Seeds of the Kingdom

The Sower and the Seed, Sadao Watanabe

Pentecost +6 2020
Rev. Doug Floyd
Isaiah 55, Psalm 65, Romans 8:7-17, Matthew 13:1-9;18-23

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. [1]

Our good Father is generous, giving us good things like legs and hands and heads. GK Chesterton writes in celebration,

“Once I looked at my bootlaces
Who gave me my bootlaces?
The bookmaker? Bah!
Who gave the bootmaker himself?
What did I ever do that I should be
given bootlaces?”[2]

And again he writes,

“The test of all happiness is gratitude; and I felt grateful, though I hardly knew to whom. Children are grateful when Santa Claus puts in their stockings gifts of toys or sweets. Could I not be grateful to Santa Claus when he put in my stockings the gift of two miraculous legs? We thank people for birthday presents of cigars and slippers. Can I thank no one for the birthday present of birth?”[3]

As I read our texts this week, I am overcome yet again but the abundant generosity of our God. He has rescued us from slavery to sin and death and brought us into the kingdom of His love where we live by His Spirit. Now we follow His path by the Spirit of grace and not as a slave, unable to shake free of the bonds of sin and death. In one sense, we are growing up into this freedom. The life of faith in Christ is a life of growing up into love much like a branch growing out of the vine and eventually producing an abundance of fruit.

When Jesus speaks of the kingdom, He often uses images of seedtime and harvest, of planting and reaping. Today’s parable is part of a series of parables in Matthew 13 that explore the growth of the kingdom of God and growing up in the kingdom.

Over the next few weeks, our lectionary calls attention to Romans 8 and Matthew 13. We are invited to slowly ruminate over the mystery of adoption as children of God who rest safely in the abundance of God’s love. Even as love fills His children and transforms them by the Spirit, His love flows through His children by His Spirit to transform the rest of creation. At the same time, Matthew 13 gives us a picture of a most unlikely kingdom that looks doomed to fail, looks frail and small, but eventually becomes a refuge for all creatures in heaven and earth.

Our Romans passage today reminds us that even as we have been rescued from sin and death, we are being transformed. Once our minds were set on the flesh. That is, the world revolved around us, our desires, our glory. A world revolving around the self turns everything even religion into an extension of self-worship, self-glorification. Though it may look tame and even kind, it is ultimately hostile to God because God is the ultimate threat to self-worship.

Even as we’ve been freed from the power of sin and death, we are being transformed from self-worship to worship of the Most High God. This form of conversion leads us to true and lasting satisfaction as we discover the source of all life and hope and peace. This makes me think of St. Bernard’s spiritual classic “On the Love of God.”

Much like Augustine, he gives us a picture of slow conversion. In the beginning, we are still habituated to a world of self. We love for the sake of ourselves. Our love is not truly reciprocal but always turning back on itself. Our self-love is a dead-end street producing pain in self and others. The Spirit of Grace leads step by step, glory by glory to a God centered world. He freely works in and through relationships, circumstances, joys and sorrows. He speaks to us in the Word and Prayer even as He leads us into a way of loving God for the sake of God not for the sake of self. According to Bernard, some people even reach a final stage of loving self for the sake of God before they die.

This long, slow conversion of the mind, body, and soul into love is also a picture of the slow conversion of all creation by the Spirit of God. All things were created in love and for love. Jesus speaks of the seeds of the kingdom being scattered everywhere. This sower is sowing abundantly. Even as Jesus tells of the sower, he is sowing.

His word is going forth over the waters, across the land, and into the hearts of people. Some are quickened to the heart, some are moved to tears, and some completely misunderstand or even grow angry. These responses do not stop His joyous and generous sharing of seeds of the kingdom of God.

Hidden within a tiny seed is pure potentiality, the glorious plant that will one day spring forth and bear fruit. This beautiful parable makes me think of the creation story in Genesis 1: the plants, the animals, and the humans all bear seed, all reproduce, all bear fruit. A world of generosity. This world is a world of sharing where all things play a role in helping sustain other things within the glorious grace of God’s love.

In Matthew, Jesus has come to His beloved creation. Though it suffers the curse of sin and death, He speaks, acts, and lives out the reality of the kingdom: the hope of creation moving toward glorification in love. The crowds gather to hear His words and see His miracles, the disciples follow closer, learning to obey His commands. Sitting on the boat as a wise king, Jesus proclaims the mysteries of the kingdom and His parables create pictures of a kingdom that is more valuable that the greatest treasure.

This kingdom that is worth more than all the treasure of the world is given out freely and generously. The seeds are thrown into the wind, spreading on all ground: good soil, rocky soil, thorny soil, and even hardened soil. These various soils represent all the varied responses to God’s Word, and yet, we might also think about how these soils represent the various states of our own hearts.

How many of us have sometimes responded to the word of God or the conviction of the Spirit with a renewed passion and fire only to lose our zeal shortly thereafter? How many commitments have been made in a time a heightened emotion only to be abandoned later? And yet, the Word still comes. He still speaks. He stills casts the seeds of the kingdom in and upon us.

Think of Simon Peter’s bold proclamations and commitments followed by Peter’s fear and denials. And yet, the Spirit of God didn’t give up. Peter become the rock He was created to be. Our Lord is calling us into the depths of His love, even as He is calling us into freedom from life oriented around the desires of self. We cannot change by sheer will power.

We can trust His absolute faithfulness. We can return again and again to the throne of mercy and grace. We can cry out the great prayer, “O God make speed to save us, O Lord make haste to help us!” This may be one of the simplest and greatest prayers we could pray. A prayer of dependence upon the faithful One who word goes forth and does not return void.

Come Lord, let your Word take shape in our hearts. Let the kingdom grow up with us and through us that we might become lovers shaped into the image of Christ, shaped by the way of the cross.

“O God make speed to save us, O Lord make haste to help us!”

[1] Isaiah 55:10-11

[2] G.K. Chesterton, GK Chesterton Collected Works, Volume X, Collected Poetry Volume 1, Ignatius Press: 1994, p. 197.

[3] Chesterton, G.. Orthodoxy (Illustrated) (St. Dismas Catholic Classics Book 4) (p. 38). Publisher. Kindle Edition.


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