We Are God’s Garden
July 13, 2008
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
1That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3And he told them many things in parables, saying: "Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.
8Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9Let anyone with ears listen!"
18"Hear then the parable of the sower. 19When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty."
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! Our topic and our title today is “We Are God’s Garden.” I love this time of year, don’t you? It’s a time of fullness, of blossom, of fruition, the time we receive God’s abundance and God’s generosity in so many ways.
One way I like to observe God’s abundance and generosity is in farmer’s stands. Aren’t they wonderful? You go down a New Jersey byway, and there on the side is a wooden stand. The farmer’s garden’s fruits are there – tomatoes and cucumbers and peaches; soon there will be apples, fresh corn from the garden, all symbols of God’s blessings.
And I tell you what – I’d like my life to be like that! Wouldn’t you? Blossoming and abundant and full and ever ready to produce God’s blessings. Jesus talked about a way that each of us can do that today, and I’m excited to bring this gospel to you this morning.
We’re told, in the gospel, that Jesus came out of His house and went down by the seashore. As soon as He got there, He turned around and there were many, many people all around Him. They were waiting to hear His good, positive word. So Jesus got into a boat and cast out from the land a little bit and looked at the people. I have a feeling that He looked up on a hill, and He saw a sower sowing seeds, a planter scattering seeds all over.
Jesus said, “Think of this: a sower went out to sow seed, and he scattered his seed on the hard place, on the path. Well, birds came and ate the seed. And some of the seed that the planter scattered fell on rocky ground, and it grew a little bit but not much, and it dried up. Some of the seed fell on ground that already had weed seeds in it, and the young, beautiful plants sprouted up, but they were choked out by the weeds.
“But hear this: some of the seeds fell on good ground. They took root, and they sprouted and blossomed and bore fruit, a hundredfold and sixtyfold and thirtyfold. Those who have ears, hear this,” Jesus said.
Let me tell you what this parable means to me. I believe that every day, every blessed day that we wake up, it is as though we rise up and look over a garden. Coming over the hill on the other side of this garden is a planter with his big hat and a big bag full of seeds. The planter is God. The planter reaches into the great big abundant bag of seed, and He throws the seeds on the ground. He says, “Blessings, blessings, blessings for you!”
You look at the seeds. They sparkle like tiny stars. You pick them up, and it’s as though something is written on them. You look at one – ‘love’. You pick up another – ‘possibility’. You pick up another – ‘faith in God’. Every good thing, every worthwhile thing, every blessing is represented in those seeds which the Lord God scatters on our garden every hour of every day of every week of every season of our lives. All the time, the planter comes up over the hill and scatters the seeds of goodness.
But you notice, the planter only works in partnership with us, for we are the ground. And we’ve got to ask ourselves, are the seeds going to grow? Are we going to let them grow? Or are we going to let things get in the way?
Jesus said some of the seeds might fall on hard ground and bounce off. What does that mean to us today? Could that hard ground within us be discouragement? Could that hard ground, where the seeds bounce off, and the birds, which represent time, combine to pick them up and take them away? Ah, discouragement – the enemy’s biggest weapon! The discouragement that says, “I tried that once and it didn’t work out.” The discouragement that says, “I failed once, and I’m not going to try again.” The discouragement that says, “I don’t think that I can do that.”
Friends, what Jesus is inviting us to do is to get out there with our plow and break up that hard ground, to break up that discouragement, to say, “No, I am not going to let that get in my way. I am not going to let the seeds of God’s wonderful possibilities be choked out by hard ground and discouragement. I’m going to rise above the concept of ‘can’t do it,’ ‘tried it, it didn’t work.” I’m going to rise above discouragement and break up that ground so the seed of God can go on through and take root in my and bear the wonderful things that make life worth living.”
And Jesus said that it could be that some of that seed is going to wind up on rocky ground or shallow ground or thorny ground; the seeds will come up and little and then get choked out. What does that represent for us? Friend, I think that represents fear. That represents those unknown voices that we hear in our head that ways, “It’s not going to work”; that says, “What if”; that says, “I’m afraid.” Those are the weeds and the stones, the shallow ground that chokes out all the good things, all those little stars of seeds that God wants to plant within us. I think that Jesus is challenging us to say “No, I’m not going to let fear choke out the goodness of God that God wants to plant within me. I’m going to push those aside. I’m going to protect my ground against everything that would choke out or tear out the seeds of God’s goodness within me. I’m going to protect it.”
If you live in Belle Mead or surrounding areas, we have an equivalent for that analogy. It’s called deer. Any of you deal with deer? I have. They pull up tomatoes, pull up flowers. I still love them; they’re beautiful creatures.
But, if we protect our garden enough, then the discouragers, the fear of life, won’t come near. And the good things of life, the things that make it worthwhile, are going to grow. Jesus said, “Be good ground for me.” And we are good ground. We’ve just got to break up the discouragement and fence off the fear, so that we can be good ground and bear good fruit. What kind of good fruit? Good fruit like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, self-discipline—all those good things can grow up in us.
Friend, God has wonderful things in store for you this week, this day, tomorrow. He is the planter that is coming to your garden and sowing the beautiful, sparkling seeds of possibility within you. And it is up to us to either leave the ground hard with discouragement and overrun by fear, or to break out the discouragement, protect out the fear, and let the good fruit of God grow and blossom, like the fruit in a farmer’s market stand. And our lives will be productive and have a joy that nothing else can bring, when we let God’s seeds grow in us, and when we are God’s garden.
Will you take the challenge with me this week? Will you put the discouragement and fear behind and say, “God, I am your garden. Come and let your seeds grow in my heart”? I pray that each of us will, because God loves you. I do, too. Have a blessed week. Amen.
© 2008 Anthony J. Godlefski