- Good morning (evening).

o And welcome again; into the house of God; everyone.

 I pray that “the Lord” will; indeed, be with us in this place.

 And that all of us will be changed…

 As we encounter the presence of God—together.

- Today, we’re going to be opening our Bibles to the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 13.

o And we’re going to be spending some time there;

 For the rest of this month; of July.

- Matthew Chapter 13:

o Is a well-known series of parables 

 That Jesus presents;

 In order to explain the nature of the “Kingdom of God.”

- The Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven:

o Was the most central theme of Jesus’s entire ministry on Earth;

 Over 100 different verses in the Gospels;

 Make mention—God’s Kingdom.

o And the book of Matthew; itself.

 Tells us that Jesus went around preaching:

 “Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven  has come near.”

 And that he told us to “seek first; the Kingdom of God.”

- However, Jesus’s “teachings” about the Kingdom;

o Aren’t always entirely clear.

 Matthew 13:13 says.

 (That) This is why I speak to them in parables.

 Although seeing—they do not see;

 And though hearing; they do not hear—nor do they understand.

- I like to say that Jesus probed  his audience’s spiritual senses: w/mysterious parables.

o Rather than giving them easy or trite answers about God’s Kingdom.

 Because the Kingdom of God can’t be reduced;

 To a simple fact  that we learn.

 Or a subject; that we become an expert in.

- The Kingdom of God refers to the “rule and reign” of Christ;

o That is changing the lives of everyone; and everything.

 On Earth  as well as in Heaven…

 It’s hard to pin down exactly what “the Kingdom” is and isn’t 

 Because it’s constantly growing and it’s constantly changing.

o The parables of Christ; and the message of our Gospels:

 Invite us to respond to God’s Kingdom.

 “Repent!” Because of the Kingdom of Heaven;

 Has already  come near.

- Our reading today is found in Matthew Chapter 13; Verses 1-9 & 18-23.

o We’ll also be reading from Isaiah 55; Verses 10-13.

 The Bible tells us…

- That (the) same day; Jesus went out of the house—and he sat by the lake.

o Such large crowds gathered around him…

 That he got into a boat; and sat within it 

 While all the people gathered on the shore.

- And then he told them many things  in parables.

o (Such as) saying; that a farmer went out—to sow some seed.

- As he was scattering the seed: some of it fell along the path;

o And the birds came and ate it up.

- Some of it fell; on the rocky places—where it did not have much soil.

o It sprang up quickly; because the soil was shallow.

 But when the sun came up;

 The plants were scorched.

 And they withered—because they had no root.

- Other seeds fell among the thorns; which grew up and choked the plants.

o And still other seeds  fell on good soil.

 Where it produced a crop;

 A hundred, sixty, or even thirty times what was sown;

 Whoever has ears—let them hear…

- The Bible continues in verse 18…

o Listen to what the parable of the sower; means.

 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom 

 And does not understand it…

 The evil one comes and snatches away; what was sown in their heart.

o This is the seed; that was sown—along the path.

- The seed falling on the rocky ground;

o Refers to someone who hears the word;

o And at once  receives it with joy!

 But since they have no root…

 They last only a “short while.”

o When trouble or persecution comes because of the word; they quickly fall away.

- The seed falling among the thorns; refers to someone who hears the word!

o But “the worries” of this life;

o And the deceitfulness of wealth  chokes the word.

 Making it unfruitful.

- But the seed falling—on the good soil;

o Refers to someone who hears the word  and understands it!

 This is the one who produces a crop;

 Yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.

- Turning to the prophet of Isaiah Chapter 55; Verses 10-13.

o The Bible tells us…

- (That) As the rain and the snow come down from heaven:

o And do not return there; until they have watered the Earth 

 Making it bring forth and sprout;

 Giving seed to the sower  and bread to the eater.

- So is my word that goes out from my mouth:

o It will not return to me  empty.

 But it will accomplish what I desire.

 And achieve the purposes for which I sent it.

- You will go out in joy  and be led forth in peace.

o The mountains and the hills will burst into song before you;

o And all the trees of the field—will clap their hands.

 Instead of the thorn-bush; will grow the juniper.

