We’re called to be farmers

Jeff Garrison
Bluemont and Mayberry Presbyterian Churches
June 19, 2022
Luke 8:1-15

Recorded at Mayberry Church on Friday, June 17, 2022

At the beginning of worship:

Does everyone have their gardens planted? I transplanted eggplants and winter squash this week, which I’d started indoors by seed. That’s the last for my garden until later in the summer when I’ll replant lettuce, turnips, and beets for the fall. Today’s theme is about planting, but not just about putting seeds in the ground. How do we plant the seeds of God’s hope and grace into the minds and hearts of others? 

We all know that Jesus calls disciples to fish for people, right? But that’s just in Matthew and Mark’s gospel. We’re called also to be Sowers of God’s word and that’s in all three synoptic gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke.[1] But how do we sow God’s word? Ponder this question this morning. I’d love to hear your ideas. This also might be something to talk about with one another after worship. 

Before reading the scripture:

Last week, we saw a woman break the social customs of the day by crashing a dinner party and anointing Jesus’ feet.[2] Today, as we move into the 8th chapter of Luke, we learn Jesus and the disciples are also accompanied by woman as they travel and teach. Luke focuses on women in Jesus’ ministry. He also often places contrasting stories side by side, as he does here with the story of the forgiven woman followed by women travelling with Jesus and supporting his ministry.[3]

Our reading today is about sharing the gospel. That’s what the disciples, including the women, are doing. And it’s what we’re called to do. Yet, we’re not always successful, as we see in this parable. But that’s okay. We’re called to try in good faith. Ultimately, when it comes to salvation, God is in charge. 

Read Luke 8:1-15

The Call to be a Teacher

If you want to make a difference in the world, there probably no better occupation, calling, or vocation than to be a teacher. Think back on your lives. Parents aside, in our younger years, teachers probably influenced our life more than anyone else. In addition to giving us the knowledge we need to make it through life, good teachers show us they care and instills in us curiosity for the world and compassion for others. 

Ms. Freeman

My family moved during the summer between my third and fourth grade. It was traumatic to leave friends and my old school behind and to start over again at Bradley Creek Elementary School. 

My teacher in the fourth grade, Ms Freeman, made all the difference. I struggled making friends in this new school and did not do well academically. My conduct grades were even more atrocious. Unbeknownst to be, Ms. Freeman got permission from my parents to keep me after school one day. I’ll never forget, when all the kids left class and headed to the bus. I was told to remain behind. I felt rejected. 

But Ms. Freeman won me over that afternoon by going to the teachers’ lounge and fetching us both a Pepsi-Cola. I was a cheap date! We visited about the changes going on in my life. Then she gave me a ride home. I think she had a hot new mustang. If not, it was some spiffy new car. From then on, Ms. Freeman was more than a teacher. She was a friend.

I have not seen or heard of her since I finished elementary school at Bradley Creek a few years later. Hopefully, she knows I and many in the class turned out okay. Others, at least one other that I know of, was big disappointment. He’ll probably spend the rest of his life behind bars. Sadly, that’s how it goes. Some seeds fall in good soil, some don’t. 

Parable of the Sower:

Where do we see ourselves in this parable? I suggest that we’re to be the Sower. For you know, when you bury a seed in the ground, you lose control. We trust the soil. We have faith, as the seed magically dies to come alive in a new plant. 

You know, it was hard for the disciples and those around Jesus to see so many people who did not receive our Savior’s message. They were close to Jesus and saw him change lives. But others seem unaffected. This bothered them.

Jesus answers a lingering question

The question still lingers today. Why do some people accept the Jesus’ message while others ignore it? And then there are those who outright reject it? Many, especially new Christians, become excited about Jesus and wonder why no one else seems to share their excitement. After all, they tasted the bread of life, they’ve realized that their lives have been redeemed, saved. With this new and euphoric experience, they wonder why the world doesn’t embrace Jesus’ message. After all, it would solve a lot of problems. But, as it is, not everyone accepts the gospel.  

The parable of the Sower addresses this lingering question as to why some ignore the gospel, why others seem to accept it only to fall away, and why the gospel message in other blossoms. There’s a crowd of people around Jesus when he tells this story. Many of them, we can assume, were farmers. They knew what it meant to sow seed. 

Farming in the first century:

Farming in the first century was different. They didn’t have fancy farm implements: plows, disks, grain drills, planters, and cultivators. First century farmers didn’t first plow their fields; instead, they literally sowed seed by tossing it over the land. Then they came back and, with a rough prototype of a plow, disturbed the ground a bit, kicking dirt up over the seeds, so that they might sprout and grow. 

Of course, with this primitive style of agriculture, some seeds did fall on the path and were either trampled or eaten by birds before they were covered with dirt and allow to germinate.  Other seeds fell in with the weeds and the nutgrass which overwhelmed the plants before they had a chance to produce. Others fell among the rocks and couldn’t establish solid roots. But there were a few seeds that landed in good soil. They made an incredible harvest.

What’s Jesus’ driving at?

Listening to this parable, I’m sure many wondered what Jesus was driving at. Certainly, they knew what he was talking about, in a literal sense. They’d either sowed many a seed themselves or they’d seen farmers at work. When Jesus interprets the seed in the story to represent the word of God, many who heard the parable probably worried whether they were in good or bad soil. In other words, will the gospel take root in me, or will I turn away in despair? Therefore, they ask Jesus to explain his story. 

