, could it not be about our time today? Could it not be?
“For the hearts of this nation have grown coarse, their ears are dull of hearing and they have shut their eyes for they fear, they fear they should see with their eyes, hear with their eyes, understand with their heart and be converted.”
Isaiah is speaking across the centuries into our time, as he was in Jesus time. People who do not come to church, who do not call them Christians, who do not call themselves Christians, who do not want to hear the word of Jesus, put their fingers in their ears and go, la la, I don’t want to know, they’ll put up lots of defences against it. And so Jesus says, this is why I teach in parables, because parables have a way of preparing the soil, of preparing people’s hearts ready to receive the message of the good news. Stories have a way of breaking down those things in society that get in the way of us learning about Jesus. We have to remember that we have already had our hearts opened, we have already accepted Jesus Christ, we are already open to hearing what he has to teach us.
But people in the rest of the world are not. And in fact, that language will result in the shutters coming down if we go out into the world and we start using language like, the Holy Spirit told me to come and speak to you today, it’s brilliant language, and sometimes that will land in exactly the right place. But more often than not, if you just speak to the person who stood in the queue in McDonald’s next to you and say, the Holy Spirit has told me to come and speak to you, they’re going to tell you to sling your hook.
So we have to find ways of speaking to people, of preparing the soil so that they can hear the good news of Jesus Christ. And every single one of us has to discern how we do that.
Now, we do that as a church and we give you some ways that you can do that. Thursday evenings are our way of preparing the soil of the people who live in this parish to hear the good news about Jesus Christ. Once a month, we have the new motorbike club.
People who have never thought of coming to church, who find the idea of coming to church, who find the idea of speaking about Jesus really odd, they just don’t get it. But they come that one Thursday a month and we had it on Thursday, and they bring their bikes into church and they take a photograph and they see the font and they say, what’s this? And I explain to them what it is and they go, I never knew that. Or they’ll say, Why are the candles in front of these statues? And they didn’t know that.
Now, the aim of that isn’t to convert people and bring them to Jesus Christ in one; kind of like they’re suddenly going to come and say, I’m a Christian! The point of that is to prepare the soil so that in the right moment that seed can be planted and grown. Thursday fun and fellowship, which is going to run on other Thursday evenings, is about saying, come and find a friendly, a warm, a welcoming place. Come and play some board games, get to know the people who live around you. It’s a community space and questions will start to come up and we’ll answer those questions and we’re preparing that soil.
Then when the sower does come, when the sower comes and plants that seed, then the soil is ready to receive it and it will grow.
Now, that is a very long way and a quite long sermon of me saying to you, we have to work on the soil. It’s all very well to go out and to give people a Bible and say, come and know Jesus Christ and to use all the language that we know, but before we do that, we have to prepare the soil. You don’t need any special qualifications to do it. You don’t need any special training to do it. In fact, Jesus makes this point over and over again.
Children are often the best way those innocent people of heart are often the best way of bringing people and preparing the soil, because it is the conversations that spring off that preparation that result in amazing things.
I’ll use the motorbike meet as an example. Again, we had about 60 people here on Thursday evening of one sort to another. In total, we had about 20 motorbikes through the church, inside and outside. And every single one of those people took a photograph of their motorbike underneath the stained glass window and a photograph of some chaps with their helmet at the baptismal font and next to the and those photographs got put onto Facebook and they got put onto Instagram, and they got put on Twitter and shared to an enormous number of people.
And in doing that, we’ve taken a rocky bit of ground and we’ve pulled some of the rocks out. We’ve made that ground a little bit better able to receive the seed of Jesus Christ. Every time that happens, we pull a rock out of the ground. It is hard work, but if we all go to the field and we all pull a rock out, before you know it, we will have a beautiful field ready for people to hear about Jesus.
So you can talk to the person in the queue in McDonald’s, or you can come and help make coffees or do burgers on a Thursday night. Or you can come and play Snakes and Ladders on a Thursday at Fun and Fellowship.
There are many ways that you can help pull rocks out of the soil. Which one is God calling you to? Amen?