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Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

If you’ve been part of the annual rhythms of cultivating, planting, watering & harvesting, you’ve experienced how it becomes part of you. The sights & smells of soil & rain, animals & equipment are so familiar. The daily prayers for rain and sun in just the right amounts and prayers for a good harvest are still so easy for you to pray.

But those experiences are shared by far fewer people than they once were. We’ve moved from an agricultural society to an industrialized society and now we’re living in the information age. We wonder, if Jesus had come to earth in the 21st century, would he have told parables about farming? About sowing & reaping? Instead of seeds, maybe he would have talked about data and digital bits of information. Imagine what the parable might sound like . . .

An author sat down at his computer to write stories. Some of his stories, he forgot to save, and they were lost when his computer shut down. Some of his stories were saved, but because he had failed to update his security software, a malicious virus crept in and corrupted the file. But some stories were saved, backed up to the cloud and stored on an external hard drive. The stories were successfully posted to the author’s website where they were read by millions around the world.

Now, that’s an interesting, updated version of the Parable of the Sower. But, even for those of us living comfortably in the digital age, it lacks something. When we talk about the kingdom of God, images that are natural and organic are much better than the artificial and mechanical. That’s why, even today, in our high-tech environment, when we talk about spiritual truth, we use words like health, growth, fruitfulness, walking, running, breathing, eating. We use these words and ideas because they are biblical, but also because they are integrally connected to our lives, our bodies, and the natural world that we still depend on for our survival. So, even though few of us are farmers, the word pictures of Matthew 13 still speak powerfully to us.

Of course, in first century Palestine, the Parable of the Sower would have captured the imagination of all who heard Jesus tell it. The routines of sowing, plowing & harvesting were second nature to them. So, if Jesus, their Teacher, is describing these familiar scenes, it can’t be because he wants to make them better farmers. He has some other point, but he’s not explaining it. Later, after the crowd dispersed, the disciples asked Jesus why he used parables to teach the people because, “Quite frankly, Master, parables aren’t that easy to understand.”

And on that day, Jesus did something very unusual—he explained to them in detail the meaning of the parable. The seed is the word, the truth of God, and, more specifically, it’s “the