Explanation of the parable:

From Jesus’ explanation, we learn the intention of this parable is not for us to worry and wonder about our faith. Instead, the parable addresses the concern Jesus’ followers have about not everyone responding to the gospel.   Not everyone hears Christ’s call—and not everyone who hears takes his word to heart. But just as the Sower continues to plant even though he knows that not every seed will grow into a fruitful plant, we too must continue our work. In other words, instead of worrying about what type of soil we’re rooted in, we should see ourselves as the Sower. We’ve been called to share the gospel, which is to sow the seeds of faith. When we sow such seeds, we can’t control the outcome.

Responsibility to be faithful:

When we see ourselves as the Sower in the story, we understand we have a responsibility. Our task as Christians, is to be faithful, not successful. Because we don’t know when or where a particular seed might germinate, we carry out our tasks and trust God will bless our efforts. This takes a big burden off our shoulders, for we are just laborers in God’s Garden. 

Proclamation and listening required

For the gospel to germinate, it requires two things: People must hear. Believers must tell others. But the other person must hear and understand.[4] We control only our message. It’s up to the listener and the Holy Spirit to ensure the message is heard and understood.[5] We participate in the sowing of seeds and in the harvest, but God is the one who brings about the bounty. Faithfully carrying out our call is all that is asked of us.  

Sowing seeds today:

So how do we sow seeds? Let me suggest two ways. First, if people see us living a godly life, putting our trust and faith in God, then we’re sowing seeds. Sometimes it might go against the grain of who we are to trust in God. We should live within the Platonic idea that it is better for our soul’s sake even to suffer wrong than for us to do wrong.[6] That’s having faith, putting our trust in the Lord. Furthermore, without us bragging or being showy, people should see signs of fruit from our lives as they witness our kindness and gentleness. 

A second way we sow seeds is to tell others about Jesus. We do this by inviting people to church where they can learn about Jesus. But we should also be ready when called upon to give a testimony. What does it mean for us to be a Christian? Can we articulate to others why we place our faith in Jesus? Can we share what it means to us to trust him, to follow him? 

An elevator speech

One thing you might try this week, to help you grow in your faith, is to write out an “elevator speech”? An elevator speech is a brief sales pitch for an idea. It’s short enough to share with someone in the time you have together in an elevator ride. What about your faith that is important to you that you would be willing to share with others? Write it down, keep it short and simple, then if you’re ever called upon to give a testimony, you’ll be ready. Here is my attempt at an elevator speech: 

I’m a sinful man. While I am not worthy of the grace God has shown me through Jesus Christ, I am grateful Christ died for me and called me as not just a disciple but a minister within his church. I am grateful God’s Spirit surrounds me even when I am unaware of such presence. Out of gratitude, I do what I can to bring glory to God though Jesus Christ, my Savior and Lord, by loving God and others. 

If people see us living a godly life, a life of faith, then we’re sowing seeds. If people see us living a life that’s not so godly, one where we don’t put our faith in God, we’ll be sowing weeds rather than seeds. Let’s sow good seeds. Amen.

[1] Jesus call for the disciples to become “fisherman is found in Matthew 4:18-22 and Mark 1:16-20. The Parable of the Sower is found in Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23; Mark 4:1-9, 13-20; and Luke 8:4-15. 

[2] See https://fromarockyhillside.com/2022/06/all-are-in-need-of-forgiveness-the-seemingly-righteous-and-the-obvious-sinner/

[3]Fred B. Craddock, Luke, Interpretation, A Bible-Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1990), 106. Another example of Luke placing contrasting stories back-to-back: The blind beggar and rich Zacchaeus (18:35-19:10).

[4] Craddock, 111. 

[5] James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Luke (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015), 240. 

[6] Arthur Herman, The Cavet and the Light: Plato Verses Aristotle and the Struggle for the Soul of Western Civilization. (2013). 

Travel with us this summer as we learn what it means to share the good news

10 Replies to “We’re called to be farmers”

  1. When I read your sermons, they bring back echoes of others I’ve heard many times in my past. The sower of the seeds was always my favorite parable, but I wasn’t thinking about being the sower. I was always worried about where I would land as a seed. I still worry, because I struggle and go back and forth on faith all the time. I don’t have a garden. My attempts at gardening broke me years and years ago. My cleaning guy and friend Mario brought me a peace lily as a surprise recently. It is growing like the plant in “Little Shop of Horrors. At least I haven’t killed it yet ~ lol!

  2. Homegrown vegetables are wonderful, or home grown herbs on the windowsill for those who may not have gardens.
    Your last photograph is beautiful, very calming.

    All the best Jan

    1. Thankfully, I have a place here for a substantial garden with lots of tomatoes, peppers, squash, cucumbers, turnips, beets, greens, etc. Everything is looking good except for my eggplants.

  3. If I had some place to plant a garden I would but we aren’t allowed to have that outside in my apartment complex. That last picture is so relaxing.

    1. Working in the ground does bring about a sense of accomplishment, relaxation, and joy. I’m sorry you don’t have such an opportunity where you live.

  4. Being a teacher, I loved your story of your 4th grade teacher. My son had one–Ms. Meacham. She turned his life around. I’ll never forget her.

  5. I had some wonderful teachers over the years (and a few I’d rather not remember) and fortunately I was able to let some of them know how much I appreciated their efforts.

    I waited late to plant what I wanted this summer and, sadly, our early excessive heat is taking its toll on most of it.

    1. I had some of both kind of teachers. We were unseasonably hot last week and unseasonably cool this weekend… But the garden is doing well

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