Christ Lutheran Church Upper Darby
July 12, 2020 Worship Sermon - "Life in the Rock"
Delivered by Rev. Stephen Keiser
Isaiah 55:10-13; Psalm 65:[1-8] 9-13; Romans 8:1-11; Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
If scientists are correct, there was a time when the planet earth had absolutely no good soil… not a spec of loam to be found anywhere on the planet. Four billion years ago, when the Garden of Eden was still a dream in the mind of God, the earth was as rocky and barren as the moon. Little by little, God rained down water upon this rocky planet. It probably came in the form of icy meteors that were trapped in the earth’s gravitational pull. The water that fell to the earth evaporated into mist and then condensed into rain, again and again, in a process we call the water cycle. The falling rain began to carve into the rock, producing streams, and puddles, and lakes, and oceans. Eventually, miraculously, in these bodies of water, God called into being the earliest forms of life, single celled organisms that multiplied into slime and algae. As these organisms lived and died, they produced a nutritious bed of organic material into which subsequent generations of organisms could be planted. Over billions of years, the organisms became more and more complex. They grew into multi-celled creatures evolving under God’s loving eye into plants and fish and insects and lizards and birds and animals and people. As each generation died, their bodies decomposed and added to the rich, life-giving loam that was accumulating in layer upon layer on top of the bedrock.
That rich life-giving loam is what our parable calls “good soil.” Good soil is nothing more than rock that has been eroded by water into sand and clay and mixed with a billion generations of organic material to become the fertile, black earth into which we plant our tomatoes and zucchinis.
I share this little history of the earth hoping that it will help us all to see the most profound truth in Jesus’ parable of the sower. The God of life, whom we worship, sows seed not just on good soil, but also on rocky soil; because eventually even rocky soil can become fertile loam. If you don’t believe that, just come to our church one day this week and look at all the plants growing out of the cracks in our sidewalk and our parking lot. Every year I tell myself I’m not going to let those weeds grow out of control like that. But this year, during a time when death is on so many of our minds, let those weeds serve as a beautiful reminder of the power of life. Even concrete and asphalt can become a fertile garden if you keep sowing seeds upon it. And God is the most profligate farmer there is. God keeps sowing seed on rocky soil in order that life may abound.
The parable of the sower contains a warning: if the word of God is going to take root in our lives, if it is going to grow and bear fruit, we need to nurture it. We can devote all our attention and all our energy to the desires and the worries of this world, but if we do, the little bit of God growing in our hearts will get choked and die. If we nurture grudges rather than love, if we give ourselves over to bitterness and resentment, God’s word in us will dry up and wither away when things start to get really hot.
But there’s a flip side to that warning. The sower keeps throwing out the seed, not only on the good soil, but on the rocks, on the path, in the thorns and thistles, and eventually, even the hardest rock begins to give way under the power of the seed. Even the most bitter, hateful person, can be transformed by the power of God’s word.
The word of God is a word of forgiveness, a word of hope, a word of healing, compassion, and liberation. That word is being sown in our hearts dozens of times every day. We don’t always notice it because our hearts ARE hard and we ARE consumed by the worries and desires of the world. But the sower keeps sowing forgiveness and healing and love into us hoping that they will take root.
It’s interesting, Jesus doesn’t call this the parable of the seed, or the parable of the soil, but the parable of the sower. That makes me think Jesus wants to focus our attention on this quirky farmer, who throws seed all over the place. That’s not a very efficient way to farm if you are trying to get as many plants as possible from your seeds. But it sounds like this farmer is less concerned about conserving seed and more concerned about making sure that every square inch of land bears fruit.
If the sower in our story tells us anything about God, this is wonderful news indeed. If you are feeling hard hearted and not particularly fruitful, don’t lose hope. God continues to sow God’s word everywhere – not just on the soil that will be receptive to it. Eventually, as it says in Isaiah, God’s word accomplishes the purpose for which God sent it: it takes root, and grows, and multiplies. Remain in the word God is speaking to you. Let God continue to sow it into your heart until it brings forth fruit. The word that God is planting in you is this: Live! Live, live, live!