Date: Nov. 10, 2019 The BIG Event – Stewardship Sunday
Scripture Lessons: Isaiah 55:10-11 and Matthew 13:1-9
Sermon: What Seeds Are You Planting?
Pastor: Rev. Kim P. Wells
Even I, who was raised by city slicker parents and have always lived in an urban or
suburban environment, know that this parable is not a lesson on farming.
Farmers very carefully assess where and when to plant their seeds. They prepare
the soil with precision and care. Then, when the time is just right, they plant the
seed. Today’s combines are guided by programs on iPads to dispense the precise
amount of seed based on the soil conditions foot by foot through the field. For
farmers, seed is an important investment and they are not going to waste it. Their
goal is to plant it in the most effective way to get the highest return. They want
that yield – 30 fold, 60 fold, even 100 fold!
Seed is an investment like other investments. We pride ourselves on investing
carefully. Where it will pay off. Where the return will be maximized, whether we
are investing seed, or money, or time. We want to see a return. This is the
transactional mindset in our culture. We do something to get something in return.
We are trained to be transactional beings and not only regarding our financial
affairs but in relationships with people, with institutions, with government, and
within society as a whole. We want to know the expected yield before we invest.
The parable we heard today abandons the transactional model entirely. And on
purpose. There really is no quid pro quo here. The farmer plants seeds on the
footpath, the rocky ground, and among thorns. The story tells about the planting of
seeds everywhere. Strewn with abandon. Cast away freely in a wasteful manner.
It’s a random, inefficient investment strategy. And yet, some seed yields 30 fold,
some 60 fold, and some an unimaginable 100 fold.
This planting scheme is more related to nature than agriculture. In nature seeds are
strewn freely. Seeds like dandelions blow through the air and land where they will. Birds spread seeds through their poop. Just look at the plants growing below a
fence where birds sit. Fruits protect seeds which then are deposited randomly by
the animals that eat the fruit and eliminate the seeds. Animals spread seeds on
their fur. So, in nature, we see the widespread, indiscriminate dispersal of seeds.
And this system works. What we hear about in the parable seems more related to
this natural process than to agriculture.
In the parable we hear of the seed of God’s word, the gospel, love, being spread far
and wide with abandon. Unconditional, universal love. Strewn everywhere,
wanted or not. God invests in everyone. Because no one is irredeemable.
Because everyone can bear fruit. Because some seeds will yield, 30, 60, and even
100 fold. So the seeds are freely scattered with the knowledge that some, some of
these seeds will help to grow a better world. And they will be enough.
We see this kind of seed planting in Jesus. Jesus was constantly planting seeds of
love. He offered forgiveness. He healed people. He shared food. He told people
about a world where no one was left behind and everyone was beloved. He shared
a vision of a different kind of reality. He was planting these wonderful seeds all
the time. But many of the seeds that Jesus planted fell on deaf ears. Many people
dismissed Jesus. Many despised him. He was killed because there were people in
power that wanted to end his planting seeds of justice, mercy, and love. Yet many
of the seeds Jesus planted grew and bore fruit. Some 30, some 60, some even 100
fold. That is why we have the church today. It is the result of those seeds that
The church is here to help us know that we have seeds to plant. We are needed to
spread love and compassion and justice in the world. The church is the soil
nurturing us, helping us to grow. Helping the vision of the gospel grow in us;
getting stronger and more deeply rooted so that we can spread the love, the
universal, unconditional love of God, in all circumstances and situations. The
church is here to help us be people of integrity, critical thinkers, people of moral
fiber, compassion, and creativity. And to encourage us to plant the seeds of God’s
reality with abandon. This means being nice to the person who is mean to you.
Getting to know the person who isn’t fair. Giving to a hopeless cause that you
know is right. Taking the job with the huge cut in pay because it makes your heart
sing. Getting involved in social justice and ministries of compassion to serve the
least of these. The church is here to grow the gospel in us and encourage us to
spread the seeds of love in the world – with wasteful abandon.
