Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Sower and the Soils

+In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Amen.

You may have noticed in this parable of the Sower and the Soils (Luke 8:5-15) that our Lord gave far more attention to the seeds that did not grow, than to those that actually did. Perhaps the reason for this is that there’s nothing unusual about seeds that grow. Although it may indeed seem quite miraculous to us that something as tiny as say, a little apple seed, can grow into a large tree producing bushels and bushels of fruit for many years, the fact is that this is what God designed seeds to do. I find that encouraging because remember, we aren’t really talking about agriculture here; the “seeds” in this parable represent the word of God. The implication is that when the word of God like a tiny seed finds its way into the rich ground of a receptive soul, phenomenal growth and development is designed to take place, yielding much spiritual fruit over time.

Thus our Lord turns our attention to the seeds that did not grow and we find that the fault was not at all with the seeds, but with the ground they found themselves in. As powerful as the word of God is, as great as its potential is to bring forth spiritual fruit unto salvation, nevertheless there remain at least three conditions of the human heart that can actually block that miraculous power and prevent it from fulfilling its divine purpose.

In the first example, our Lord describes some of the seed as falling alongside the road where it was trampled underfoot by men, allowing the devil to come along later and snatch it away. A road is a place of great activity; upon it you can find busy people rushing from one place to another. The seeds of the word of God are trampled here because everyone is in such a hurry that they never take notice of what is underfoot.

Doesn’t this describe life for many of us? We are always busy, always in a hurry; every day seems to bring endless demands on our limited time to the point that we scarcely notice that we have become too busy for God. We rush through our prayers or perhaps don’t pray at all. We can’t remember when the last time was that we read the bible. And as for taking the time to quietly sit down and practice even just a few minutes of silence in the presence of God…well, our hyper-active souls just can’t sit still that long; we feel as if we are wasting time when there is so much else to do.

As a result of our so seldom making time for God, the devil comes and snatches away our opportunities, pecks away at any lingering desire for spiritual things, and eventually removes every trace of whatever seeds were sown in our hearts by God.

The second example in the parable pertains to seeds that fell upon rock and sprang up, but quickly withered away because there was no moisture. Seeds and the young plants they produce need water to grow. Our Holy Fathers tell us that “prayer is the water of the garden of the soul”. Furthermore, our gardens are very thirsty and must be watered daily. Some folks treat their souls as if they were rock gardens: low maintenance, never needing the water of prayer. The truth is that’s exactly what they wind up with: souls full of rocks; nothing living, nothing growing, nothing reaching upward toward God. Without daily prayer there is no spiritual life. Our souls need that water of interaction with God.

In the third and final example, our Lord speaks of thorns which sprang up and choked out the word of God in the hearts of some people. He tells us that these thorns represent the cares, the riches, and the pleasures of this world which extinguish the spiritual life, allowing no fruit to come to maturity.

How might we know if such thorns entangle our lives, preventing us from bearing spiritual fruit? The answer is: they do. If we aren’t already painfully aware of that fact, then we simply aren’t paying enough attention to our spiritual lives. The more inward-directed Christian will begin to see that he has many desires and loves in his fallen heart which are antithetical to the Christian life and must be renounced and removed. The inattentive Christian will simply be overgrown and destroyed by these things. To continue the garden analogy, not only do they require water, but gardens also require constant care and weeding. If you’ve ever left a vegetable garden for two weeks in the summer while you went on vacation, you likely were shocked at what you found when you returned. Your tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants likely wilted and disappeared under a jungle of weeds, and you were left with more of a disaster than a garden.

So it is with the garden of our souls. As we have seen, if we do not water the garden daily with prayer, it will not grow. If we do not make times of spiritual quiet and contemplation of God, times when we simply sit and listen for His guiding, then we will never be aware of God in our lives and will rush past Him daily. And if we do not tend our souls by uprooting the many passions and false loves in them, they will be overcome by these things and perish.

You know, when our Lord first delivered this parable, He only explained its hidden meaning to a small handful of His closest followers. To the rest of the hearers it remained an unintelligible fable. He did this, not because He is mean, but simply because most people just really don’t care about the things of God. Why should our Lord bore them with information they don’t want to hear? Most people have no interest in this parable or in understanding how it applies to them. They have no desire to expend any effort in the pursuit of a spiritual life. They have no real interest in knowing God. Many of these people are religious, but their religion is more of a sentimental or cultural thing than any sign that they have actually been born again by the Spirit of God. It’s painful to realize how well this describes so many Orthodox Christians today.

In the hearts of so many of our people there exists so little desire for God. Most parishes don’t bother to offer services during the week because no one will come. Many Orthodox homes have no icons or prayerbooks. A large percentage of our people still make a habit of coming late to liturgy. And many of our young people don’t understand why they are made to go to church, and can’t wait until they are old enough to stop. My brothers and sisters, this is terrible. We need to understand that this parable of our Lord’s very much applies to us. We are the ones who may indeed be neglecting the gardens of our souls and are preventing the word of God from taking root in us to bear its fruit.

This parable is very much a personal message from God to each of us. If we choose to pay attention to it and follow the wisdom it shares, we can not only transform our own lives and those of our families, but even our parishes across the country. I believe God wants his Church in this country to have more life and to bear more fruit, don’t you? I also believe this is possible if we will each receive the seeds that God sows into our souls, water them with prayer, slow down to pay attention, and root out of ourselves every weed and thorn which doesn’t belong in us.

Let the true lovers of God hear, and may God’s word not suffer neglect at our hands, but be nurtured unto fruitfulness.

+To the glory of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.


At 10/14/2006 9:23 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

A nice sermon Ere.

In my part of the country we have a few people with the bumper sticker D.O.G. at first glance one wold think that it is alluding to the various animal friends that people have, but on closer inspection it is actually an anacronym for

"Depend On God"

It is my fervent hope that many will heed your wisdom.

At 10/16/2006 9:20 PM , Anonymous Kevin said...

Amen, amen and amen!

At 11/12/2006 4:46 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is where we are in America as the church, only the remant is aware of the true teaching of this parable. You have been led of the Spirit in this exhotation, short, concise, and right to the point. I will use some of what the Lord has given you for my exposition. To many in the evangelical church read this parable and think it relates to the unbeliever when it really relates to all who call themselves Christians. In Christ, a pilgrim pastor


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