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Sunday, July 16, 2023: “Sowing Seeds of Faith”

Sowing Seeds of Faith
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
July 16, 2023 – Parkminster United Church

It’s amazing to think about how technology – even within the past couple of decades – has
changed so much. Before the age of social media influencers and TikTok, blogging was the
vehicle to share one’s life, hobbies, and interests with the online world. For those of you who
may not be familiar with blogs, they are basically online journals, and a blogger is the person
who writes there – be it a personal journal for themselves or their family – or a public blogger –
writing about an interest that others can share. You may remember the 2009 film Julie and Julia
that shared the story of blogger Julie Powell who kept an online blog as she attempted to cook
her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
Today I’m going to tell you about another widely popular blogger from around that time named
Ree Drummond whose blog, The Pioneer Woman, led to a career on the Food Network, her
own Mercantile, merchandise line and more. She lives on a working cattle ranch in Oklahoma, is
married to a fourth-generation cattle rancher where they raised their now young adult children.
She wrote about everything from life on the ranch, to baking and cooking, photography, to
keeping up with household chores, both inside and out.
But Drummond did not always live life on the prairie. She grew up in the suburbs of Oklahoma
City, attended college in Los Angeles and fully expected to attend law school in Chicago. She
was a city girl through and through until she had a clandestine meeting with a cowboy one
night in a country bar. The rest, you could say, is history. And one of the reasons thousands and
thousands of people eagerly followed her blog was because she was honest to a fault about her
life on the ranch – and chronicled both the joys and the disappointments of living and working
in the agricultural world.
She has said, “You know, when you live in the agricultural world you really learn to be thankful
for everything that you have. Hard work is always a necessity on the ranch – but it doesn’t
mean that things always turn out as planned.”
When I read our Scripture story this week, I couldn’t get Drummond’s thoughts out of my head.
“One day, a farmer went out sowing seed,” the Gospel says. “Some of the seed landed on a
footpath, where birds came and ate it up. Some of the seeds fell on rocky ground, where there
was little soil. This seed sprouted at once since the soil had no depth, but when the sun rose
and scorched it, it withered away for lack of roots. Again, some of the seed fell among thorns,
and the thorns grew up and choked it. And some of it landed on good soil, and yielded a crop
thirty, sixty, even a hundred times what was sown.”
As I reflected on this reading while pondering this sermon on Tuesday, I was finding it ironic
that I was looking at the parable of the sower while the rain that was falling outside of my
window was also watering our gardens and plants at home. It was even more ironic because
the day before I had been wondering about whether the soil had reached a point of dryness
where I needed to tend to our drooping vegetable plants. Perhaps those heavy rains on
Tuesday were the Spirit’s way of reminding me and urging me to let go of my need to control
outcomes and to be patient for the rains to come.
That would have been a great sermon, right? “Be patient and God will grow the seeds that you
But of course, it was not that simple. The next morning when the rains had cleared, I went
outside to check on the gardens. And I noticed that while the rain did nurture some of our
plants, causing them to seemingly sprout up overnight, it also essentially drowned out some of
the other plants, causing them to collapse in a heaping pile on the ground.
So, then I started thinking: There might be more to this parable than simply, “trust and God will
So, here’s a question: Was Jesus really talking about sowing seeds?
Jesus used this parable to talk about life. He was talking about journeys of faith. He was talking
about growing communities of faithful individuals who are all different from one another and
finding ways to make that community thrive.
Over the years, those roots have been tested. There have been times of growth and there have
been times where the community struggled to hold it together. Some of the seeds that were
planted eventually did not make it. In our own piece of spiritual history here at Parkminster
those roots have been tested. There have been times of flourishing growth and there have
been times where the community struggled – sometimes through challenges beyond control.
Some of the seeds that were planted did not make it. But many did.
Planting seeds and fostering growth can be one of the most frustrating and exhilarating parts of
ministry together. Because communities of faith can do everything right – you can have an
engaging outreach and community partnerships, great worship and music week after week,
deeply committed and caring individuals, enriching ministries with children, youth, and families,
and fabulous programming that brings in the community – and sometimes you do not see
results. The same thing happens in the garden, right? You can do everything right – you can
plant when you are supposed to plant, water when you are supposed to water, put up a fence
so that those pesky little bunnies stay out – and yet sometimes you have a bad season, and you
end up with a disappointing crop.
So, what is the point? If we can do everything right and we still cannot guarantee that we will
grow our community; if we can do everything right and we still cannot guarantee that we will
spread strong roots that will sustain us always, then why do we even try to sow those seeds in
the first place?
Ultimately, that is what God calls us to do. Jesus modeled a life of service and of healing and of
commitment to growth and he urged his followers to do the same. However, Jesus did not say
that it was going to be easy. And yet he told a crowd this parable. He told the crowd that had
gathered that when you sow seeds, they will not necessarily take root.
