• Rev. Joel L. Tolbert

Don't Stop

Making Change, A New Year sermon series from Luke, Week 6 of 6

Preached February 14, 2021 for the 9:30am Worship


Context

From Advent to Easter, we are reading and preaching from the Gospel of Luke, almost chapter by chapter in order. Caitlan and I hope you find yourself knowing this Gospel way better than before, and you see Jesus through the eyes of Luke more clearly.


Today we are on the last week of a six week series from early Luke for the New Year Caitlan and I called “Making Change.” We’ve been studying the earliest days of Jesus’ ministry in Luke, and looking at the steps Jesus took to begin making change.


So far, we have seen five steps Jesus used… find a mentor, prepare for resistance, gather a team, lay the foundation, and just get started.


Now, let’s pray, and listen for the word of the Lord from…


Pray

Scripture Luke 8:1-15

8:1 Soon afterwards he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, 2 as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3 and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources.


4 When a great crowd gathered and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell on the path and was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. 6 Some fell on the rocks; and as it grew up, it withered for lack of moisture. 7 Some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew with it and choked it. 8 Some fell into good soil, and when it grew, it produced a hundredfold.” As he said this, he called out, “Let anyone with ears to hear, listen!”


9 Then his disciples asked him what this parable meant. 10 He said, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God; but to others I speak in parables, so that:


‘looking they may not perceive, and listening they may not understand.’


11 “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones on the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 The ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe only for a while and in a time of testing fall away. 14 As for what fell among the thorns, these are the ones who hear; but as they go on their way, they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 But as for that in the good soil, these are the ones who, when they hear the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patient endurance.


This is the word of the Lord. (Thanks be to God.)


Sermon Don’t Stop

We are in Chapter 8 and this is the first real parable Jesus tells in Luke. Maybe that’s why the author helps us out and gets Jesus to explain it to us.


A farmer goes out to sow seed. The seed is God’s word. Sometimes, the word falls on some who are like a hardened path, and the seed gets trampled or stolen away. Sometimes, the word falls on some who are like rocky ground, with obstacles just beneath the surface and without much depth for roots. Whatever grows there shoots up quickly but dies just as quickly. Sometimes, the seed lands on some who are good soil but then gets crowded out by other thorny things, cares, riches, pleasures. And sometimes, it falls on some who are good soil, and then it gives back way more than all that was planted.


What would you call this parable? Some call it the parable of the sower, suggesting the one who sows the seed is the point. But who DOES sow the seed? Is the sower God? Or is Jesus telling the disciples, the crowds, us to go be the sowers?


Maybe we should call it the parable of the seed. No matter who sows, it's more about what the seed does, when it sticks. Maybe Jesus is trying to teach us the abundance and the effectiveness of the seed, God’s word, and show us it’s not as much about the sower.


Wouldn’t that mean the ground onto which the seed falls is more important than the seed itself? Maybe should we call it the parable of the soil? And what is meant by soil? Those who… Jesus says. The soil is the people, the disciples, all humankind. WE and those around us are the soil.


But if people are the soil, then how do people become hard, rocky, or thorny? Does God make us that way? Does God make some soil, some people, some of us, hard-hearted or stubborn, and others to be burdened with troubles kept hidden just below the surface, and others who can really grow some good but always seem to grow the bad right beside it? And why does God only make some people good soil, good at receiving God’s word and growing things from it?


Maybe God doesn’t make people those ways. Maybe, we make ourselves hard, rocky, or thorny. Maybe God made us all good soil, but the experiences of life happen to us, we suffer the consequences of our own decisions. We let those experiences and consequences harden us, or we carry them around like rocks, or we sabotage whatever good we might do with thorny distractions like cares, riches, and pleasures.


But then, even if it is our own fault for being hard, or full of burdens, or choked with the weeds of life, wouldn’t it be smart and gracious of God the gardener to help prepare the soil before the seed gets scattered all willy-nilly where it may not even grow?


Are you still with me? This first parable, even though explained, is still not very clear. If you’d like, we’ve started a new thing, right here in the sanctuary after worship called “Diving Deeper” where the preacher stays and we ask questions and talk through the scripture and sermon together.


But for now, despite all these questions, all the unknowns this parable still leaves with us, Jesus appears to be saying something strongly and clearly, something a bit unexpected…


In order to gather a big harvest, it’s best to scatter the seed of that harvest all over, even if we aren’t sure what will happen, or what kind of ground it might land on. We don’t have to over-prepare. Nor should we skimp. Just scatter the seeds abundantly, let them fall where they may, and trust, some will stick and grow, and that corner will be more than enough.


In this whole sermon series, we’ve looked at the steps Jesus takes to begin making change. Find a mentor, prepare for resistance, gather a team, lay the foundation, and get started here and now. What is the last step?


Think for a moment about one change you feel needs to be made. Maybe it’s a change in your own life, a change in your health, or a relationship, or your direction and purpose. Maybe it’s a change you think needs to happen in our church or our surrounding community. Maybe it’s a change you know needs to happen in our country, or our world. For now, just pick one.


Imagine that area of change as a field. If you look at the change, the field in front of you, it looks daunting. Some of it may look pretty hard at first glance, like the hard trampled places in the parable. Some of it may look okay on the surface, but as soon as you dig a little deeper in those areas, you’re going to hit some unforeseen obstacles, like the rocky soil. Some of that field of change might totally fine, and even as you plow into those areas, you don’t feel any resistance, at first. But later, the further you go into changing those areas, the resistance will grow right beside the healthy change like thorns grow right beside the wheat.


When we are Making Change, when we’ve done all the earlier steps, and it's really time to just get started, here and now, scatter the seeds of that change everywhere. Don’t spend too much time trying to soften the hard places to the change. Don’t spend too much time digging around trying to figure out where the hidden obstacles are buried. Don’t spend too much time trying to diagnose which areas are more concerned with what some people want, or how much money it will cost, or what will keep everybody happy… the cares, riches, and pleasures of life. Just scatter the seeds of change everywhere and trust.


Some of the things we are going to try are not going to work. We can’t be sure what will and will not work, what will and will not be easy, what will and will not make the change we intended. Jesus is telling us, scatter the seeds everywhere anyway, and don’t stop.


There’s a part of me that wants to hold back and not waste seeds of change on what seems to be hard ground. It even seems to me that a little better planning, some softening up, or some harder prep work, pulling some rocks and weed-eating some thorns in advance, and the crop of change could be so much bigger, or at least more efficient.


But this God we serve and the change this God has promised and is bringing isn’t about efficiency. This God is more about abundance and grace. Scatter the seed of change everywhere. Some won’t make it. But enough will and the harvest will be a hundredfold of what was scattered.


When we are making change, should we carefully avoid those who are hardened to the change, or quickly become obstacles, or later become prickly resistance? Apparently, not very much. Scatter the seed of change everywhere and enjoy the harvest that happens to land on fertile ground because it will be more than enough.


The lesson here seems to be… do a good job preparing and planning, but don’t overdo it.


The key is in the abundant spreading. Spread the seeds of change everywhere. Be frivolously generous with where you toss it. Let it land on everyone. No matter all the refusals or obstacles or assaults some of the change will hit, there will still be more than enough acceptance and growth.


To God be all glory and honor, now and forever. Amen.


Benediction

Now, Blessing, laughter, and loving be yours, and may the love of a great God, who names you and holds you as the earth turns and the flowers grow be with you, this day, this night, this moment and forevermore.

Rev. Joel L. Tolbert

Pastor, Presbyterian Church of Chestertown


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