A Sermon by The Rev’d Peter Jin

Jesus is a great story teller. He speaks in parables. He speaks about the here and now ordinary things, common things that people would have understood a sower. In an agricultural society, everyone would understand that Jesus talks about the here and now, and uses it as an analogy for the there and then. So he’s speaking about the kingdom of God, but he uses what people would know in their experience to point to what we cannot totally comprehend the mystery of the kingdom of God, but it gives us some hints. What’s distinct about a parable is it contains a question which causes us to say ‘Well, what does that mean, what’s that about, and who am I in this story’. 

This evening I’m going to make two points. Point One is where is the seed sown and Point Two is who is doing the sowing.

Let’s start with the ground on which the seed is sown. This seed which is later explained to be the word of God. It is both them and us. Jesus’s speaking about different kinds of people that receive the word of God, but certainly we all need to apply that to ourselves. To say where are those places in our lives, where we are receptive to God’s word, and where are the places where we resist God’s Word. 

Jesus describes four different kinds of soil. The first is the path itself that gets trampled on. Those are people who just don’t have any interest, and they see the word of God as irrelevant in their lives. It is easy for us to point our fingers to those who are not Christians. Look, it is them. But I think for some of us, at least when I looked back to my own journey, there were those times where I said ‘All right, enough of that, let’s get down to the business, and no more church stuff, no more God talk. It is nice to be praying about that, but how does that help me solve the real problem? So I dismissed the word of God because it did not relate to my life.

The second kind of soil is the rocky soil: a thin layer of topsoil and the underneath rocky ground. So the seed springs up at once but it can’t have any roots. And so when the sun comes, it withers. In the trials, the difficulties and the hardships of life, we fall away. We become discouraged. We fall into desolation. We stop praying because life is just so hard. 

The third kind of soil Jesus talks about is the thorny soil. The seed grows up and springs up, but then the thorns come in, and choke it, and it bears no fruit. The cares, the worries and the anxieties of life just choke off the word of God. This is indeed  good soil but we don’t put God first. That’s particularly a struggle for all of us, isn’t it? The cares and worries in living in the midst of a consumer culture, and the struggles with finance, the difficulties in the marriage, fighting illness, etc etc, all of those struggles just overwhelm us, and they choke off our ability to be able to grow.

And of course, there is the fourth kind of soil, which is we want to be. That’s the good soil that yields an abundant harvest, 30, 60, 100 fold. Jesus’s talking about the extravagance with which God’s word can be planted in our heart and make our life transformed. 

Ok so far, I’ve been taking about the soil. The second point I want to make is to look at it from the perspective of the sower. Who is this sower? We know it is God. Jesus is addressing this parable to an agricultural society. Virtually everybody would have done some kind of growing. And they would probably hear this parable and then smile at this foolish farmer who is sowing seeds extravagantly onto the pathway, onto the rocky soil, onto the thorny ground, and then some of them falling on the good soil. What kind of farmer is that? Wasting the seed. 

That’s the extravagance of our God who doesn’t give up on any soil, and who doesn’t give up on any of us. God is constantly saying that maybe you are rocky today, but there is an opportunity that those rocks are going to be worn down. Yes, the soil is thorny today, but there’s an opportunity that those thorns maybe cut away, and then turn out to be a good soil. Jesus didn’t speak to the religious elite. The point of the parable is he’s not in the synagogue. He’s going out and he’s talking to everyday people and calling them to conversion. 

It took me 15 years before I became a Christian at the age of 31. God is calling us. God never gives up on us even when we are resistant to God’s word. And I am convinced that Jesus is calling us to join him in this great enterprise of evangelisation. Jesus calls us to take that seed, and to continue to plant extravagantly, and not to give up on our families, our friends, our co-workers.

This parable of Jesus really sets me free. I was ambitious and ignorant during my Anglican formation. I said to my spiritual director that I was going to save China. She didn’t correct me. Probably she didn’t know the population of China which is 1.4 billion. Then I told her that God would make me the first Anglican Archbishop of mainland China. She was trying her best to be patient, but she did correct me on this one. She said, ‘Peter, don’t tell others about your prophecy, especially when you meet with the discernment panel next month about your readiness to be ordained as a deacon’. 

There is a great sense of liberation in this parable of Jesus. We are called to continue to spread that word of God. We, lay and ordained, are called into this ministry of evangelisation. We do it humbly. I recognise that the growth is only going to happen through God’s Grace. Our task is to plant the seeds that one day will grow. We know that those seeds hold future promises. We only lay foundations. We can’t make people believe in God. Amen.