Summer Blockbusters, Week 2
PARABLE OF THE SOWER AND SEEDS
Luke 8:4-8, 11-15
4 When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up.6 Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture.7 Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. 8 Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.” As he said this, he called out, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”
–Luke 8:4-8 New Revised Standard Version
11 “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away.14 As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.
–Luke 8:11-15 New Revised Standard Version
This summer we’re looking at the parables of Jesus.
Parables are stories that make you go “hmmm….” They make you think. They make you work. Sometimes parables raise more questions than they answer.
Parables are subversive. They challenge the way things are. And they sneak into your mind under the guise of a cute story, and they stay there, and then they mess with you.
Parables aren’t true – in a literal sense. There was not an actual farmer who went out to plant seed. There was no literal Good Samaritan. There was not an actual woman who lost one of her 10 coins. These stores are not true in a literal sense, but they are powerfully true in a spiritual sense.
Parables are not true stories, but they are truth stories.
So I wanna tell you a truth story, based on today’s parable.
Once upon a time I preached a really good sermon. (And already some of y’all are thinking “OK, now I know this is not a true story.” But remember it’s a truth story.)
Once upon a time, when I was the pastor of a little white church out in the country, I preached a good sermon – it was a powerful sermon! At the end of the sermon, during the last hymn, I gave an invitation, and people flocked to the altar! They got up out of their seats, they came forward, and they knelt down. Tears were shed. Prayers were prayed. Lives were changed. People even signed up to work in the nursery!
I’ll never forget 4 particular people who were there that day.
There was this one old guy who came to the altar and prayed. He was a business owner– he owned the local cement company. When I gave the invitation, he was the first one to come to the altar. He knelt and he prayed and he went back to his seat.
And that was good – except that he did that every Sunday. It was like clockwork. I’d announce the last hymn and here he’d come, coming to the altar. Sometimes I wouldn’t even give an invitation, and he’d come anyway. Every Sunday, he’d come to the altar and pray.
Now what I knew about this old guy was that:
- In his everyday life he was a bear to live with,
- He was mean to his wife
- He treated his employees like dirt;
- and people weren’t sure, but a lot of people thought he was not quite honest in his business dealings,
What was for certain was that he never talked about Jesus during the week. But boy, every Sunday, he’d come to the altar and make that pious gesture so that everybody could see it.
The second person was a woman who got all emotional and excited.
All during the sermon, I could see her right over there – she laughed, she cried – sometimes I couldn’t tell which was which. After the sermon, she just about ran to the altar. She knelt at that altar and she cried and she cried, and she reared back her head and lifted up her hands and then she knelt down low with her head to the floor – I never saw such an emotional response!
Well, two weeks later, I saw her downtown at an atheist rally. She was holding up a sign that said “What about freedom from religion?” They were shouting “God is not great, God is not good.”
The third person also got all emotional and also came to the altar – but this person actually stuck with it.
He got excited, he got serious about his faith, and he got more involved in the church — and then he got … a promotion –
– and then a pay raise –
– and then a sports car
– and then a boat, and a bigger house
– and then he started going on weekend get-aways –
(which I guess were necessary, because he worked 80 hours a week to pay for all his new toys, so he had to take a break sometime)
The last time I saw him was when I ran into him at the bank. He said, “Yeah, I know I should get back to church, but I’m just so busy, I got so much going on…” And then he paused – and he looked straight at me — and he said, “You know, preacher, to be honest: My life is here on this earth. And I just don’t have time for spiritual things anymore.”
The fourth person was a young woman right out of college.
Now, she only came to church sporadically. She was real quiet, never got all that involved. Usually sat near the back.I knew her name – that was about it.
That day when I gave that sermon, she didn’t come to the altar. When I gave the altar call, she just sat quietly in her seat with her head down. I figured she was embarrassed by all the emotionality.
I also figured I wouldn’t see her again ‘cause that service would scare her away. But she was there the next week, and the next week, and the next…
We had a little Bible study and prayer meeting on Wednesday nights. A lot of small country churches do that. It was mostly sweet gray-haired ladies in their cotton dresses with their fingernails still dirty from working in the garden. But this young woman, just out of college, started coming to the Wednesday night Bible study. She showed up with a brand new Bible that she bought from the Wal-Mart in town. She didn’t say much. But she paid attention like nobody I had ever seen. The sweet old ladies would sit there and nod very religiously, but I could tell by their eyes that they weren’t really listening, they were just being sweet. But this young woman – she was following along in her Bible, soaking it in, quietly hanging on every word.
After a few months went by, she showed up at church with a friend – it was another young woman about her age.
And then she and that friend came back the next Sunday, and they brought another friend.
And then a few weeks later, that little group of three had expanded to five.
They brought one more person, and now this young woman’s little group filled a whole pew in that little country church.
It was only after all of this that I found out that the day I preached that sermon was the day she committed her life to Jesus Christ–not in a fit of emotion at the altar, but quietly at her seat.
That day the seed of the Kingdom of God was planted in her life. But instead of letting it sit on the surface
or letting it die,
or letting it get crowded out by other things,
she allowed it to take root.
And then she nurtured it, by coming to Bible Study, and making worship a priority, and by learning how to pray, and by reading the Bible on her own. And then as she changed, her relationships with the people around her started to change. Slowly, but steadily, the people around her became interested in this faith of hers, and they became very open to an invitation to check it out.
Well, I’ve since moved on, but the last I heard, that little church had doubled in size – not through advertising, not through clever programming – but because of people inviting other people.
And here’s the thing – most of the growth is from people who were invited by somebody who was invited by somebody who was invited by somebody who was invited by that young woman who committed her life to Christ during that one sermon.
Now, here’s the question: Which of the four people in that story are you?
Some of you are here every Sunday, but it’s only a gesture or a habit. You sing along with the music, you sit quietly during the sermons, but your mind is closed and your heart is hard, and nothing I say is going to make any difference in your life.
Some of you are shallow. In here, you’re all about Jesus – but then you’ll walk out of here and you’ll get around some people who think differently, or you’ll be under some kind of pressure, or you’ll feel embarrassed about your faith, and you’ll just fall away.
Some of you are crazy busy. And when other things in life start crowding in, you’ll let them take over and your commitment to Christ will keep getting pushed lower and lower on the list, and then it’ll just be gone.
And some of you are going to hear these words, and you’re going to let them sink in, and you’re going to let them change you. Over time, as you grow spiritually, people are going to see the changes in your life, and they’re going to want what you have. And you’re going to bear fruit – you’re going to see God use you to make a difference in other people’s lives.
Remember this: In the story Jesus told, the seed represents the Word of God. And there is nothing wrong with the seed!
- The Word of God is powerful and active
- It has the potential to change lives
- Now, and for all eternity
There’s nothing wrong with the seed –
– The difference is the condition of the soil.
* So which kind of soil are you?