The Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
The Reverend Ashley Mather, Curate

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

The Sower…Not the Soil

This is a parable about the sower, not the soil. This is also about evangelism. Over the past several weeks, parts of our community have been talking about embracing evangelism in our zoom Christian education class. And this Gospel we just heard lines up with the evangelism series that we recently completed. In this class we learned to view evangelism not as a way to force Jesus on others but to seek, name, and celebrate Jesus’ loving presence in the stories of all people — then invite everyone to more.

When Jesus tells this parable, he is encouraging and preparing the disciples as they go out into the world in his name. We often mistake this parable to be about the soil, but all the talk about the soil is just Jesus preparing the disciples for the way in which the words they bring may not take root. But Jesus wants them to scatter the seeds far and wide. He doesn’t want them to worry about whether the soil is good enough to receive the seed…the Holy Spirit will do that work. The disciples job is to spread the word, not discern who is worthy or not to receive the word.

When I was in high school, early college, and even some summers in my mid-20s, I worked at Panera. As with most restaurants, there are predominantly two shifts: the morning shift and evening shift. At my most recent experience of working at a Panera, I would work the morning shift. So I would come in be-fore we opened, and I would get a part of the store ready to receive customers. Within five minutes of getting to work, I could generally tell you if it was going to be a good shift or a bad shift based on how well the closing shift had closed the store. If they had set me up for success, then it was going to be a good shift. But if they didn’t stock things…if they didn’t clean properly…if they didn’t do their jobs, then my job was made immensely harder. And the same can be said for the closing shift… if I didn’t set them up for success, then they couldn’t do their job properly either. Even though the morning shift and the evening shifts didn’t overlap by a lot, one shift doing their job would allow the other to do their job as well.

The Holy Spirit will do its job with or without us, but its job is made immensely easier…is set up for success…if we scatter the seed, if we spread the word. And we have to have faith that the Holy Spirit will do its job. If we try to micromanage the work of the Holy Spirit, then we have less time to do the work that God calls us to do…to scatter the seed…to spread the word. When we try to micromanage the work of the Holy Spirit, then we’re actually being less efficient when we might actually think that we’re being more efficient.

Removing the step of discerning who is and is not worthy of receiving the seed…of receiving the word of God…actually liberates us. It liberates us to live our lives and to use our words for anyone to hear. For anyone who will listen. But it’s not our job to make them listen…it’s our job to spread the word.

In our country, many lives and cultures revolve around efficiency. Between assembly lines and machin-ery, we want things to be running smoothly…running efficiently. And while this is not necessarily a bad thing, when we try to micromanage every aspect of our lives to be as efficient as possible, then we may miss some doings of the Holy Spirit.

The disciples wanted to be as efficient as possible as well, and that’s why Jesus was telling this parable. Jesus didn’t just tell parables because they already made sense, he told parables to make sense of things that didn’t make sense to them in the first place.

Through evangelism, we invite everyone to more, but an invitation isn’t a requirement. And if someone declines an invitation, we don’t go over to their home and force them into the car just to come to an event. We simply hope that they’ll join us at some point or at another time. When the sower scatters the seed, he doesn’t force the seed in between the rocks, past the weeds, or out of the way of folks who might walk on the path, but that doesn’t mean that something won’t take root. When an invitation is forced, it becomes unappealing, but simply knowing one was invited may cause them to seek more.

Scatter the seed, spread the word, and leave room for the Holy Spirit to take root and do its work. AMEN.