Jesus’ Parable of the Sower is perhaps is best known and most beloved of parables. When sermons based on this text are preached, it isn’t long before congregations begin to give thanks that they are indeed good soil. After all, it is not as if we are like the rocky ground of society; we are at worship on Sunday. We are hearing God’s Word and singing his praise. By all appearances we assure ourselves that we understand the parable, but appearances aren’t always what they seem.
As the seed of God’s Word is scattered among the congregation, how often does it fall upon those making up the pathway. Yes, they are in worship, but some come not to see, but to be seen. Throughout the life of the Church there have been many who see the Sunday gathering as a way of self-promotion, a means to broaden their standing within the community. Such “Look at me” moments allow the devil’s minions to snatch the seed and devour it as soon as it falls upon them.
Seed is also scattered upon the rocky ground of many who hear the preaching of God’s Word, but only a few times each year. Worship is not a habit for them; they don’t understand the liturgy and have shallow sense of the centrality of the sacraments. For those lacking the roots of faith, Holy Baptism and Holy Communion are simply things we do in order to demonstrate our beliefs. Sadly, it isn’t long before worldly desires become more attractive. Life among God’s people is replaced with the pursuit of earthly pleasures causing the roots of faith to wither and die.
Some of the sower’s seed also falls upon hearers made up of thorny soil, those who hear the Word, yet their minds are preoccupied with other things. “The music is too fast or slow.” “The room is too cold or warm.” “Where is the money going to come from?” “I’m not giving my money to that!” Statements such as these are made through selfish desire and inward focus. They are weeds rooted in once fertile ground, choking the vine of faith until it is no longer the gospel, but other words of self-centeredness that resonate in the listener’s ear.
Finally, Christ assures us the seed of God’s Word also falls upon good soil, those with discerning minds and compassionate hearts. Such people receive the gospel truth and put it into action. It doesn’t matter whether or not personal preferences are met; consideration for others outweighs the desires of self. These are the faithful disciples, ignoring Satan’s attempt to thwart their receiving the gospel with joy so they may put faith into action upon their hearing. Inconveniences and discomforts may present themselves, but they are no match for joy of realizing the scope and depth of God’s mercy and grace.
Only seed that falls upon good soil will produce fruit for God’s kingdom. As disciples of Jesus, we must learn to recognize when we fall short, we can confess our sin and live in faith and love. Through Christ, God transforms us into soil fit for the planting of his Word. Then at last, in our mission and ministry are we able to yield a harvest. “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”