 And instead of the brier  shall come up the myrtle;

- And it shall be for the Lord a memorial 

o An everlasting sign;

o That will endure forever…

- Thanks be to God—for these Scriptures.

o Given to us, this morning (evening).

 In the name of Jesus Christ; we pray—Amen.

- I’m sure that many of you have heard “the parable” of the sower 

o Who goes out to “sow some seed.”

o Many times before…

 It’s an old classic that we hear referenced;

 Often in the church…

 It’s a very popular parable to “preach on.”

- And perhaps; that’s because—in one sense; it seems so clear-cut.

o There’s a very simple “moral” to the story! That tells us (that):

 There’s all these kinds of soil!

 And you should be the good soil; and not—the bad soil.

- But I’m always quite suspicious whenever the moral of “a parable.”

o Seems  very clear.

 Jesus himself told us that his parables weren’t meant!

 To be “easily” understood.

- And when he explains the meaning of the parable; to his disciples.

o He tells them (in verses 16-17):

 Blessed are your eyes  because they see.

 And your ears  because they hear.

- For truly I tell you; many prophets and many righteous people;

o Longed to see  what you see;

o But did not “see it.”

 And to hear what you hear 

 But did not hear it…

- I don’t think that Jesus meant that many people longed to hear 

o The explanation of a parable; that he had never told before.

 But rather that they longed to hear some inner truth within his words.

 That they longed to see the face of God  on Earth.

 And thus truly understand—what the Lord was doing.

- I’m reminded of what the Apostle Paul said; in 1 Corinthians 3:2.

o When we he wrote:

 (That) I gave you milk! And not solid food.

 Because you were not ready for it yet.

 And indeed! You are still not ready.

- Or the book of Hebrews 5:13-14; which says:

o (That) Everyone who lives on milk—is still an infant 

 Inexperienced in the message of righteousness.

 But solid food is for the mature;

 Who by constant use—have trained their sensibilities;

 To distinguish ‘good’  from evil.

- When we look at Matthew Chapter 13:

o The parable of the sower  who goes out to sow some seed;

 Is the milk;

 That Jesus offers the crowds.

o Whereas the explanation of the parable 

 That he shares only in private!

 Is the meat.

 That Jesus gives; to the disciplesU

 Who have the wisdom and the experience to chew on out.

 Instead of taking it—at face value…

- It’s easy to point out the several different kinds of soil; in the story.

o There’s four categories that Jesus highlights.

- The first is the seed that falls along “the path.”

o Which Jesus says the evil one snatches away 

 Before it has a chance to do anything;

 The parable uses the image—of the birds; who “eat it up.”

- I like to think of “the path” as the busy road in our lives;

o Those places where we’re so focused on the things “we have” to get done!

 Our busy schedule and our many plans! Our errands; and our chores.

o If God were to speak to us in those places…

 Would anyone hear him? At all.

 Or would we be so distracted by the “everyday rigors” of life?

 That we never paid any attention; to God might have to say…

- The second type of soil is the “rocky places.”

o Which Jesus says might set some roots!

 But there’s no depth…

 And when the sun comes up; the plants are scorched!

- I don’t know what the rocky places might be; for every person.

o I feel like the answer is probably unique;

o For every individual.

 What kind of major: problems, or conditions, or features of our lives?

 Feel like rocks; to us.

 Big, heavy things—that take up a lot of space.

o Whenever God speaks into those places;

o Sometimes; we might receive it with joy!

 But soon enough; we’re back to where we started.

 The plant withered 

 Because the rocks—felt bigger; than “God’s word.”

- The third type of soil represents the thorns;

o Which Jesus describes as our worries and the deceitfulness  of wealth;

 When God speaks into this kind of soil.

 He tells us that it gets choked  by our worries!

- The most common kind of stress that Americans suffer; today.

o Often derives from financial stress.

 We worry about our money.

 And we plan for the future  based on our money.

 The term “financial security”  is very telling.

 How many of us even feel just a little bit better;

 After hearing those words.

o Becoming financially secure is “the American dream.”

 We often chase liberty and peace; through the means of our wealth.

 Rather  than through our God.

- Even though we know—in “some small part” of ourselves;

o That the rich suffer just as much; if not even more stress;

o Than the poor  because of their money…

 Money grips us; in ways that are unhealthy.

 Money tells us what’s valuable and what isn’t 

 Even when it’s wrong!

