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Getting Seeds to Grow
July 22, 1979

St. Paul's United Methodist Church

LUKE 8:4-15

Most of us want to be productive. We want the seeds to grow. After preparing the ground, after nourishing, fertilizing and watering, we want those seeds to grow. We want to be productive in whatever endeavor. Whether it's our business, or our marriage, or our family, or our community work, or church work, or being a Christian, most of us want to be productive. For to not be productive is to be unproductive like a wasteland, to be barren, to amount to nothing, to do nothing, or that most hideous word—to be a parasite and exist off others, to live off others. 

I'm impressed when I visit our people in the nursing homes. One of the biggest crises that a resident in nursing home faces is the feeling of no longer being productive. So many say, “I'm just no good to anyone anymore. I can't contribute. I'm just useless.” That's a bigger crisis than being sick, that’s a bigger crisis than facing death—to feel unproductive. I try to point out that they still have family, they still can fulfill the role of parent and grandparent, they still can minister to those around them in the nursing home. Perhaps God put them in the nursing home just to be friends to those around them. There's a lot to do, there's a big mission in a nursing home. 

Most everyone wants to be productive, to accomplish something, to be successful. Jesus told this parable about productivity. In this parable, Jesus gave a blueprint on how to be productive with very clearly stated down to earth examples. He began by very graphically describing attitudes and actions that lead to being unproductive, barren, a wasteland. Jesus told how a sower went out to sow, a farmer went out to plant. I imagine that in those days they tossed the seeds, walked at a set pace through the field, tossing the seeds as they walked, sowing. 

Some of the seeds fell on the path. The fields in Israel were long, narrow strips, and dividing the strips were paths that belonged to everyone—no man's land, the right of way—where people walked. It was heavily traveled and became like a highway with hard pavement. Some of the seed would fall on this pathway where it would be trampled on, wasted, where the birds would come and eat them. There was no soft soil for them to lay in. Jesus said the seeds are like the word of God. To some people, it's like missing the field. Some people are unproductive because they missed the field, like missing the boat. They hear but they don't understand, they listen but they don't comprehend. They see but they don't see. Most of it goes right over their head. They miss the field. 

There are those who look at gold and think it's a hunk of rock, looks like it's shiny stuff in a pan mixed with dirt. When they're told that it's gold, all they can think of is the work that it takes to get it out of the dirt. 

There are those who go to a concert or listen to a symphony on the radio and immediately dismiss it as noise and make fun of all that operatic singing because they've made up their mind they won't enjoy it. They miss a whole depth of experience because they’ve never opened themselves or sought to understand another type of music. It's just gone on by. 

There are those who make up their minds ahead of time. Know anybody like that? And they're such experts on everything.  

There are those who go to a foreign country, stay in an American style hotel and eat hamburgers. They know the customs are a little strange, and they're sure they won't like the food. They just miss the field. 

There are those who miss business deals, “Oh, I should have bought that downtown property years ago. Oh, I should have made that investment.” But at the time, it just went on by. 

There are those who hear the gospel, who think Jesus perhaps is a fine man, but they can't comprehend and understand the Lordship of Christ. They've never experienced faith and trust in Christ. They’ve missed the joy of the Lord, missed the love of God. They don't bother to come to church, because they can get it out in the mountains, they hear but don't understand. They hear but they don't comprehend, they miss the field. 

A sower went out to sow and some of the seed fell on rocky ground with shallow top soil. In much of Israel, there is dirt on top, but the topsoil is very shallow with a shelf of limestone rock that is not visible to the eye. The seeds that land on this kind of soil germinate quickly because the sun heats the shallow soil. But when the poor plant attempts to send down its roots down to get moisture, down to get nourishment, it hits the rock and the seed dies of starvation. Some people, says Jesus, are unproductive because they have no roots, they are rootless. They get enthused initially, they get excited, but they don't allow for nourishment. They don't put down roots. They don't take the time and spend the effort to put in the energy to let the seeds nurture and grow. They’re the kind of people who jump from movement to movement. Every time you meet meet them, they have a new idea. They've joined something else, they go to another church, new group, new idea, new fad. They've tried a new kind of food or they've just had the latest diet. 

They get flit from flower the flower until, says Jesus, the test comes. These are the people who hear the word, have faith, have enthusiasm until persecution comes, until the test comes. But, the roots are so shallow, they can't hold up and they collapse. These are the people who are so sure how beautiful motherhood is. They have idealistic dreams of motherhood until the baby starts to teethe and cries 24 hours a day, until the mother can't go here and can't go there because she has to take care of the baby. She finds her social life curtailed. 