Rev. Dr. James Forbes was our preaching professor at Union Theological Seminary
in New York City. He went on to serve as the pastor of The Riverside Church in
New York. In his retirement, he continues his ministry, spreading seeds of love
and hope. He has this to say about the church:
“In God’s grace the Church discovers that its member are not helpless victims of
alien powers but bearers of gifts, competencies, and influence for effecting change.
Just as Moses was told to use the rod in his hand and the disciples were bidden to
feed the multitude with the lunch they had, so we are expected to use what we
have. One of the functions of the Church is to help its members discover and
release their power in ways that promote the cause of the Kingdom. Professionals
and non-professionals, trained and untrained workers, rich and poor – all are
influencing their context either by reinforcing the status quo or promoting change.
The issue is not simply one of getting power but of becoming aware of how we use
the power we have, and then developing expertise to make an impact on our
communities for good. The Church is a sleeping giant. What a powerful witness
we could be if the parts of the body came to a new awareness of the power that is
at work within and around us!”
This is another way of talking about planting seeds. And Forbes emphasizes that
we have a lot of seeds, power, to spread in the world. Remember, some of the
seeds will produce an inconceivable yield of 100 fold.
When we look at the world today, we know that we are needed to continue to plant
seeds as Jesus did. We see the rise in acts of racism. We see hate crimes
committed against people who are Jewish and Muslim. We see the break down of
the environment due to human activity which has created global warming. We see violence growing like a cancer in our country. We see the negative attitude toward
immigrants when the only people on this continent that are not immigrants are the
indigenous native americans. We see the rise of anxiety and mental illnesses. We
see little concern about an economic system that creates extensive wealth by
creating extensive poverty. We are needed to plant seeds, seeds, and more seeds!
Strewn everywhere. Cast about with abandon. Some won’t do much. But some
will. Some will produce 30 fold, some 60 fold, and some even an amazing 100
In closing I want to tell you about the redwood tree. It starts from a small seed and
grows to become the largest plant on the planet. These towering trees, some over a
thousand years old, are still to be found in the forests of northern California. In the
book, Wild Trees, author Richard Preston tells of a college student obsessed with
these trees. He and a friend launch themselves into a tree which they call
Nameless and they make their way to the top. Now, we know how that type of tree
grows, right? There are large branches at the bottom and the branches become
thinner and taper off near the top. Right? Well, that is not what these college
students found as they summited Nameless. Here’s how Preston describes the
mature growth of the coast redwood tree as discovered by these adventurous
“As the redwood enters middle age [about 800 years old], it typically loses
its leader. Its top spire dies back. . . and it falls off the tree. . .
“A redwood reacts to the loss of its top by sending out new trunks. The new
trunks appear in the crown, high in the tree, and they point at the sky like the
fingers of an upraised hand. The new trunks grow straight up from larger limbs,
rising vertically and traveling parallel to the main trunk. As the new trunks rise
and extend themselves over centuries, they send out branches. These branches
eventually spit out yet more trunks, and those trunks grow branches that send up
more trunks, and so on. The tree is becoming a grove of redwoods in the air,
containing redwoods of all sizes, from tiny to large. This aerial grove is connected
to the ground through one main trunk. The whole structure is, of course, a single
living thing.” [pp. 20-21]
And this single living thing, a huge tree, with a grove at the canopy, hosts many
other forms of life – many species of lichens and mosses, hanging gardens of ferns
and other plants. Before these college students made their ascent, scientists
considered the redwood canopy a redwood desert. But these students discovered a
whole vast forest ecosystem at the top of the redwood canopy!
And it all starts with a seed. Just one of the 6-8 million seeds produced by a
redwood tree each year. Seeds so tiny that a million seeds weigh just 8 pounds.
May we plant the seeds of the gospel with indiscriminate wasteful abandon.
Because some will take root. Some will yield 30 fold, some 60 fold, and some will
produce an astronomical, unimaginable, explosive yield of 100 fold – food for all,
community for all, material and financial security for all, justice for all.
Inconceivable abundance emerges. When we plant our seeds. Amen.
A reasonable effort has been made to appropriately cite materials referenced in this sermon. For additional information, please contact Lakewood United Church of Christ.