When we sow seeds – any seeds – we cannot always control where they will fall. One summer
Drummond posted a photo on her blog of a raised vegetable garden. Weeks prior she had
planted lettuce and had spread it evenly throughout the garden only to have harsh rains and
winds come through and move the seeds around. When the plants started to grow, half of the
garden was completely empty, and half of the garden had clusters of squished-together lettuce.
We cannot always control where the seeds will fall. We cannot control the rain that will fall, the
sun that will shine or even the pesky little rabbits that will find their way through the fence and
nibble away at our lettuce. We do the best that we can, we plant where and when we should,
we water when the soil seems dry, and we weed when we think the roots need room to grow.
We prepare ourselves and the garden itself for any scenario or bump in the road that we and it
might face. We nurture seeds that land on rocky terrain because we think there is a possibility
that they could still flourish. We put in a lot of hard work and energy. But in the end, we still
cannot control the outcome.
It is the same in churches. It is the same in this community of faith. We want to keep growing
and sharing what makes this place so special to us with others. We want all people to
experience the radical welcome, hospitality, and inclusivity of this place. And there is only one
way to do that. We need to sow seeds of faith. We need to nurture those seeds wherever they
happen to fall. We cannot be discouraged by where they fall or how well they might be growing
at first. A slow first crop – or even subsequent bad ones to follow – cannot discourage us. We
need to prepare ourselves for difficult seasons and trust that God will provide to us in our
darkest hours. We cannot expect absolute perfection, rather we need to continue to do the
best that we can. And we need to know that our seeds will grow.
We could read the parable of the sower and take away the lesson that if we put our faith in God
that God will provide. We could also read the parable of the sower and take away the lesson
that you need to plant seeds in good soil for them to grow.
But if we really dig deep, we also realize that this parable is about even more than those two
things. This parable is about the community that sustains each other when nothing seems to be
growing. This parable is about standing beside one another and holding each other up when
our roots have not yet taken. This parable is about looking at where the seeds – all the seeds
are – and finding ways to nurture them wherever they have fallen. Seeds will fall on rocky
grounds, rain will drown weakened roots and droughts will dry out soil, but the real test of faith
is what we do after that happens. This parable is about finding grace in unexpected places. This
parable is about seeking God’s shelter and protection when the seeds do not seem to be
growing and this parable is a reminder to give thanks to God not only when are experiencing a
time of growth and abundance, but always.
In other words, the farmer in Jesus’s parable is wholly unconcerned about where the seed falls
or lands or settles — all the farmer chooses to do is keep sowing. Keep flinging. Keep opening
his hands. Why? Because there’s enough seed to go around. There’s enough seed to
accomplish the farmer’s purposes. There is enough.
Sometimes we forget that all the terrain — all the terrain — is under God’s provision and
sustained by God’s love. Who are we to tell the Creator what “good soil” looks like? How can
we sow the seeds that we have been so freely and lavishly given? What if every seed we plant is
a blessing no matter the outcome?
This parable encourages the church across the ages to be known for its absurd generosity. In a
broken, hurting world, how can we be like that farmer, going out in joy, scattering seed before
and behind us in the widest arcs our arms can make. How I wish the world could laugh at our
lavishness and be recipients of it. How I wish everyone could see the quiet, gentle confidence
in us when we tend to the hard, rocky, thorny places in our lives and communities. How I wish
seeds of love, mercy, justice, humility, and vulnerability would fall through our fingers in such
appalling quantities that even the birds, the rocks, the thorns, and the shallow, sun-scorched
corners of the world would burst into colorful, riotous, joyous life.
The thing about this parable is that at some deep, intuitive level, we see its wisdom. Whether
we want to admit it or not, we know that Jesus is telling us the truth. We understand that
seeds are mysterious. We know that the most elegant and carefully cultivated gardens can fail,
while a profusion of weedy, vibrant flowers pushes through a crack in the pavement and
brightens a neighborhood. We’ve seen how new life can spring from the deadest, most
shriveled places in our lives — places we’ve given up on, places we assumed were hardened
beyond hope. We’ve witnessed inhospitable environments being altered by love. We know
that joy flows from selflessness and generosity, not from caution and elitism.
In this broken, hurting world, perhaps we need to be intentional to not only reclaim but share
our joy. Joy that is not superficial – but a joy that emboldens us stay committed in our work
towards justice and compassion. Joy that extends to one another but also bursts forth from
this place into our communities and the world. A joy that ultimately leads us to follow in the
footsteps of this extravagant Sower. Joy that is carefree in its generosity. Joy that isn’t fearful
or waits for a terrain more deserving.
Today, I invite you to reclaim that joy. Imagine the farmer tossing seeds into the wind with a
daring and delighted smile. Share in this joy – toss your own handfuls across the earth. Be
absurd with your generosity. Who knows what may grow.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
Rev. Heather Power
With gratitude to Ree Drummond, Debie Thomas, and others