My pastor loves alliteration, metaphor, and rhyme. And so, it came as no surprise a couple of Sundays ago when he referred to himself as the “Dude with the Food,” another way of saying he was the one who had the job to distribute nourishment, the “word of God” and the “bread of life.” Another food-based role for the pastor appears in the parable of the seeds (Matthew 13:1-9).
Such large crowds gathered around him [Jesus] that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed . . . [Matthew 13:2-3, NIV]
This is a familiar parable to most people about the seeds that fell on the path, or landed in rocky places or in shallow places, as well as seeds that grew but among thorns, and finally, the seeds that landed in good soil where they did what they were supposed to do: flourish.
So much has been written about the seeds and many times we have been asked to compare ourselves and our understanding of the message to one of these groups of scattered seeds. But today, I am interested in the farmer.
You see, in my mind, it is the farmer’s intention, from the beginning, to throw and plant the seeds in good soil. After all, the farmer’s goal is to reap a plentiful harvest. It is not intentional that seeds go astray. They will. They do. The farmer may spend a lot of time in soil preparation, but inevitably, circumstances and the weather may alter his best intentions. If the wind comes up or a storm, the seeds will scatter, even those that may have landed in the best of places. Seeds are challenged. Seeds are damaged.
But the key understanding for me is that the farmer is not responsible for the outcome. The farmer can plan, prepare, plant, and even encourage, but ultimately, it’s between the seed and nature (or God, in this case) to actually break down and transform into something else, like a plant. The farmer envisions the best results, but things don’t always work out that way. The farmer can pray for rain and pray for sunshine; the farmer can take out weeds, but sometimes, there are nasty critters that destroy the roots anyway. The farmer is only one while the seeds are many.
We need to stop blaming these farmers for the losses.
Sometimes, I hear people talking about their farmers who are not good administrators. I guess that means those seeds are unhappy with the size of the fields, the design of the rows, the farmhands that the farmer hired to help deliver the message. Or others say the farmer spends too much time on the fields around the house and not enough time visiting the fields on the other side of the hill, or the special little garden just for organic seeds or sickly seeds. And still others criticize the farmer for not spending enough time planning the farm, or laying hands on the seeds, or purifying the water and so on.
I’m beating this metaphor to death, I ‘m sure.
You wanna help the farmer? Be a farmhand.