We Baptists love our sermons.
In our churches, the pulpit takes center stage. We spend lots of money paying good preachers and, for many churches, the sermons keep getting longer.
The best sermons embody God’s Word. More important, they encourage us to embody God’s Word in the world. No wonder an old adage states that sermons are best lived rather than preached.
One of Jesus’ most famous parables was that of “the Sower and the Seeds” in Luke 8:4-15. You know it well, I’m sure.
Jesus tells of a sower who liberally, if not carelessly, sows seeds on various soils.
Some seeds fall on well-trodden paths and get snatched up by birds. Others fall on rocks or among thorns. Still others fall on healthy soil and yield a miraculous crop.
With prayer and patience, the fruit born out of good soil produces a harvest fit for God’s kingdom.
Later, when Jesus is alone with his disciples, he explains that the various soils represent different types of people who receive God’s Word.
Although Jesus offers this interpretation, church history shows that Christians have read into this parable other creative applications for the church body.
One early church community who wrote books not found in the Bible, such as the Gospel of Thomas, took the parable to address social concerns. Christians who received God’s Word and took moral and ethical actions produced a harvest of righteousness in their lives.
Another early church leader, St. Clement, wrote that the parable can apply to Jesus’ ministry, death and resurrection. It was a foreshadowing of Jesus’ life. The harvest was Jesus’ resurrection and the miraculous yield was Christ’s church.
Some contemporary interpretations take this parable to point to the different types of churches that exist. Each soil represents a church, some more healthy than others.
With this legacy of interpretation, I would like to imagine that the seeds not only represent God’s Word to us, but also represent those of us who find ourselves in different situations.
We are the seeds that God scatters, and we are to live out the gospel wherever God sends us.
Some folks try to be God’s disciple amid hardships. They get walked all over or taken advantage of, but they are faithful and do their best to obey God in spite of it.
Other disciples fall upon the rocky roads of tragedy and find it difficult to dig deep into their faith. They are caught “between a rock and a hard place.”
All of us have had a thorn in our side, not to mention enough thorns to bring a night of darkness or sorrow. Yet, some of us have fairly easy faith journeys, flourishing at a greater rate than the next person.
What I like about this parable is that it is one of hope.
No matter where we find ourselves, as long as we are living out God’s Word, we can represent the good news of transformation and new life. We can thrive with just the right amount of prayer, patience and perseverance.
Shortly after Jesus told the parable to his disciples, his family came to get him. Jesus responded, “My family are those who hear the Word of God and do it.”
We receive the “seed” of God’s Word in our life by hearing it, but we are also called to live out and do God’s Word. God calls us to be the “seeds” that are sown throughout the world in order to multiply the harvest of his kingdom agenda on earth.
Joe LaGuardia is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Vero Beach, Florida.