When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to [Jesus], he said in a parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.” As he said this, he called out, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”Luke 8:4-9
The Parable of the Sower has always had a special place in my heart, because it was the very first gospel reading that I preached on as an ordained pastor. It was the assigned Gospel reading for July 11, 1999, the day after I was ordained. And it seemed to me then, as it still seems now, that God was trying to tell me something important through this coincidence of the church calendar: That this parable can guide me in ministry. It can show me a way to think about ministry. For all Christians, to be sure. But for me as a pastor, too.
So I’ve always approached my ministry with this parable in mind. Scattering seed widely, and not worrying about where it would land. Some would land on rocky ground, some among the thorns, and some even on the path. And none of it would bear any fruit. But some of the seed would land on good soil, and it would bring forth much grain.
And when we sow the seed, Jesus teaches us in this parable, we don’t know which is which. So we just sow the seed of God’s word all over the field, and trust that some of it will find good soil.
We can get so focused on results these days, on being efficient, that we can forget that this is a perfectly legitimate way to sow seed. In fact, I once spoke to a friend of mine – a who teaches agriculture at a college in South Carolina – and he assured me that this was, and is, a common way to sow seed. It is called “broadcasting.”
The farmer would walk the field with his bag of seed and scatter it all over, in a rainbow kind of pattern, casting it broadly. And the reason for doing it was simple: you farm on the field you’ve got. Some of it might be rocky. Some of it might have some thorns. But you farm on the field you’ve got.You prepare the ground that you have as best you can, and you scatter the seed. And then? You take care of it, and let the good Lord do the rest.
Now, being the farming-challenged person that I am, I must admit that I had never heard the term “broadcast” in that context before. But it does make sense. And this got me curious to learn a little more about this word, “broadcast,” because I’ve always associated it more with television broadcasting. It turns out that this word began being used in English back in the 1700s. At first it was only used in the agricultural sense, but then in a more figurative way.
And then, beginning in the 1920s, to describe radio broadcasting, and eventually television broadcasting. In fact, NBC, CBS, ABC, and PBS all have the word “Broadcast” in their name. Just like radio, these networks sent out their signal to anyone who wanted to tune in. They scattered their programming widely. They “broadcast” it. And this created a whole new way of communicating and connecting our world together. Everyone could be listening or watching the same thing at the same time. It really was revolutionary, when you think about it.
But back to this parable. And the farmer who was broadcasting his seed. Jesus tells us that this is how we are supposed to do ministry, and share our faith. We are supposed to broadcast the gospel. But have you ever wondered why Jesus came to earth before television, before the internet, before he could broadcast the gospel himself in this way? I have, and here is what I’ve come to believe: That the Son of God had a reason for everything he did, including when and where he came to earth.
And I believe that Jesus intentionally came before all of these broadcasting technologies for a reason: Because he wanted us to be the ones to broadcast his message. Not on TV, necessarily. But in our daily life. In our daily ministry. Person-to-person. One seed, one message, one person at a time. That’s how he wanted us, and still wants us, to spread the gospel.
Lutheran Men in Mission
And isn’t that what Lutheran Men in Mission is all about? Casting the seed of the gospel? Nurturing and forming disciples? Mentoring one another, and helping each other to more faithfully follow Jesus? Whether it’s through One Year to Live Retreats, working together in disaster relief and recovery, leading and joining in men’s groups and men’s bible studies, or simply picking up our phone to check on a brother in Christ, we are in the broadcasting business, Jesus-style. We are in the business of scattering seed broadly and widely, lavishly and wastefully, not worrying about where the seed lands, but being faithful to the work, to the ministry. And trusting the results to Jesus.
And when we do that, there is only one more thing to do: Make sure that we are keeping our own soil good. Make sure that we are the ones with good and honest hearts, as Jesus says in this parable, who are bearing fruit with patient endurance. As we scatter the seeds of the gospel, we’re called to make sure that we aren’t letting the cares and concerns of this world choke our faith, hope and love. We keep up our practices of the faith, keep growing our faith-roots deep in the soil of God’s grace, so that our faith survives the storms and droughts of life. And as we pray for others, we also pray for ourselves, asking God to let our hearts always be good soil, open to the seed of God’s word. Because the good soil is the one who truly hear God’s word, and who embraces it with open minds and open hearts, and who lets it change their lives. And when we do that, God’s word planted in our hearts very naturally bears fruit, and yields even up to a hundredfold, as Jesus tells us.
And so, let us pray this day that God would let our hearts be good soil, open to the seed of God’s word. Let us pray that we would truly receive God’s word with an open heart. So that it can grow in our lives, and yield new seeds that we can then broadcast to the world.
We are called by Jesus to be the sower, who broadcasts the gospel through our words, our deeds, and our love, eagerly and generously, without any concern for where it lands. But to do that, we must first be the good soil, open to the seed of God’s word. Yes, Lord, let all of our hearts be good soil, today and always. Amen