“SEEDS OF FAITH”
A MEDITATION PRESENTED AT CENTRAL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
ON JULY 11, 1993
BY: FREDERICK R. SURRETT
All plants begin life as a single seed. A tiny, almost
insignificant piece of living matter. That, given the proper
conditions, can produce a plant whose size is totally out of
proportion to the seed that it developed from.
For example, take the apple tree. In my hand, I’m holding the
seed I took from an apple out of my kitchen. This seed is only about
1/8″ long. But it has the potential of developing into a tree maybe
twenty feet tall, that during its life time could produce thousands of
apples, and countless numbers of new seeds. Each one of those tiny
seeds has the potential of developing into a full blown apple tree
itself. And so the process repeats itself over and over again. And if
conditions were always right, if the soil and the weather were always
perfect for growth, the world would be filled with apple trees. But
conditions are usually not perfect for this little seed. The soil
might be to rocky. Other plants might interfere with its growth. The
weather might be to bad, to hot or to dry. All sorts of things can
happen that make it impossible for this little seed to grow to its
Let’s face it, the odds of any particular seed surviving and
growing to maturity are remote. But if this one seed doesn’t grow to
maturity, it doesn’t really matter. Because the tree it came from has
thousands of other seeds. Each one of which has the same potential to
take root and grow into a full blown tree. And the odds are that one
of them will.
When we think of seeds, we usually think of plant seeds. But
there are other types of seeds. Not tangible seeds, not seeds that
grow into a tree or a flower, but intangible seeds. Seeds that begin
as an idea, a concept, a philosophy within the mind of an individual.
Seeds that can grow and grow and ultimately change the world. For
example, Mahatma Gandhi, who developed a philosophy of non-violent
protest in an effort to rid his home nation of its british colonial
government. This seed he planted, this concept of non-violent protest
took hold and spread, until it became a force powerful enough to make
one of the strongest military powers in the world at the time give up
the rule of what it had considered to be its most important colony.
And the influence of Gandhi didn’t stop there. The seed he
planted spread around the world, influencing people like Martin Luther
King Jr., who used it as his main tactic in his efforts to improve
civil rights for all minorities in our nation.
Not all people accepted his ideas. The seed he planted didn’t
take root in all who had been exposed to it. But it did in enough
people to influence the course of the 20th century.
Of course, not all sowers spread seeds that are beneficial. There
have been those like Adolph Hitler, Pol Pot of Cambodia, Maximilian
Robespierre of revolutionary France who sowed the seeds of hate, of
discord, of evil. Those seeds took root too. But the plants they
produced were poisonous, and eventually withered and died. But not
before doing incredible damage to the world. Fortunately for us, those
seeds of evil did not take root in all who heard them, or the plants
they produced could have strangled the whole planet.
In our gospel reading today, Mat 13:3-9 and 18 – 23, Jesus talks
about the sower of the seeds, and the obstacles the seeds face in
taking root and developing.
Jesus was sitting in a boat, a little way from the shore, and
addressing a large crowd. One of the commentaries I read before I
prepared this meditation suggested that Jesus may have been feeling a
little discouraged. He may have been upset that his messages were not
being as well accepted as he had hoped. In verses 3 – 8, Jesus tells
how some seeds fall along the path. A trail going through the field
that has been walked on so often that it is packed down hard. The
seeds just lie on the ground, exposed in the open, where birds can see
them and eat them up. Some seeds fall on rocky places. Not ground
covered with small stones, but shallow soil on top of solid rock. They
begin to take root, but because of the underlaying level or rock, the
roots don’t grow deep enough to provide enough moisture to sustain the
plant. So when the sun comes up, the plants are scorched and wither
away, because they weren’t rooted firmly enough into the ground. Then
there are those seeds that fall among the thorns. Weeds really, that
black the suns rays, compete with the newly sprouted plant for
nourishment, and eventually kill it. But some seeds, some seeds fall on
good soil, where they produces a crop 30, 60, 100 times larger then
what was originally planted.
In the parable, jesus himself was the sower, planting the best
seed of all, the word of God. The good news of salvation to all who
accept Jesus as the Messiah.
But not everyone who hears the good news immediately accepts it.
To some, it’s a case of in one ear, out the other. They hear the word,
and immediately reject it. These are like the seeds that fall on the
path. Some hear the word, and initially accept it with joy, but only
superficially. They are shallow, the opportunists who try to latch
onto what they perceive is a good thing without having a full
understanding of it. But when trouble comes, when faced with
persecution because of what they profess to believe, they fall away.
