The Gospel. St. Luke 8. 4.
When much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake a parable: A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way-side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and chocked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears, let him hear. And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing, they might not understand. Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the way-side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. And that which fell among thorns are they, which, they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.
Today’s Gospel lesson contains one of Our Lord’s parables that appears to be quite easily explained; indeed, Jesus provides the explanation himself. So all I really have to do is simply reiterate the parable, and give a description of it from the point of view of the Church or in relation to some current event, right? The problem is that this would take only a few minutes; and far be it for me to deny you a sermon of at least moderate length!
We live in a time where the Word of God has been spread far and wide. There are few, if any, nations in this world where at some point in time the Gospel has not been preached during the last two thousand years. And we can see the evidence all around us where this seed has landed by the way-side, and where it has fallen on rocks; we can surely see where the thorns are. We see and know all of this and we tend to assume that the planting has been finished; that there is nothing left for us to do; believing that we at least reside on fertile ground.
This is a very dangerous assumption. We must remember that the seed that landed on fertile ground “bare fruit an hundredfold”. I don’t think that any of us in the Anglican Catholic Church can honestly say that we have “born fruit an hundredfold”. So does that mean that we haven’t heard the Word with honest and good hearts? Does that mean that we’re not on fertile ground after all?
No, of course it doesn’t mean that at all. But what it does mean is that our work is just beginning. In order for our faith to “bare fruit an hundredfold“, we must also put forth the effort to assure that this ground on which the Word of God has been spread actually is fertile.
Many years ago, when we moved into our house in Michigan, the first thing that my wife Catherine noticed was the lack of worms in the soil of the gardens. The previous owners had inundated the ground with chemicals and fertilizers in an attempt to have that perfect lawn. As a result, they had so poisoned the soil that Catherine had to work for years just to make the ground ready for her various flowers and plants. It took a long time, and the grass eventually didn’t look nearly so “perfect” anymore; but she finally reached the point where beautiful and colorful flowers were springing up every year.
Additionally, Catherine would annually add a few new plants to ensure that there was no gap or lack of beauty in her gardens. Catherine used two primary tools to accomplish this; her love of God’s natural beauty, and her perseverance.
So what does that mean for us today? Well, I propose that these two qualities, love and perseverance, are at the heart of Christ’s message in this parable. And I’ll start with the love of God’s natural beauty; the love of His Creation.
It’s no accident that Jesus often used agricultural metaphors in his teachings. For one, these analogies would have made sense to his audience; since many, if not most, of them were either farmers themselves, or were involved in businesses directly dependant on agriculture.
For another, the whole relationship to growing is significant. God does not desire a Faith that is complacent or stagnant. He wants us to grow; to grow in our spiritual lives, to plant the seeds for other growth, and to nurture both so that each may become fruitful and realize its full potential.
Such planting, nurturing and growing shows that we appreciate the great gift of God’s Creation; that we see the beauty and wonder of it all. It is not enough to simply say that we are members of His Holy Catholic Church; we must also realize that with this membership comes the responsibility to care for the Faith and to focus our labors on its flowering and propagation.
I can understand that this is not always an easy thing. The morals of society have been in precipitous decline for quite some time. Groups calling themselves “churches” have perverted the meaning of the Gospel or ignored its tenants altogether. There is little or no regard for the ancient doctrines and traditions of the Catholic Faith; indeed, it seems at times that the whole world is, set against us.
But, this is where the farming analogy once again comes into play. When a farmer undertakes to produce a crop, he is beset by any number of challenges; will there be enough rain, or will there be too much? Will the workers and farmhands perform with the diligence needed to properly care for the fields? Will those for whom he works so hard appreciate the results of his labors? There is much uncertainty.
As Christians, we also face such uncertainty. And just as the farmer can become discouraged by bad weather or unmotivated workers or poor crop prices, so to can we become discouraged by the challenges we face. But again, the example of the farmer speaks to us.
This is the example of perseverance. The farmer acknowledges that there are only so many things that he can control; and that the rest is up to God. Nonetheless, he must work hard at those things that he can control. He must constantly tend the soil. He must turn it often; ridding it of the weeds and rocks that will inhibit growth. He must care for the land that has been entrusted to him each and every day, each and every month, each and every year. It is not enough for him to just cast seeds upon the soil every year. It is only through his perseverance that the harvest will be realized.
This then is the cautionary tale of Our Lord’s parable. We are indeed commanded to spread the Word of God, to spread the seeds of His Gospel. But our duty as Christians is greater than that.
We must also till the garden; constantly reviving and renewing our Faith. We must prepare the soil, adding to our Faith the spiritual nourishment that we find in God’s Holy Sacraments. And we must lovingly tend the field with all perseverance, so that the Faith may grow, and that the harvest may be great.
Today, if we have heard the Word of God with good and honest hearts we will, with all love and perseverance, set a course that will allow His harvest to come to perfection. And we will do so with the confidence of a people who knows that our Faith is indeed planted on fertile ground.
But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.
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