How Are Your Roots?
Bible Text: Matthew 27:1-66 | Preacher: Rev. Dennis Howard | On the Lower Mainland of BC planting season is just around the corner.
Soon, it will be time to get those seeds in the ground in anticipation of this summer’s fruit and vegetable harvest.
When it comes to planting seeds, I found out a long time ago that the depth of soil that you plant in really matters.
One spring I planted carrot seeds in my newly dug backyard garden.
Carrots are one of my favourite veggies.
Especially those first succulent little ones.
The ones that you get when you thin your crop.
Anyway, this particular year I planted my carrot seeds in hardpacked soil.
Soil that I hadn’t tilled deeply enough.
My crop of carrots was fairly normal when it came to their tops.
But when I pulled them for supper,
I found out that they were only about two inches long.
I ended up with the stumpiest carrots you have ever seen.
It turns out that there was no room in my poorly prepared garden soil for their roots to grow and thrive.
My soil had no depth.
No depth of soil, no root.
No root, no fruit.
Or in this case, no carrot.
Now when I plant my seeds, I make sure they have lots of room to grow deeply down into the earth.
I make sure there is lots of depth to the soil that receives them.
The reward of this extra, up-front soil-care is lovely full-sized carrots
that taste delicious when you pluck them fresh from the earth.
So much for carrots.
So much for my carrot patch.
Let’s get back to our gospel story for today.
Today’s gospel reading is a parable; the parable of the sower.
And it’s also the explanation of that parable.
Jesus loved to teach using parables.
And many of his parables had agricultural themes.
Jesus loved teaching parables with farm related themes because he knew his audience was familiar with farming.
He also loved to teach with parables because he knew that his listeners then, just like his listeners today, loved to hear stories.
Jesus also liked parables because he knew that they weren’t just regular stories with a beginning, a middle and a tidy ending; an ending that wraps the whole thing up.
Rather parables are open ended stories; stories that drive people to reflection, that make people think.
Jesus used parables because he knew they don’t offer pat answers to the perplexing or hard questions of life.
He knew parables made people dig down into themselves into their hearts and souls, to understand the point, he was making.
Jesus also used parables as a defence mechanism; a way of confounding his attackers.
Often in answer to difficult questions, particularly those posed by people trying to trap him in his words,
Jesus would drop a noncommittal parable on them and walk on.
Leaving his questioners scratching their heads, wondering what in heavens name he was talking about.
But the parable of the sower was different.
When it came to the parable of the sower Jesus didn’t just drop it on the crowd and walk on.
Jesus took the time to actually explain the meaning of this parable to his followers.
I learned in seminary to pay particular attention when the Gospel writers told a story which contained an unusual element; an unusual element like a parable with an explanation attached.
A parable complete with an explanation definitely qualifies as a story that contains a very unusual element.
If the story was unusual, I learned, we are meant to take extra care in reflecting on its meaning.
So, let’s do that.
Let’s reflect together on what Jesus is trying to tell us by taking the time to explain to us the parable of the sower.
As we have said, Jesus took the settings for his parables from the everyday lives of his listeners.
Most of the people hearing the parable of the sower, including those who were privileged to hear its explanation, were well acquainted with the principles of agriculture.
They knew the right time to plant and to harvest.
They knew this because their religious festivals, which were the very center of their lives, largely revolved around the times of planting and harvesting their various crops.
So, Jesus’ audiences knew the ins and outs of farming.
They certainly knew enough to plant their seeds only after a thorough tilling of their fields.
They knew not to plant on the hard-packed soil of their farmland paths.
Jesus’ listeners were experienced enough with planting and harvesting not to expect good, strong, well formed root crops to grow in untilled, rocky and unyielding earth.
Most of us here today are not farmers.
We may not know about sound agricultural practices.
But we can understand from our various life experiences that a good harvest of any kind requires wise and careful preparation and thorough follow-up.
Many of us are business people, active or retired.
We know from the experience gained in our careers that long term business success requires careful planning.
Followed by diligent attention to the execution of those plans.
Some of us here, were or are, teachers.
Teachers know that the preparation for a teaching session is at least as important as the presentation of the session itself.
A well-prepared lesson bears the fruit of the students’ growing understanding and knowledge of the subject taught.
A poorly planned session will surely fall short of this mark.
Some of here are health care professionals.
People who work in health care know the necessity of developing healthy living habits in order to achieve long-term healthy outcomes.
Health care professionals know we need sleep, nutrition and exercise in the proper amounts in order to be healthy and thrive.
They know that if any of these necessities is left untended to, then the health of the individual suffers and the quality of their life declines.
So, most of us, though we are not farmers know that to live well we must take care, we must prepare well and we must follow-up.
So then, living any life well, including living the life of following Christ, much like farming, takes preparation if we are to succeed in achieving an abundant life, a full harvest.
Today’s sermon is entitled, “How Are Your Roots?”.
This question is based on our scripture reading for today.
The sermon title is meant to get us in a reflective mood as we consider together the condition of our spiritual roots in this trying time.
In just the last couple of weeks we suddenly find ourselves living in a time when all of our routines are out the window.
We are now forced, by circumstances related to the corona virus, to totally change the way, we live.
Most of the things we count on to get us through the day, like trips to the mall, like dropping in on a friend, are largely gone.
We are living in a time when life feels more like a hardened rock-strewn path than an open and well tilled field.
We are living in a time when we must reach down into our reserves, draw strength from the depth of our roots, in order to survive.
To reach into the depth of those reserves requires first that we have roots sunk deep into the fertile soil of faith in Jesus as the Christ of God.
If we have been keeping well tended the soil of God’s gift to us of faith; if we have been cultivating through prayer, reflection, reading and studying God’s word; we will not be those who wither and fade away during trying times like these.
If we as a congregation remember to stir one another up in our faith during trying times like these.
Then as a group, as the united body of Christ, we will weather this current time of tribulation.
And more than that we will by our faith put into action, be able to help others do likewise.
Our roots, planted deep in the promises of God will hold.
The deep root of our faith will secure our lives and the lives of those God sends to us for shelter and care.
When we turn to the depth of our roots, our faith, the word of God will continue to flourish and grow in our midst and through our testimony, God’s word will grow and thrive in our community.
Now is the season to stir up your faith; to till the “soil” of your faith, in the living of your daily lives.
Now is the time to take full advantage of the extra time God has given us through our new circumstances.
Let us, each one, redeem this time.
Let us, each one, use this season wisely to tend, in the power of the Holy Spirit, the soil of our spiritual gardens.
Now is a special season of tilling and planting.
Now is a time of studying,
So that the roots of our faith may continue to flourish and grow deeply into the life of God for the good of others.