31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
January 17, 2016
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
There is a story that Lady Bird Johnson used to drive along the Texas highways scattering wildflower seeds as she rode along. It’s just a story. I could not find actual proof that she did it, but what a picture. Can you just imagine the perfectly coiffed First Lady driving along with her windows down, her hand out the window, flinging wildflower seeds into the wind?
It brings to mind the parable of the sower. The sower goes out to his field, and he takes a handful of seed and just tosses it. There is no thought to cultivating the land, no carefully crafted planting plan.
Unlike many of us, the sower does not put down top soil on a barren patch of lawn, carefully sprinkle grass seed on it, and then meticulously water it until there is grass. The sower does not push individual seeds into mounds of soil rich with fertilizer and compost, to then weed and carefully watch the seeds throughout the growing months.
The sower doesn’t do any of those things. The sower just sows, just recklessly and liberally scatters the seed, tossing it here and there. You would think that in this time before modern farming techniques, in this time of food and water scarcity that the sower would be more prudent, more careful. The sower is not.
Remember though, this is a parable. This is a metaphor, and the seed is actually the word of God.
Jesus explains the parable, the metaphor, to his disciples: the seeds sown on the path are swooped up by the devil like a bird gobbling up seed; the seeds sown on rocky ground joyfully receive God’s word but have no root and fall away in times of persecution; the seeds sown among the thorns are chocked by the cares and temptations of the world.
God’s Word does not take root, does not bear fruit in any of these situations.
But when God’s Word does land in good soil, then God’s Word is heard; God’s Word is lived, and it bears fruit thirty, sixty, a hundredfold.
The parable leaves me wondering – if the sower knows that only the seed planted in the good soil will flourish and produce grain, why plant the seed anywhere else?
If God knows that only the Word shared with those whose hearts are good soil will produce fruit, why bother sharing the Word with everyone?
The parable of the sower tells us a lot about God. God is generous; God is extravagant; God shares God’s love and God’s Word with all, without reservation, without restraint, without judgment about who is worthy or willing.
What if we were as extravagant as God in sharing God’s Word? What if we were even half as extravagant?
What would this world look like, what would God’s kingdom look like if we scattered the seeds of Jesus’ good news everywhere we went?
This past summer at the United Church of Christ General Synod, our church’s biannual gathering, I had the opportunity to hear Paul Raushenbush. At the time, he was the editor for the Huffington Post’s religion section, and now he is the Senior Vice-President for Public Engagement at Auburn Seminary. Paul is also the great-grandson of both Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis and the famous American Baptist pastor, Walter Rauschenbusch.
He is man whose family is deeply rooted in faith, and yet, there was a time in Paul’s life when he himself was not deeply grounded in anything. He was working in the music industry and ‘the cares of the world, the lure of wealth and the desire for other things’ had him trapped in a life style of alcohol and drug abuse.
He told us this summer that it was his cousins inviting him to church that saved his life. Here he was struggling, trapped, choking, and he discovered that Jesus’ good news was for him. God’s unconditional love was for him. And it did not matter that he was gay; it did not matter that he was an alcoholic; it did not matter that he had not been to church in years, God loved him.
Paul Raushenbush went on to become an American Baptist pastor like his great-grandfather, and his life and his writing have born fruit for the kingdom of God thirty, sixty, a hundred fold.
Imagine though what would have happened if his cousins had decided that he would never be good soil to hear God’s Word? Imagine if his cousins had been overly cautious in their sowing of God’s Word?
The church, God’s Word, saved his life, Paul Raushenbush told us, and then he went on to challenge us to be generous and extravagant with God’s Word, using every avenue available to us: Email, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, SnapChat.
And before you dismiss that idea by saying, “What are those?” and “I don’t do social media”, remember that God’s Word saves lives. God’s Word has saved my life, and I am going to guess that if you are here, God’s Word has saved your life. God’s Word has given us hope and comfort, peace and encouragement in some of the darkness, most difficult times in our lives.
So if we have the opportunity to share God’s Word, if we have the ability to sow seeds of hope and comfort, peace and encouragement in someone else’s life, we have to do it. We are called by God to do it.
And we might be amazed at how those seeds will seemingly grow overnight. And we will have times of frustration when it seems like God’s Word is never going to grow in someone’s life, that God’s Word and love will forever land on the rocky ground, be choked by thorns, be trampled on the busy path.
In those times when we wonder if all of the times we have told someone God loves them or that God has a future of hope planned for them, in those moments of doubt that anything will come of us sharing God’s Word, remember that there is a reason why our Holy Sower shares the seeds of God’s Word so generously, so widely, so extravagantly – and that is because we never know whose heart is going to be good soil; we cannot predict if this is the moment when someone’s heart will be ready to receive God’s Word; we cannot see if God’s Word is growing ever so slowly in someone’s soul. Only God knows.
What we know though is that the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, it can easily be overlooked as being too small; it can be underestimated and dismissed as insignificant, but it will grow. It will grow and grow and grow until it is a place for all people to find a sanctuary and a home. And that is the good news that saves lives.
In this Epiphany season, when the church is called to make manifest, to show the light and love of Jesus Christ to all the world, I encourage you to sow the seeds of God’s Word as generously and extravagantly as Lady Bird Johnson did wildflower seeds along the Texas highways. People might call you crazy. People might call you foolish or wasteful, but just imagine how gloriously beautiful, how diverse and extraordinary the kingdom of God will be because you did.