Message for July 12, 2020, Valerie Prax

Where Are You Growing?


I welcome you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

From the comfort of our homes we gather to worship.

Whether through printed word, or through the gift of technology; we gather together.

Here we seek connection to the God our creator.

Come, let us worship together.

Opening Prayer

Join me in prayer.

O God, We gather together in Your presence with expectation, hungry for an encounter with You,eager to hear Your Word. Open our eyes and ears to the presence of Your Holy Spirit.May the seeds of Your Word scattered among us this day fall on fertile soil.May they take root in our hearts and lives; and produce an abundant harvest of good words and deeds. We pray this in the name of Jesus, our teacher and our Lord. Amen.

Hymn                         Hymn of Promise    Hymnal, 707

Children’s Message                                                                                                Ben Ziegler

 Scripture                   Matthew 13:18-23  NIV                            Read by Ruth Smith

18 “Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. 22 The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. 23 But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

Meditation Jesus knew that people are different, we interpret spoken and written words differently. Today’s Scripture is known as “the Parable of the Good Soil.” Later in Matthew 13, Jesus interpreted this parable you just heard Ruth read for his disciples.  He told them people respond in different ways to the gospel, so they need to reach people in different ways. What kind of soil are you? Where are the seeds you sow going to land? How do you respond to the seed that is cast into your life? God casts many seeds into our lives every day. He intends them all to root and bear fruit, but many miss the mark. As any farmer knows, some seed is going to fall in places where it simply will not thrive.

I grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota, where rocks reigned supreme and sandy soils ruled. My father was a Christian, a farmer and an environmentalist – he taught us about making the best use of what God had provided. He grew crops that thrived in that soil and cared for the land. He also grew 7 children that thrived and succeeded in their lives.

Today I want to think of seeds and soil in a different way, as Jesus did in this Parable – using “seed” as the Word of God. I am beginning to wonder if I have not been too selective in my sowing of seeds. Have I avoided the rocks, the thorns, and the concrete – because I must avoid wasting seed?  Those who garden know how expensive seeds can be. Last spring, I bought a pack of Morning Glory seeds. There were only 6 seeds in the envelope, for nearly $3. I’m glad they all germinated!

The sower in the Parable is remarkably free in throwing the seed on all sorts of potential “growth areas.” He counts on the bountiful return of a few seeds; he imagines the plentiful harvest when just a few find fertile soil. In our church life, how many of us have felt like rocky ground – that no matter what we do, we are not growing in membership or faith? Especially right now when we must worship online or privately. This new way of worship feels a lot like throwing a handful of seeds out there, hoping we find the good soil!

Jesus spent his seed on tax gatherers, the lepers, the sinners, those rejected by the church leaders of the day. God has always been prepared to risk wasting love on those whom the world judge to be hopeless cases, in the hope that a few souls in the most unfortunate circumstances might foster a seed and bring it to harvest.

“A farmer went out to sow his seed.  As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.”

God is not put off by those adverse conditions where the soil has been hardened into a path.  Some do not really hear the gospel – their hearts have been hardened, or perhaps never opened up so the seed cannot sprout and develop roots, or the seed is snatched away by the first critter that comes along. These are the seeds that fell on the path.

Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow.  But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 

Here and there among the rocks, you can find a few patches of shallow soil where a few seeds will sprout. But this soil is shallow and cannot hold moisture, the hot sun soon dries it out and the young plants wither.

There are people who get all excited about religion, make the decision to be Christ’s followers, yet it comes to nothing. For many, a few of life setbacks happen: sickness or job loss, family crisis – and they turn sour and give up on faith. So why are we giving them seed?

Jesus the sower says: “Ah, but did you notice two healthy ears still growing in that crevice over there to your left, and another three back to your right.” We take the chance that they will take root.

Some receive the word with joy – but the soil of their heart is too troubled, perhaps too busy. They have not learned to be still and listen. And so the seed words sprout, but never develop the roots that it needs to survive hard times when we need to remember to rely on our faith. The seeds landing on the rock.

Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 

What about the seed sown among thistles? The soil may be good, but what chance does the seed have to grow? Those who neglect to pray and utilize the sustaining support of Christian fellowship are most at risk. The weeds around them will choke the good seed. Only a few among the thistles will thrive, but they will be strong.

Still others, Jesus tells us, allow the living word to be choked out by the cares of this world, by our own busy-ness, or by allowing our day-to-day messiness to consume us. Still others are consumed by the lure of wealth or power or prestige. These seeds land in the weeds and thistles.

Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop–a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.

That’s wonderful, right? But even in the good soil, conditions vary, opportunities are not the same. We know the same amount of rain doesn’t fall everywhere – only a few get just the perfect amount. Of course, the sunlight and temperature vary. Then – there is the problem with soil nutrients. Some may be short on nitrogen or some trace minerals. We all know the problems with pests – rabbits, deer, bugs, the list goes on!

These are the people who hear the word, try to understand it and pray about it.

Now. How do we apply this to our daily lives? How can we use this Parable to strengthen ourselves, and our church?

A thought for these seeds Jesus asks us to sow. Are they all the same? Did you get peas, your neighbor cucumbers, me the tomatoes? No, Jesus sows all kinds of seeds together.

Native American culture teaches us about the 3 Sisters: corn, beans and squash. These plants work together to repel pests, to shade each other and the soil and provide nutritious food. It occurs to me that this can be symbolic of today’s protests and cultural differences. Perhaps we can teach our children – and each other – that people are like the 3 sisters. We need each other, regardless of our culture, our economic status, where we live, our chosen life style. Corn, beans and squash happily grow together and take care of each other. My mother very carefully planted onions and marigolds all around the edges of the garden to discourage the rabbits – using the onions to protect the peas.

