On April 14th, 2019, Bishop Graham provided the sermon for the service and ordination of Pastor John Mbatta at the Swahili Lutheran Church in Rockville, Maryland. The sermon was on the reading of Matthew 13:1-20.
For those who might be unfamiliar, the Parable of the Sower is a story Jesus tells to his followers. A sower who, while sowing, ends up laying seeds on four different types of ground. Some seeds land on top of the ground, where birds immediately came and ate them; some seeds landed on ground that didn’t have much soil, so they grew quick, but withered when the sun rose; other seeds fell in thorns; then some fell onto good soil, and grew plentiful.
While the Bishop’s sermon was, in some ways, directed to the newly-ordained pastor, what he spoke about is applicable to all members of the church. Below is just an excerpt, the last three parts:
“Now this is not just the Parable of the Sower. It is the Parable of the Preacher, or the Parable of the Pastor. It is meant for the ones into whose care the public ministry of the gospel is committed. And the message is to spread the message of the gospel, to sow the seed, and not to be careful with it. In this line of work which I know pretty well, the preacher business, the pastor business, we are so conscious of our responsibility and so painfully aware of our failures that we tend to want every seed to be placed in just the right place. We need for every seed to grow or else we just feel terrible. But Jesus has already told us that not every seed flourishes. Not every conversation goes well. Not every good idea works out. Jesus doesn’t blame us for the way things just happen to be. But the sower sows, foolishly even, and in the end what happens is glorious. John, I wish for you in days ahead what I wish for all your colleagues, what I wish for myself, I wish for all of us ordained and consecrated people a sense of hopeful recklessness in service of God’s word.
And it is not just the ordained and consecrated people to whom Jesus is speaking in this parable. Every Christian person is a witness. Every Christian person is an evangelist-in-training and in fact. We are all called together to lift up the faith that sustains us. We do this in conversation when we get the chance. We do this by showing mercy and kindness. And our Lord knows that in the cold culture where we find ourselves today mercy and kindness will often just confuse the people around us and give us the chance to break into their confusion and say a good word for Jesus. We lift up the faith that sustains us where we are, when we can, and we do this, again, without being anxious about our own success or failure. Friends in Christ, I wish for this congregation what I wish for every community of Christian people, I wish for you a sense of courage and hope so that sharing Jesus Christ with others can be your life’s greatest adventure and greatest joy.
The sower sows, carelessly, recklessly even. There is failure. There is great joy. We lay this parable on our own hearts, it’s precious to us, because we know the one who’s telling it. We know Jesus Christ and we know that the place to see what real recklessness looks like is the cross with his body hanging on it. The sower who won’t be careful with the seed is Jesus, who won’t in the end be careful even with his own life. But from his resurrection from the dead comes the bountiful harvest. From his resurrection has come forgiveness and reconciliation with God for us and for so many people before us and so many yet to be born.”
We are not all ordained, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be messengers of the Gospel. Following Jesus and sharing his teachings is an adventure—you never know what’s going to happen. You don’t know if the seeds you try to plant will grow and flourish, or if they will falter. Words can fall on deaf ears. Words can resonate with someone but then quickly dull out. Or words can resonate, seep, and thrive within someone and they, too, can become a messenger. We never know what can happen. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. It might look and feel reckless, but it could lead to something so fruitful and so beautiful, that at the end of the day, it’s all worth it.
“But 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.” Matthew 13:23
Be adventurous. Spread the word.