Or, the people who enter marriage and are enthused about this beautiful experience of marriage until the first big fight comes, the budget pinches, they get into debt, they can't go here and there, they can't buy this or that because they don't have enough money. 

They are the people who join the church with all kinds of enthusiasm. They are converted and have a great experience until it gets stale, until it takes a little extra work to get out of bed and get to church on Sunday morning. Then it just gets a little weary and the habit will not form. 

They are the people who start a new business and get all excited about the new business until it takes 10 or 12 hours a day of pure drudgery. Such persons are rootless wonders, says Jesus, and they are unproductive 

A sower went out to sow and some of the seeds fell on thorny ground, thorny soil This soil is very deceiving. In that country, as it is in ours, it looks perfectly clean on top, but down underneath are ugly fibrous roots just waiting to raise their ugly heads—like bermuda grass. In that land it's called couch grass and bishop weed. I don't know where it got the name of bishop weed, but it raises its ugly head. It's a funny thing about life why weeds grow faster than the plant! Have you ever noticed that and wonder why the weed is always strong and vibrant while the poor plant struggles, gasping for nourishment? 

These people are unproductive because they get choked. They get stifled by too many commitments. They are over prioritized. Oh, they're very sincere. They're very earnest. They really mean it. They really want to be productive, they really want to produce, they really give their word and they really mean to follow through. But they have so many other things to do, so many other places to go, so many other demands, they just can't say no, and they are stifled and choked. And so they do a poor job at everything rather than a productive job at something. Such persons, says Jesus, are unproductive. They get tired, they wear out, and they drop out of everything for a while. 

A sower went out to sow, said Jesus, and some of the seeds fell on good soil, soil that allowed the roots to go deep, soil that watered and nourished the plant so that it grew into a beautiful plant and yielded a hundredfold harvest. Such persons are productive when they hear the word of God and allow it to grow. Jesus spelled out the process on how to be a productive person. A productive person is one with a noble and generous heart who hears the word and who take it to themselves which means understanding it, getting a glimpse of vision of what it means. 

And not just hearing and not just understanding it, but applying it and using it. Then the next step he says is to persevere. That's the part I don't like—to persevere, to hang in there when the growth is so small. We want the harvest immediately, we want to produce immediately, we want our dreams fulfilled right now. It's just such a long time coming, but Jesus said you must persevere. 

And then you yield the harvest. You hear, you understand, you act on it, you persevere, you hang in there. The productive person is the one who acts and uses it. If you don't use it, you lose it. The productive person takes the word, takes the challenge and acts upon it. Which are you? Take, for example, the announcement made early in the service about Vacation Church School, about caring for the children in the neighborhood. To some, the challenge went on by. They missed the whole thing. It didn't apply to them. It wasn't personal, they were thinking about something else. And anyway, they don't want to do it. So the announcement just went on by. 

But then there were some others who heard the announcement, but the roots didn't get too deep. They had good intentions. They thought of the Thompson boy who lives across the street, the Jones girl who lives over there, cousin Susie's gal on the other end of town, and a little girl over there but I don't know her name. They thought of different people, but they didn't plan a strategy. They didn't decide when to do it and iso t ends, it'll just fail without any roots. 

Then there were those persons who heard the announcement and who very earnestly and sincerely thought of kids and said, “I'm going to do that and this is my strategy. I'm going to call them up when I get home this afternoon. Or, I'm going to talk to their mother tomorrow when we're all out getting the mail.” They plan a strategy, but then this afternoon comes and company comes and then they want to go here and there. Then the telephone rings tomorrow and all the other weeds come up—all the other commitments, all the other priorities. And the poor child gets uninvited to Bible school. He will be unhappy for the rest of his life because he wasn’t invited to Bible School! 

Then there are those who hear the word and let it grow, apply it, and  act on it. They really go out and invite some children. 

Commitment to Christ is like that. To some, the commitment to Christ and the challenges go on by. Others don't let the roots grow. Others crowd it out with other kinds of concerns. But to those few, many are called but few are chosen. They really commit and experience the faith, the joy and the love of God. 

A sower went out to sow. Some of the seeds fell on the path. Some of the seeds fell on rocky soil. Some of the seeds fell in the weeds, but some of the seeds produced a harvest of a hundredfold.

© 1979 Douglas I. Norris