Matthew 13:1-9,18-23; Psalm 25; Waste and Grace (7-13-14)
Welcome sign: “Welcome to Portales, New Mexico
Home of 12,493 friendly folks and 8-9 grouches”
Universal truth= always a few negative folks/ Murphy’s Law rules
Little boy—raising money by collecting glass bottles
Door to door in his neighborhood asking for donations
Town grouch: little boy asked—Do you have any old coke bottles?
NO! she answered with a scowl
Boy: Do you have any old whiskey bottle?
Grouch: Young man, do I look like the type who would have old whisky bottles?
The boy studied her for a moment and then asked:
Do you have any old vinegar bottles?
As we revisit the Parable of the Sower: what do you see?
The positive side of the story or the negative side?
Some people focus on the negative side: WASTED SEED
“some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up.”
What a waste!
“Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away.”
What a waste!
“Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.”
What a waste!
It all sounds strangely familiar…
Susan’s mother was a teacher for 40 years.
Susan witnessed the frustrations of public school teaching:
Hours of preparing lesson plans;
Efforts fall on deaf ears;
Struggling through the “dead dog days” in classrooms
Tutoring a student who would flunk the exam anyway
Teaching can be a thankless job!
Susan’s mother died, after the funeral she received many letters.
Former students were thanking her mother for her work.
Undeniable testimonials to the harvest of her mother’s hard work.
Letters = comfort for Susan. She began to wonder…
Did mother know how much she meant to these people?
Did she know the fruitfulness of her labors?
Veteran teacher: “The chief positive characteristics that a good teacher must have is this: Good teachers must be in love with the art of sowing seed, but do not need to be there for the harvest.”
This is true for Church ministry as well. Especially for Pastors!
Pastors always greet other pastors with the same question:
“How many people did you have in worship last Sunday?”
Ask a preacher and you’ll get an instant answer.
It’s not that preachers are overly concerned with numbers.
Some preachers are only concerned with metrics!
Most preachers struggle with the same reality as school teachers:
It is hard to measure effective ministry.
So much of the work is open ended, subjective, full of mystery.
It is hard to answer the really important questions:
How many people got saved last year?
How many people have grown in their spiritual life?
How many people are walking closer to the Lord?
How many people have been enriched by our efforts?
How many people have been helped this week?
These are difficult questions to answer!
A Campus Minster was asked this question:
“How many students do you get for a weekly Bible study?”
His answer: “Enough to keep the campus nervous.”
I have heard the complaint on Sunday mornings: Nobody is here!
I answer: “You are here and I am here. We aren’t nobodies!”
I have had others apologize for the small attendance:
“I’m sorry you had to work so hard for so few people, preacher.”
I answer: “Didn’t Jesus spend the majority of his time with 12.”
Jesus provides the model for his ministry
It is rather shocking!
Parable of the Sower: story of Grace, Not waste!
Do you see the GOOD NEWS in this passage?
God understands this waste!
God knows that some seed will not grow.
God knows that some people will reject their Creator God.
God knows that people want to do their own thing.
God chooses to sow seed anyway!
God loves His creation. God loves ALL PEOPLE!
God chooses to sow the seed GENEROUSLY.
God throws the seed into the world with RECKLESS ABANDON.
This is God’s Grace: he sows the seed based on his love for us.
He doesn’t hold back because some seed will fail to grow.
He doesn’t withhold the seed because of possible failure.
He doesn’t stop sowing seed because of human weakness/frailty/sinfulness.
He doesn’t stop sowing seed because of hungry birds/ lousy soil/ weeds and rocks.
We want to object—there is so much waste. What’s the use?
We live in a violent, greedy, anxious world.
We complain that there is too many distractions in this world.
We know that on this bright summer Sunday morning
More people at the beach
Watching tv talk shows
Reading the newspaper
Going to the movies
Than in church!
And we know that this is true year round!
Some are taking extended vacations that last 12 months or more.
Some are not happy when they attend
One member told her preacher: “I only get something out of about 1 in three sermons.”
In baseball logic, that’s batting .333! That’s pretty good!
Does that mean that the other 2 sermons were wasted? NO!
It just means that those sermons were meant for someone else.
Hear the Good News!
God sows the seed because there is a potential for new life.
“Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
Jesus explains this parable in verse 23:
“But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
In spite of all the wasted seed/ lost time/ lost energy/
In spite of all the problems with this sinful world/ frail humanity
GOD STILL CELEBRATES A JOYFUL HARVEST!
30 FOLD HARVEST/ Wal-Mart would be jealous
60 FOLD HARVEST/ investors would be delirious
100 FOLD HARVEST/ Wall Street would be bullish!
Accept God’s Amazing Grace: God plants and receives a harvest!
There may be waste!
There may be much futile effort.
There may be spoiled seed.
There may be disappointing results.
Jesus points us to another truth: story ends with success!
GOD HAS A GREAT HARVEST!
I have witnessed this in every church I have served.
In spite of our human weaknesses, sins, and frailties:
God moves in and brings the harvest.
More often than not, the harvest is the result of some former pastors’/lay leaders’ years of hard work and dedication.
They may never see the growth or witness the results of their labor; GOD BRINGS THE WONDROUS HARVEST.
Laywoman= worked to get her little country church to reach out to its community.
Over the years the congregation lost touch with its changing neighborhood.
She said: “We have got to get back in touch with the people next door.”
She pushed the congregation to open its doors during the week for a senior-citizen day care center.
There was much resistance to the idea.
Leaders in the church worried about the building, costs, liability, and on and on.
When the project was finally put to a vote—it was soundly defeated.
The Laywoman was very bitter.
She said: “I have wasted 10 years of my life in this church, trying to get us moving, praying for change, desperate to get us into real ministry.”
She moved to another church.
3 years later. The same woman was surprised to see a whole delegation from her former church attending a Conference workshop on staring community ministries.
She was even more surprised to hear why they were there.
They explained: “We are here to learn how to organize our senior center. We have been in operation for over a year. It is such a success that we need help in management and organization.”
In God’s church—there is a great deal of frustration, anxiety, and stress.
In God’s church—there appears to be a lot of wasted time, effort, and ministry.
We must be reminded that this is GOD’S CHURCH.
GOD IS GENEROUS—GOD SOWS THE SEED LAVISHLY ON US!
GOD IS FULL OF GRACE—GOD IS NOT DISTRACTED BY WASTE.
GOD IS SURPRISING—GOD IS INTENTIONAL ABOUT SOWING.
If you have ears to hear, Listen!