Gospel: Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 (Pentecost 7: Series A)

Reading Time: 4 mins

The same Word which stepped out of eternity into created time in order to speak light and life into creation when all was void and formless, that same Word still speaks.

If your attention were to wander during a church service, where might your eyes look? We have a large wooden cross behind an altar made of the same wood. Looking to the left of the altar, we have a stained-glass window. The images are largely abstract, though you can make out a flow of water that moves yours eyes from the two-dimensional window to our bubbling baptismal font standing just below. The chapel at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC has a fresco which is a seventeen by twenty-foot painting in the center of the chancel, above and behind the altar.

Imagine gathering for worship beneath this massive painting. If there is ever a dull moment in the sermon, you can explore the image. Maybe you connect some of the vignettes in the painting to the words of Jesus in the parable. Halfway down the path you see the birds pecking at the seed which has fallen there. Closer to the foreground on the same path you can make out the seeds among the rocks. To the right of the rocks are the same kind of weeds you might view along the highway, rough, rugged, and resistant to sharing the soil. Further to the right you notice the crop coming in quite nicely.

Furthermore, maybe you see the people associated with each kind of soil. The soldier walks away downcast as if his joy has been robbed of him by the shadowy Satan-figure walking away. You see the man kneeling among the rocks, but he seems distracted by the presence of the soldier. Just behind the weeds you see a couple caught admiring their elegant clothing, distracted by the riches of the age. And among the harvest of grain, you can make out one woman in the background who seems to be folding her hands in a prayer of humble gratitude for the gift of the growth.

It is also quite possible you do not notice the parable or connect any of the vignettes from the text of Scripture. Like your earlier conversations in the lobby, you find yourself focused on the weather. “It’s a beautiful day,” was the depth of what you heard as you came into church. So, you notice the blue sky and sunshine in the back of the image. “Yeah, but I heard it might rain,” you said in reply, and your eyes find confirmation in the clouds in the left.

Or maybe you heart still aches from reading this morning’s headlines or doom-scrolling through the “news” on your favorite social media platform. In that case, your vision might be drawn to the burning buildings in the back. “Where is God when the world’s on fire?” you wonder. And even though we typically associate the cross with our Savior, maybe you see the collection of crosses on the left in their more historical light. These are criminals, and you think about your longing for justice and for the villains around you to get what they deserve.

There is so much to take in, so much to see, and so much to be concerned with. When will this war end? Where is that guy looking? How about the weather?

But right in the middle of it all is Jesus. Matthew 13:3 is more than a word of set-up for the parable, it is a picture of the Gospel itself: “A sower went out to sow.” He sows “the Word of the Kingdom,” the message of the gracious reign of God.

Jesus certainly cares about all the happenings in the world all around but notice His gaze. His loving attention is fixed on you.

Jesus certainly cares about all the happenings in the world all around but notice His gaze. His loving attention is fixed on you. He stands in the middle of it all, with a bag full of life and hope, and His eyes are fixed straight ahead. More than that, the artist behind the fresco has captured an incredible incarnational truth: Jesus steps out of the painting to you, toward you. His message is for you!

Christ, the Word of God Incarnate, steps off the page and out of the confines of the canvas. The sower went out to sow. He came to us, with the Word of the Kingdom and a message of promise. The sower sows the Word of life, for you. The One who is the Good News brings the Good News. That is who He is, this is what He does.

Paul, in Romans 10, quotes Moses from Deuteronomy 30: "The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim).” The same Word which stepped out of eternity into created time in order to speak light and life into creation when all was void and formless, that same Word still speaks. He communicates not just as a disembodied booming command into the chaos and void, but as the God-Man, Jesus the Christ. The mighty Word of God is near you as Jesus speaks through the promises of Scripture today.

A sower went out to sow, and He still goes. His Word still speaks and still creates life. “As the Father has sent Me, even so I send you,” says Jesus (John 20:21). The sower went out to sow, and sends others out to sow as well. The seed which is sown has the same life in it, whether spoken from the physical lips of Jesus or even by one sent in His Name.

The sower sows. The messenger delivers the message. That is what He does. This is what we do.

You might wonder if you are articulate enough, or convincing enough, or if you know enough. You may question if you believe strongly enough or if you are qualified enough. If you find yourself speculating about such things, you are doing what we did earlier as our eyes darted around the painting’s perimeter. We can look all around and miss what is front and center: Jesus. The Word we have heard, it is His Word. The promises we believe, are His promises. The work to create faith is His work.

A sower went out to sow, and there was life. The sower sent others to sow in His name, and there was life.



Additional Resources:

Craft of Preaching-Check out our previous articles on Matthew 13:1-9, 18:23.

Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Matthew 13:1-9, 18:23.

Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Matthew 13:1-9, 18:23.


[1] You can reference it at https://www.gspc.org/blog/post/the-sower