Jesus taught us to care for each other regardless of who we are – like the Samaritan woman at the well. According to culture standards, Jesus should not have been talking to a Samaritan. Yet he did, because she was a fellow human needing a friend and the Word.

We all know that there will never be a harvest unless the seed is actually sown into the ground. The farmer can have the most fertile soil, the best of seeds and the best intentions, but if he never actually gets out into the field and sows the seed, no crop will ever be produced!

So where are you growing?  How do you respond to the seed that is cast into your life?

  • Are you a well-traveled path or even a paved road, allowing the birds to collect the seeds and not letting any grow?
  • Are you rocky with little good soil? Beautiful like our north shore, but so difficult for gardening.
  • Are you a good soil, but over-run with thistles and weeds, allowing your growth to be choked and stifled?
  • Or – are you a good, rich soil that allows abundant growth, has plenty of nutrients, water and sunlight, encouraging the seeds to flourish?

I’ll answer that. I am all those seeds, at different times, sometimes more than one on the same day.

In our workplaces, in our homes, in our families – you and I are to bear the fruit of the Gospel. We are to be the family of God. We are to care for young and old, rich and poor, the powerless and the powerful. Jesus did not look at heritage or color or chosen lifestyle. He was – and still is – there for everyone. What does He ask in return? That we do the same.

 ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Jesus said in Matthew 22:39, the 2nd Great Commandment. This is one of my mantras, especially today with so much divisiveness in this country and world. Take a moment. Let these words sink in. Then combine with today’s Parable. We all want to be planting in the good soil. How do we create a neighborhood in that good soil that encourages us to “Love your neighbor as yourself?”

How do we teach our children and grandchildren that God created every human being in His image – regardless of life’s circumstances, race, religion, lifestyle – the list goes on. How do we turn that neighborhood of inclusivity into a model for others and spread Jesus’ word?

Are we planting a variety of seeds and paying attention to the needs of each? Again, think of the 3 Sisters or planting onions to protect the peas. Do we take advantage of opportunities to pray with someone, offer them witness, help them to live the Parable of the Good Soil and the 2nd Great Commandment?

As I think about this, it occurs to me that having a seed inside – my personal faith – isn’t enough for God. He expects all of us to go out and scatter our seeds, showing our faith, sharing the Word, living the 2nd Commandment. We need that faith and internal belief for ourselves. But, we must share it with our families, with our church family, and our communities for those seeds to grow.

My challenge to you and to myself this week? Find at least one way to spread the Word of God through words and deeds outside our church family. Take joy from our shared faith!

We all have the responsibility to God and our faith to carry the message outside our homes and these walls. Where will you sow seeds this week?

Let us pray. Dear God, please sow your seeds of love in us.

If our hearts are like busy footpaths, please save us from temptations.

If our hearts become like stony ground, please soften them.

If our hearts sprout with thistles and weeds, please clean out all such weeds.

When our hearts become like good, clean soil, please help us to harvest truth, kindness and happiness.

In the name of Jesus who planted and grew nothing but good seed. Amen.

Pastoral Prayer
Let us continue in prayer. Dear Lord,
May your love be like a seed, taking root and growing strong.For the leaders of various nations and cities, that they may lead with strong hearts, gentle hands and generous spirits, with compassion and mercy, with wisdom and grace.
May they reflect your will guiding all their actions and decisions.

May your love be like a seed, taking root and growing strong.For those who serve in harm’s way, those who live in dangerous places, those who live in areas of war and strife, those who live in fear, those who worry about employment, bills, food, and struggle just to find dignity in life.
May your grace bring peace and safety to all people, one to another.

May your love be like a seed, taking root and growing strong. For those who suffer from any illness or disease of mind, body, or spirit.
Restore these, and all those we carry in our hearts, to fullness of health.

May your love, be like a seed, taking root and growing strong. Amen Lord’s Prayer And now in the words Jesus taught His disciples, we too pray…

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses,

As we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,

and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen

Hymn                         Just a Closer Walk with Thee,  TFWS 2158

Offering and Prayer of Dedication Giving is quite different these days, but we cannot neglect it. Our beautiful buildings still need lights and more. We are starting to have small meetings within our buildings now, so we must keep them functioning well. Please consider your gifts to this church of time, talents and finances.You have several options to give. You can send a private message on this Facebook page, we’ll share ideas with you. And now as we receive your gifts – Loving God, as the sower scattered seeds with the hope of an abundant crop, we commit these tithes and offerings to help grow your Word and ask that their impact in our world may grow a hundred, sixty or thirty times what is sown. Amen. (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23) 

Please join me now in our Benediction, which will be followed by a few announcements.

Jesus is the sower of the seeds of faith, and he wants his Word to grow within us.

May we go forth from this place with ears to hear God’s word, and a commitment to live into it.  Amen.


  • A huge thanks to Ben for taping this week’s service – so appreciate you stepping in while Pastor Deb and Rod are on vacation!
  • Thank you to music leader Ellen Timmers and accompanist Elaine Keehr.
  • Thanks to Ben and his helpers for the children’s message.
  • If you are interested in receiving an Upper Room Meditation for July and August contact the church office. (We have extra large print!)
  • Mora and Ogilvie United Methodist Church will not offer in-person worship until we can do so safely, adhering to federal and state recommendations, and the guidance of the Minnesota Annual Conference.

As we continue to navigate this challenging season, let us remember that God is with us.

So until we meet gather again, I wish you peace.

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