The Sunday Sermon – July 13, 2014
The Reverend Thomas J. Pettigrew
Parish Priest & Rector
The Church of the Holy Cross, Warrensburg, NY
+In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Not long ago, when I was growing up in the flatlands of Saratoga County, my dad would take me down to the local dairy farm. I’ve probably told you that I used to have fun playing with one of the farm dogs named Jake who would do whatever you told it to do, and letting the baby calves suck my thumb.
But one of the other things I learned was about the planting process. Planting corn requires a lot of preparation. The corn feeds the cows who make the milk, which is the farmer’s cash crop. That’s what he sells in order to make his living.
The soil had to be prepared for the seeds. That was a key process in the whole enterprise. In the parable of the sower this morning we hear about the importance of the soil conditions in the growth of the seeds.
The soil was fertilized, throughout the fall and winter, and then turned over and raked in the early spring. These step, in preparation, were carried out by the farmhands. But, it was the farmer who drove the tractor when the seeds were planted. I remember asking why the farmer was the one who did this, and my dad pointed out to me that it was because the planting of the seeds that was the all-important step. The farmer took the responsibility himself of planting the seeds. The good planting of the seed was vital to the production of a good crop. And a good crop was vital to his livelihood.
What strikes me in our gospel this morning, in which we heard the parable of the Sower and the explanation of that parable, is how indiscriminately the sower casts the seeds. The sower seems to haphazardly toss the seeds upon his field, not differentiating between the good soil and the bad.
There is no doubt that the parable is an autobiographical account of Jesus’ ministry – he was the sower who went about sowing the seeds of the word of God. The various soils are the various conditions of the hearts those who heard that Good News of God proclaimed to them.
The parable, of course, is not just a challenge to who heard the Gospel message in those days. The parable is a challenge to us, as well. It is a challenge to us. A challenge to examine our hearts and admit to ourselves what category of soil they really are.
Jesus tells us there are three types of soil: Soil along the path, snatched up by birds; rocky soil, where there is no depth for the seeds to take root; there’s the seeds sown among the thorns, which choke out the good seeds; and finally there’s the good soil.
Father Victor Patapov, a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church, gives a wonderful account of these various types of soil, and I want to share some of his wisdom with you this morning.
Of the soil of the beaten path, he tells us: “Some people are inattentive and scattered without reverence for the Word of God. Their hearts are like a beaten path, where no good fruit can grow, because the seed of the Divine Word is strewn onto the ground of a coarse soul, trodden by passions, vice, and evil thoughts.”
“Some of them hear the Word of God for a while, sensitive to anything good, but they take the Word into their minds but not into their hearts. Their surfaces have no depth, and their surface religion is seed wasted along the highway, unable to take root. They attend to the Word of God so that in favorable times, they believe; in misfortune, they betray their faith. They do not want to change their lives, to make them worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven. They tolerate no “unseen warfare,” on the “narrow path” of the Church Fathers. When adversity comes, they throw off their cross and they fall into despair, impatience, and murmuring. And their unrooted Word of God is torn and uprooted, never really sown in the ground of their hearts.”
“The seeds that fall among the thorns die too, are choked of life by people immersed in time and possessions. Their times are not to blame, their passion for time and possessions is. Such people may hear and understand the Word of God, and take it to heart, until care or temptation attacks them. They torment the Word of God that is cramped and choked in their hearts. No fruit of eternal life can grow because these people are worldly. The Word of God speaks of blessedness in heaven, but these people want distractions and comforts here and now…”
And finally, of the Good soil, Father Patapov says: “The seed that falls on good ground falls amid people who hear the Word of God, take it and keep it, resolve to follow it, and to offer their fruit of good deeds. Having learned the fullness of truth, they listen to its Word and serve it. These people follow the witness of Apostle Paul: “For not the hearers of the law. but the doers of the law shall be justified”(Romans 2:13).”
Our first challenge today is to determine what soil we are, and to seek the grace and power of the holy spirit to transform us until we have the Good soil, which receives the word of God and bears fruit for the Kingdom.
But there is also another challenge for us. And that challenge for us is one which turns our hearts outward to others. You and I are called to be the body of Christ, and to be the hands and feet of Christ reaching out to a world which is hurting and desirous of God’s love.
You and I are called not only to be recievers of the seeds, planted in our hearts and bearing fruits, but also bearers of that wonderful seed to those whom we meet. The whole world is God’s field. And he wants his seeds cast far and wide.
Do we do our part of sowing the seeds of God’s love among our friends? In the midst of our community? Later today, the Women of Holy Cross have invited us to join with them in sowing knit caps and scarves and gloves. This little project is a big deal! It’s a big deal because its in little projects like this, reaching out to the world in love and service that we till the soil of our hearts, turning over the dirt and making them a place where the seeds of the word can take root and produce great fruits.
We’re a little parish in Warrensburg, but with little projects like this, you and I and our whole parish can reach out in powerful acts of love, planting seeds and making good soil. And so this morning, I want to challenge you, the good people of Holy Cross, to think about and pray about more ways which we can reach out to our community.
For if we live only for ourselves, we fail to live out our purpose as the Body of Christ, which has been called to share God’s love with the world. If you have an idea, bring it up to me! There’s nothing too small. Nothing too insignificant in the eyes of God when we are reaching out in love to spread the seeds of the Kingdom of his Son!
+IN the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.