July 12, 2020
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
In the Epistle reading for today, Paul says something extremely important. He said, "You are in the Spirit since the Spirit of God dwells in you." And Paul writes that for those who are "in Christ", and "Christ is in them", "the Spirit of God dwells in you".
This is an amazing statement. It is not something we should take for granted. So just how does this "Spirit of God", this Jesus, come to dwell in us?
"Us" is the key word here, since Paul writes in the plural. Paul rarely speaks of an individual's relationship to Jesus. He usually speaks of the individual in the context of the faith community--the community of Christ's Body, the priesthood of all believers. How does Jesus and the Spirit of God come to "dwell in us"?
In the Gospel reading, the Parable of the Sower helps us see just what things we "ought to do", and just how we might find ourselves equipped with the "grace and power to accomplish them."
Then we as a community might be prepared to receive Jesus and the Spirit of God into our midst. We do want God's spirit to "dwell" among us. In Greek it is like pitching a tent here, or setting up shop, or moving into our neighborhood.
And the first thing we might notice is the repetition, "A sower went out to sow, and as he sowed..." This is no random person scattering seed hoping that mother nature will do her job and bring in the harvest.
This sower is sowing, he knows what he is doing. This seed goes where it is supposed to go. No bare spots. No soil is overplanted. Yet, even with a sower who knows what he is doing, some seeds land on the road, or on stones, or among thorns.
Vincent van Gogh, a 19th century Dutch artist, understood this. He understood that the seeds were God's Word of the Kingdom--and van Gogh knew, as we all know, that Jesus is God's Word of the Kingdom. Jesus, the Word of God's Kingdom, came to proclaim a message: I will set you free; I won't let you be anything but holy, good and free.
Now what most people do not know is that the young van Gogh set off to following his father's footsteps as a Protestant pastor. He spent some years evangelizing, bringing this good news of God's Word to the poor, beginning with mine workers in Belgium. During this time, he was able to identify with the miners, their families and their lifestyles. His religious beliefs made him want to alleviate spiritual and physical suffering.
Sometime later, he turned to painting as another way to express his desire to bring people closer to God, closer to each other and closer to themselves.
In 1888 he painted "The Sower", a famous work in the history of art. In the picture, one sees the sower, practiced in the art of sowing, deliberately planting the seed in the soil.
For van Gogh, yellow symbolized faith, triumph and love. The color blue represented the divine--and so e combines these colors, so they seem to move together, showing the relationship of all living things.
And there is something holy, good and free in the figure of "The Sower"--who, in the parable, of course, is God in Christ planting the Good News of God's Kingdom in the soil of our hearts.
And the very thought that this seed, the Word of God, could yield a hundredfold would be heard by the farmers and fishermen in Jesus day as simply fantastic! There is no seed known that will produce that much of a harvest. Maybe tenfold, or twentyfold or even thirtyfold, but 60 or 100 is simply unrealistic!
We are to get the point and respond with awe that God's Word possesses the grace and power to produce a fantastic harvest. We are meant to want this Word planted in the soil of our own hearts, where we can tend to it, hear it, and be transformed a hundred times over ourselves.
We want that power planted here at St. Andrew's Church. Wouldn't it be nice to see a hundred-fold increase in our worship? What a truly awesome gift from an awesome God.
Of course, the dangers of not tending to it are also a possibility. It i s a parable of self-analysis: Are we fertile, well-tilled, deeply mulched soil? Or are we rocky ground? Do we welcome and make opportunities to tend to God's Word every day? Or do we spend more time tending to the thorns of wealth and the cares of the world, so that the Word of God yields nothing?
Many who first heard Jesus tell this story figured out its meaning: We are the soil, the seed of God's Word that comes to rest in us. We are those who till and water and mulch and care for God's Word.
We become sowers of the Word ourselves--like the young Vincent van Gogh, like St. Paul, like the fishermen, the tenant farmers, the soldiers and others who first heard this story.
Like the skilled sower, may we become more practiced in letting the Word take root in our lives so we might begin to feel and to know that what St. Paul says is true: "We are in the Spirit, God's Spirit dwells in us."
God's son Jesus desires to pitch his tent and plant his Word in our hearts and minds and souls so that we might truly become holy, good, and free!
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