These are like the seed that fall on the rocky ground. Then there are
some who hear the word and accept it, but become preoccupied with the
things of this world. They pursue wealth, material possessions, power.
And in the end, these things kill the faith that was there. And then
there are those in which the condition is right for the seed to grow.
They hear the word, and accept it with sincerity. They don’t allow
themselves to become so consumed by the things of this world, the
worries, and the quest for material gain, that the divine deed of God
is allowed to wither and die. Instead, it grows, and produces a bounty
of more seeds, completely out of proportion to that which was planted
to begin with.
We too are sowers of the seed. We have been given a commission to
go forth, and make believers of all the nations of the world. And
let’s face it, it’s not an easy job. We live in a society where the
open expression of religious views are not really encouraged. And in
fact in many cases can set you up for ridicule, and even oppression.
And on a deeper level, how many of us really feel adequate to the
task. In those secret recesses of our own hearts, how many of us have
said “I don’t know my bible well enough” or “I’m not a good enough
speaker”, or “I’m not a good enough christian”?
And how many of us, after putting forth our best effort, have
become discouraged because we haven’t seen the results we wanted from
our efforts at evangelizing?
Standing before all of you here today, I want to confess that
I’ve been guilty of all these things. I have felt inadequate in both
the knowledge and skills that I felt were necessary to be effective in
my ministry. And I have felt discouraged, deeply discouraged enough to
want to quit in my efforts sometimes, when even after all my best
efforts, I have not seen the results I have wanted to achieve.
But I’ve come to realize lately that I’d been wrong in my
judgements about myself. And I was wrong for two reasons. One, because
I had thought that the only way to spread the word of God was to
preach it. And two, because I believed that everyone who hears the
word of God would instantly convert. That the truth of the word was so
self-evident that any reasonable person would instantly convert on
hearing it, and join the Christian faith.
To spread the seed of the word of God, one cannot just preach it.
You have to act it out. Live it. Show by example what it means to be
a Christian. This lesson was really driven home to me during my time
as a chaplain at St. Luke’s. I saw how my best ministry occurred not
when I wiped out my bible and quoted scripture, but when I sat and
held the hand of someone who was alone. Who felt abandoned. I saw that
by sharing their problems with them, not as a chaplain, but as a
friend who was christian, I was able to help strengthen their faith.
And in some cases, plant the beginning of the christian faith in
someone who had no believe at all. I’ve seen that same thing
demonstrated time and time again here at Central. How many of you are
here now, and have had your own faith strengthened, not by the
superiority of the preaching at Central (sorry Jim), but by the
atmosphere of christian love and care that exists in this
congregation. When you were new here, people introduced themselves to
you, invited you to stay for the coffee hour, asked you to join choir.
That personal interest is one of the things that helps plant the seed
of faith. And to see how the people at Central, both individually, and
as a congregation, are willing to invest time, labor and money in
projects that advance the cause of Christ. To cloth the naked, feed
the hungry, shelter the homeless. This shows that we’re doing more
then just talking the talk. We’re putting our faith into practice. And
that’s the type of thing that plants the seed of faith in people,
because it demonstrates what christianity can be like.
Jesus in his own ministry did more then just preach the word. He
lived the word. He, and his followers, showed what it means to live
life the way God wants us to. It was his example that drew many
followers to his cause. It was his ultimate example of faith and
obedience to God, of allowing himself to be put to death on the cross,
that allowed christianity to take root and spread.
I don’t want to downplay the importance of preaching. Far from
it, because it is a vital activity to teach the word of God. But, in
my own life, I had put to much emphasis on it. I’ve grown to see how
important acting out ones beliefs can be implanting the seeds of faith
in others. It’s something I can claim for myself, and that I want to
claim for all of you here today.
As to being discouraged sometimes, yah, I still do occasionally.
But I take comfort in the fact that Jesus himself said that not
everyone will accept the faith. That for one reason or another, many
people will reject it. But we mustn’t give up. No matter how
discouraged we get, we must keep spreading the message, we must keep
sowing the seeds of faith. Because even though many of the seeds we
plant will not grow, some will take root, and grow to maturity. And
these seeds will give a bountiful harvest, the size of which we cannot