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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Key to All Parables

Sexagesima 2018

Rev. Stephen E. Stults
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
Feb. 4, 2018

All of us at one time or another, have been blessed to learn from a gifted teacher. This priest was fortunate to learn from our former Presiding Bishop, Royal U. Grote, who taught us seminarians that the Parable of the Sower is key to our understanding of all Christ’s parables.  It is considered by many Biblical scholars as the “root” parable of parables. 

In our Gospel for the day, Our Lord uses an agricultural or “organic” analogy in the parable of the Sower.  St. Luke 8:5-8: ”A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold.”

Biblical commentators have remarked on the Lord’s use of agricultural analogies in the parables. First, his use of common agricultural references made it easy for his hearers to grasp his message, at least on one of its levels.  After all, everyone can understand a growing plant or weed.

The second reason is not as transparent.  Our Lord is concerned about our growth in holiness and righteousness; thus, He uses “growing” analogies a great deal.
We Christians are to be the “good soil” from which good works do spring, not as a justification for our salvation, but rather as a natural outgrowth of our faith, trust and love in Jesus Christ. 

Another reason Christ uses agronomy or agriculture for his teaching examples reflects the Great Plan of Creation itself.  Why do we have parks in cities?  Why do many of us have house plants? Each plant, each plot, each park reflects man’s desire to get back to the Garden of Eden, which Man lost through sin. All of us, deep in our natures, be we “city” or “country” folk, have this desire to “get back to the Garden”.[1]This may be one reason why deep, simple faith is often more prevalent in the countryside, when contrasted to the cold, concrete atmosphere of the city.

Why is this parable so important to understanding Christ’s Mission and Ministry?  Let us consider two phrases Luke 8:11  Luke 8:5  "The sower went out to sow his seed” and "…the parable is this: the seed is the word of God.

Our Lord speaks of the Sower, who is Jesus himself, casting some seeds in the World.  This is significant because Christian theology teaches us that the Son, the Word, spoke the World into being.  St. John tells us, (John 1:1) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. So now in this parable we have the Great Speaker of Creation casting seeds into the World.

What is this Seed? The Word of God. The Sower is cultivating his Garden.  Why is this important? It shows us that God was not content to simply create the World and let in spin.  So thought the Deists of the 18th Century, but no. Instead, Christ wishes to sow seeds in His World that bring His creatures into complete fellowship with Him.  Christ sows the words of salvation, the Good News, into the world. 

Is it fertile? Note, seed some falls on the wayside and is devoured by birds, some falls on a rock and withers from a lack of moisture, and others are choked out by thorns.

In the first case, the seed is exposed and is an easy target for Satan, who comes and devours the seed. In the second case, the rock provides no soil for the seed, and it dies. It falls on a hardened heart that will not receive it.  In the third case, the seed grows in an environment of competing weeds, who choke it out.   

None of these environments was right for growth.  In the last case, however, some seed fell on good soil and sprang up, bearing fruit “an hundredfold.” 

If we see the seed as symbolic of the soul, this parable makes a great deal of sense.  Just as a seed must be given a good place to grow, the Christian soul needs a good spiritual environment.  The young soul should not be exposed too early to the devouring forces of the World, which is why we try to shield our children until they reach some measure of maturity.

In addition, the soul cannot grow in isolation or barren-ness, as the seed on the rock.  Rather, it needs the seedbed of the Church for its moisture and nourishment.  The idea of the solitary Christian, apart from the worship and fellowship of the Church is usually doomed to failure.  Instead, God meant for the Christian “seed” to grow in the Church, being fed by her and returning good fruit to her and to the community at large.

Why do you think that the first sign of a Christian soul in trouble is their absence from church?  Simply, Satan knows that he must cut the straggler away from the herd, just as predators do. Once alone without the shelter of the group, it is easy prey. If Satan can stop a person from going to church, he knows that he has won a great victory.

Note that our Lord had to explain this parable to his disciples. This indicates that this Word is meant for us, the household of faith.  Although the message and call of Christianity is universal, in the mysteries of God’s grace some hear the call and respond to it, while others do not. For some mysterious reason known only to God, we are called to be here today. Accept this with thanks and praise. 

Thus, our Lord means us to be “good” soil: planted, nurtured, and tended by the Church.  God desires us to be bountiful: producing sweet, delicious fruit for our brethren and for the World.   In the words of our Lord from Luk 3:8 “Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”

Our fruit is the result of the grace of God in our hearts, not from us.  It is there because of Christ’s seed, the Word of God.  

Pray always, therefore, that this seed may bear forth good fruit.


Luke 8:15: “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.”

Glory be to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost, now and for ever.   AMEN



[1] Crosby, Stills, Nash, Woodstock, “Déjà vu”

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