- We’re accustomed to the voice of money;

o And the stress that it brings…

o Even when we should know better.

- There’s a very famous quote; from John Wesley; that’s says.

 The last part of a (believer) to be converted!

 Is their wallet.

- We cling to the power and the voice of money;

o Despite; already having faith—in God.

o Because it’s a very hard “thorn” to untangle; in our souls.

- The last kind of soil that Jesus mentions  is the good soil!

o Very often this is described as someone who “hears the word of the Lord!”

o And believes it/1

 Preachers often compare the good soil 

 To people who are ready to be: converted. For the first time.

 And there may be some truth to that kind of interpretation…

- I believe that every parable has many—layers; to unwrap.

o But the primary substance that stands out to me:

 Is that the four different kinds of soil;

 Don’t really sound very much—like four different people.

- But rather; the four different kinds of soil;

o Sound a bit more—like every person!

o At four different places in our lives.

 We all have different forms of rocky, and thorny, and dry places;

 Of our souls.

- But what defines the good soil?

o How do we know when & where;

o We’re ready “to hear”  the voice of God?

- The reading from Isaiah; Chapter 55 is very illuminating for me.

o Verse 11 says:

 (That) my word that goes out from my mouth:

 And it will not return to me  empty.

 But it will accomplish what I desire;

 And it will achieve the purpose  for which I sent it.

- I’m not sure that I always know what part of me “is.”

o Ready to hear  God’s word.

 But the Lord knows;

 And the Lord’s word; always finds its home.

- The images used in the parable of the sower;

o Are very striking to me:

 The sower scatters seed; freely!

 And abundantly.

o And the soil’s just kind of there  passively.

 Receiving seed.

- There’s almost nothing that “the soil” could do to change itself; by itself.

o If it weren’t for the sower; or the farmer.

o Choosing—to change it;

 To move the rocks out of the way;

 To till up the hard; packed soil.

 OR to weed out—the thorns…

- I don’t think that these are things that we can do  on our own.

o They require the word of God; within us.

- In Matthew 4:4 Jesus says:

o (That) It is written:

 Man shall not live on bread alone;

 But on every word that comes—from the mouth of God

- I believe that we truly are “powerless.”

o Without God’s word  being planted into our lives.

 Maybe we would rather that God change;

 Some major problem that we’re facing;

 Before we’ll choose to listen!

 To what God has been saying…

- But God knows us better than that…

o The rocks, and the thorns, and the dry places of our souls…

 Are exactly the places that we’re not ready to hear;

 What our God has “to say.”

- More than likely; there’s some small patch of ourselves;

o To which; God has already been speaking!

 And we’ve been hearing…

 But perhaps; we haven’t—been paying attention.

- Our God knows exactly “where to find us.”

o And just how  to get to us.

 Our job as the Lord’s people;

 Is to receive; and to listen  whenever we hear the Lord “speak.”

- The “good soil” might seem like a minor;

o Almost irrelevant place; in our lives.

 Not as important!

 As all these rocks; and thorns; and busy paths we have.

- But if that’s where God is speaking to us.

o Then that’s where we ought to listen.

 Because the seed being planted there 

 Contains the power—to change; everything else…

- Repent! Said Jesus.

o Because the Kingdom of Heaven!

o Has already come near; to us.

 The power of God to change us has already been spoken.

 And our God speaks freely; and abundantly!

 The sower casts his seed  in all places…

- I hope that our God will give us all—eyes to see and ears to hear;

o What the Lord has already done.

 I pray that God will produce a crop yielding a 100 times or more;

 Of the grace! That has already been planted…

 Within ever person.

o And I pray that each of us will receive the Lord’s word with joy 

 In the “good soil!”

 So that our God can break up the hard, packed soil;

 Pull out the rocks!

 And unwind—our thorns.

- If you would join me in prayer this morning (evening).

o O Gracious & Merciful God!

 We call out to you as your people;

 Who desperately need your voice!

 “To speak” to us.

o I pray that the word of Jesus Christ will be planted:

 Into the heart of every single person;

 Who is gathered in this place;

 I pray that your kingdom will come near to us;

 And that we will be changed.

I pray these things:

o In the name of Christ our King.

 O Holy & Gracious God;

 Amen.