10 Rain and snow fall from the sky.
They don’t return without watering the ground.
They cause the plants to sprout and grow.
And the plants make seeds for the farmer.
And from these seeds people have bread to eat.
11 The words I say do the same thing.
They will not return to me empty.
They make the things happen that I want to happen.
They succeed in doing what I send them to do.
12 “So you will go out with joy.
You will be led out in peace.
The mountains and hills will burst into song before you.
All the trees in the fields will clap their hands.
13 Large cypress trees will grow where thornbushes were.
Myrtle trees will grow where weeds were.
These things will be a reminder of the Lord’s promise.
And this reminder will never be destroyed.”
Life in the Spirit
8 So now, those who are in Christ Jesus are not judged[a] guilty. 2 I am not judged guilty because in Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit that brings life made me free. It made me free from the law that brings sin and death. 3 The law was without power, because the law was made weak by our sinful selves. But God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son to earth with the same human life that others use for sin. He sent his Son to be an offering to pay for sin. So God used a human life to destroy sin. 4 He did this so that we could be right as the law said we must be. Now we do not live following our sinful selves, but we live following the Spirit.
5 Those who live following their sinful selves think only about things that their sinful selves want. But those who live following the Spirit are thinking about the things that the Spirit wants them to do. 6 If a person’s thinking is controlled by his sinful self, then there is death. But if his thinking is controlled by the Spirit, then there is life and peace. 7 This is true because if a person’s thinking is controlled by his sinful self, then he is against God. He refuses to obey God’s law. And really he is not able to obey God’s law. 8 Those people who are ruled by their sinful selves cannot please God.
9 But you are not ruled by your sinful selves. You are ruled by the Spirit, if that Spirit of God really lives in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, then he does not belong to Christ. 10 Your body will always be dead because of sin. But if Christ is in you, then the Spirit gives you life, because Christ made you right with God. 11 God raised Jesus from death. And if God’s Spirit is living in you, then he will also give life to your bodies that die. God is the One who raised Christ from death. And he will give life through[b] his Spirit that lives in you.
A Story About Planting Seed
13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Large crowds gathered around him. So Jesus got into a boat and sat, while the people stayed on the shore. 3 Then Jesus used stories to teach them many things. He said: “A farmer went out to plant his seed. 4 While he was planting, some seed fell by the road. The birds came and ate all that seed. 5 Some seed fell on rocky ground, where there wasn’t enough dirt. That seed grew very fast, because the ground was not deep. 6 But when the sun rose, the plants dried up because they did not have deep roots. 7 Some other seed fell among thorny weeds. The weeds grew and choked the good plants. 8 Some other seed fell on good ground where it grew and became grain. Some plants made 100 times more grain. Other plants made 60 times more grain, and some made 30 times more grain. 9 Let those with ears use them and listen!”
Jesus Explains the Seed Story
18 “So listen to the meaning of that story about the farmer. 19 What is the seed that fell by the road? That seed is like the person who hears the teaching about the kingdom but does not understand it. The Evil One comes and takes away the things that were planted in that person’s heart. 20 And what is the seed that fell on rocky ground? That seed is like the person who hears the teaching and quickly accepts it with joy. 21 But he does not let the teaching go deep into his life. He keeps it only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the teaching he accepted, then he quickly gives up. 22 And what is the seed that fell among the thorny weeds? That seed is like the person who hears the teaching but lets worries about this life and love of money stop that teaching from growing. So the teaching does not produce fruit[a] in that person’s life. 23 But what is the seed that fell on the good ground? That seed is like the person who hears the teaching and understands it. That person grows and produces fruit, sometimes 100 times more, sometimes 60 times more, and sometimes 30 times more.”
So this week we are given lots of images of seeds, and growing, and act of planting. The words of God, through the prophets are like rain and snow, that falling to the ground water it, and allow seeds to grow into plants that feed the people. The sower scatters seeds on different types of ground and the amount of plants that grow and how much fruit they produce differs based on the ground. The people who heard these words knew instinctively what they were about, they had all had experience planting things and trying to make them grow. They also had lots of experience with crops failing and not producing enough to eat. Now many of you have been helping out at the Larmier community garden, so you have planted things and seen them grow, harvested the fruit and probably even eaten some of it, but in a garden like that you get to plant in a specially made bed of dirt, and that dirt takes a lot of work to prepare. Mulching, fertilizing, weeding, wintering, watering, etc. Do you think that the plants would do as well if you just planted them in your yard? What about a sand box? What if you just took the plants and didn’t dig a hole, just set them down on the ground. Would any of these grow as well as the specially prepared dirt in the garden? Would any of these others even grow at all? The short answers are no and yes, sort of. Plants will not grow as well when neglected as they will when cared for with specially prepared soil, and informed gardener and lots of work. However, that does not mean that they will not grow at all, or even bear fruit. Planting in your yard might actually work fairly well, and planting in a sandbox could be successful but it would take a lot of work, and finally, simply putting a plant on the ground might in some cases lead to a prospering plant. Just as the sower has the best return in the good soil, he still has some plants growing in the thorny ground and in the rocky ground. So what does it mean? This isn’t really about gardening advice is it.
One very common way to look at this story is as instructions to make ourselves like the good soil, to have the largest harvest we need to use, and be, the best soil. While this is good if we are looking at what we want from ourselves, I have never really looked at it like this. I actually like to look at this story more as if we are each the sower, not the soil. While we know that the good soil will produce the greatest harvest, should we reject the idea of planting in the thorny or rocky soil altogether? I don’t think so, especially if we are considering that the soil here is really people. Each of us has a duty to not only make ourselves into the good soil, but to sow seeds of God’s word. Does God only want us to spread his word to the people who are already in church, already trying to make themselves into good soil? Does Jesus say that the sower was wrong to plant seeds in the ground that might produce a lesser harvest? Are we to not take a chance on someone because they are not good soil? If you only have poor soil to plant in, do you simply not try to grow a garden? I believe the answer to that is a clear no. You don’t give up because the soil is less than ideal, or might take more work, or maybe is most likely to fail. You cast the seeds of God’s word and then pray that they take root and “they succeed in doing what (God) send(s) them to do.”