“Tending the Soil”
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
I want to start off today with asking a few questions. You don’t need to answer out loud, just think them over. There is no right or wrong answer. In fact, these questions are very open to interpretation. You may react very differently to these questions than the person sitting right next to you. So I invite you to listen and let these questions penetrate you and make you think.
How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?
Which is worse, failing or never trying?
If life is so short, why do we do so many things we don’t like and like so many things we don’t do?
When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done?
What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the world?
If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?
Are you doing what you believe in, or are you settling for what you are doing?
Are you more worried about doing things right, or doing the right things?
If you could offer a newborn child only one piece of advice, what would it be?
Would you break the law to save a loved one?
Have you ever seen insanity where you later saw creativity?
Are you holding onto something you need to let go of?
Why are you, you?
What are you most grateful for?
Is is possible to know the truth without challenging it first?
Do you remember that time 5 years ago when you were extremely upset? Does it really matter now?
At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive?
If we learn from our mistakes, why are we always so afraid to make a mistake?
Decisions are being made right now. The question is: Are you making them for yourself, or are you letting others make them for you?
There’s a town that has 3 churches. One church is old. They’ve been worshipping there for something like 200 years. They’ve got a grand old organ and play the old, old hymns. Another church is pretty new, they’ve got all the newest worship gadgets, the digital projector, a great worship band with guitars and drums, keyboard, lights, the whole thing. The other church is a church on the edge of town, they kind of keep to themselves. No one really knows a lot about them, but you see them a lot around town, they tend to dress conservatively and not talk a whole lot.
The old church, it was massive. In it’s hey-day it would sit 800 people on a Sunday morning. But it’s kind of dwindled over the years. Now about 150 attend each week. New people show up every now and again. They may stick around for a week or two, but then kind of disappear. No one really notices though. They’ll be around a long time, someone once left them a tonne of money, so they don’t worry too much about it.
The second church, with all the latest trends. It seems like the young folks like that one. They actually seem pretty excited to go to church. But what they can’t figure out is why they don’t grow, even though it seems like there are new people in attendance each and every week. But again, they don’t worry about it too much, they must be doing something right because new people are coming all the time!
The third church, the one no one knows a lot about? Well, they are a small little church, and are actually pretty close with one another. They have some pretty strong beliefs, and boy you don’t want to get into it with them over some of their issues. No matter what you say, or how you say it, you’re going to be wrong and their way is right! But they’re a happy family together… for the most part. They did run their last pastor out of town, we aren’t quite sure why, but there’s plenty of rumours out there!
Churches come in all shapes and sizes. Each one with their own approach to ministry, their own way of interpreting the Bible, their own way of living out their call to serve.
Jesus tells us there are different ways to spread the Gospel message. He tells us this through the parable of the sower. The seeds are planted on different types of soil. Some grow, some don’t. Some do, but aren’t very healthy. Others grow, but don’t get noticed because of the weeds all around it, and eventually die.
The churches I described earlier exist all over the place. There are the churches which are like the seed falling on the path. People come, looking for the chance to grow, but there’s nothing to hold on to. The ground is hard and impenetrable, so they leave.
There are churches out there which are exciting and really seem to turn people onto Jesus, but when they really start to look for depth and understanding, they realize they can’t get it there. So they will leave, and more new people will take their place. But those who leave, where do they go? People spring up in their faith and love of Jesus, but lack the depth to hold onto this faith.
There are churches out there that live in conflict. There’s little room for questions, instead, to be part of the church you need to understand and live by a set of rules. These churches choke out people who may have a sincere desire to live out as God might be calling them to live.
No church is perfect. I’m not saying we have it right here either. I’m not convinced our churches are the good soil either. If we were, would we be wondering about the future of the United Church on the Northside?
What is the sign of a church that is good soil?
Jesus tells us that the ones who hear the word of the Kingdom of God and understands it, they are the ones who bear fruit, 30, 60, a hundred fold!
Do we understand the Word of God? Are we producing fruit? Or are we one of the other examples?
I know this sound a little ironic as we’re going to be carving up fruit, mashing it, and eating it all within the next 26 hours in this church as we prepare for and host our strawberry tea tomorrow morning.
But how do we produce fruit? To get an apple, you need a tree. To get a tree, you needs seeds. To get seeds, you need… an apple! The apple produced seeds in order to grow more apples. Oranges? Same thing! Grapes? Same thing!
To produce fruit we need to produce seeds. Which means we need to mature ourselves before we can help others grow. We need to deepen our own understanding of Jesus Christ in our lives, so that we are able to help others come to know him when they encounter us, whether in the church or somewhere else.
We need to make our churches “good soil” so that when people come they will encounter the living Christ who lives within us. We need to understand that the garden is more than just what we do here on Sunday mornings, but it extends out into the rest of the week, and also into the rest of our community.
The way to prepare a garden is to give it what it needs. If the garden is the place where the Word of God is encountered, then we must prepare ourselves to receive it, and give it a place to grow so that others will know we have a place where they too can find this life giving fruit.
Immerse ourselves in the Word of God. Know Jesus Christ as our Saviour. Welcome the Holy Spirit as our guide. These are the things that help build a garden, a place where the Word of God lives and helps others to grow.
We are not the gardeners. We are the garden. We are where God is doing His work, growing us into believers in Jesus Christ so the seeds can spread and more gardens can grow.
It’s not about us, it’s about our Lord and the work He can do through us.
A healthy garden produces good fruit. Let’s let the gardener prepare us and feed us with His life giving Word so we can be producers of seeds which go on to grow more and more fruit.