Sun Scorching or Giving Growth Depends on the Roots

The Rev. Robert P. Travis

6th  Sunday after Pentecost Sermon – 8am and 9:30am Chapel of St. John the Divine

Proper 10 RCL Year A 7/16/2017


Scripture Text:

Isaiah 55:10-13

Psalm 65: (1-8), 9-14

Romans 8:1-11

Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

Sermon Text:

The parable of the sower

That we hear from Jesus today,

Is the parable about parables,

It tells us about listening to the parables

That Jesus shares.

And it’s important to listen to this week,

As we are about to enter a few weeks

Of considering the parables of Jesus

In Matthew.


But there is one point

In the parable that is particularly interesting,

Because it sets up a contrast

Between something that gives life,

And also seems to cause one not to survive.


First though a few points that we need to know.

This parable in Matthew is preached to the crowd,

But only explained to the few disciples later,

There is a gap in the middle where Jesus

Explains to his disciples why he speaks to everyone

In parables.

In the parable, the sower of the word

Is God, but it also becomes the disciples,

To whom the word has been given

As if grown in good soil and now spreading the seed.

That resulted from that growth.

Jesus explains it to them,

For they and we will become sowers of the word

Just as God is,

And he wants them to see,

How generously God sows the seed,

Not being wasteful as one might suppose,

But throwing the seed of the word everywhere,

In the hopes that every patch of good soil

Will be found and receive seed.


The other thing to note,

Is that if our hearts are the soil

Into which God puts his word,

Then it is not helpful to us

To think too narrowly about this parable

To think of certain people as being

Always one kind of soil,

Like the path, or the rocky ground,

Or among the thorns, or the good soil.

But rather that everyone of us,

Goes through times in our lives,

Where are hearts are like the different kinds of ground.

When we are more or less open

To truly hearing, understanding and acting

On the words of God in our lives.


Sometimes we hear the word,

But just don’t get it,

So it quickly disappears from our lives,

As if it went in one ear and out the other.

I heard one faithful person say

That every day is full of lessons like this

For each of us,

If we but paid attention we would always be growing.


Sometimes in our lives we hear God’s teaching,

And are eager to receive it.

But if we have not been careful to grow our roots deep,

If we believe just because the conditions of our life

Are just right,

Then when difficulty arises,

Which it inevitably will,

We will just fall away.


I find it fascinating,

That Jesus uses the image

Of the Sun rising on the plant in rocky ground,

To show analogy to the difficulties

We may face in life.

Because the Sun is also the very source

Of life and energy for that same plant.

The plant that has deep roots is nourished

By the sun’s burning rays.

The plant that has shallow roots

Is scorched by those same rays,

And withers.


In Clarissa Estes’ book “The Faithful Gardener”

There is a story about this little girl’s uncle,

Who works to turn the soil in a damaged plot of land.

This plot next to their village,

Was a place where careless government workers

Had cut across after building a highway nearby.

The uncle does not want to leave it damaged,

Or just accept what the government had done,

But he wants to turn it into a forest.

In the process of preparing the ground,

He turns the soil but doesn’t plant it.

To make it inviting to trees,

That would naturally grow there.

But he also burns it with fire.

And he explains to the little girl,

“It means you send (the ground) through fire

In order to prepare it for its new life.

This is the part God does not do alone.

God likes a partnership.

It is up to us to help what God has begun.

No one wants this kind of burning,

This kind of fire.

We want the field to remain as it once was,

In its pristine beauty,

Just as we want life to remain as it once was.

But fire comes.

Though we are afraid, it comes anyway,

Sometimes by accident,

Sometimes on purpose,

Sometimes for reasons no one can understand-

Reasons that are God’s business alone.

But the fire can also turn everything to a new direction,

A new and different life,

One that has its own strengths

And ways to shape the world.”


Sure enough,

After the fire prepares the fallow ground,

The trees gradually fill in the soil,

To make a beautiful forest.


Fire comes in all of our lives as well,

And whether we experience the fire

As a nourishing sun,

Giving new life and growth,

Or a fire that destroys us,

Has to do with how deep we invite the

Word of God to sink his roots into our hearts.


I saw this recently with observing my father,

In his grief over the loss of my mother.

They were married for nearly 48 years

When she died and left him alone.

He was very open with me about his grief.

And when it was the most intense,

He found that he could depend on his roots.

My dad is a man who reads the bible regularly,

Who prays frequently every day,

Who has a practice of silent, contemplative prayer,

Who never misses the chance to worship

And receive the sacraments.

He has served in the church all of his adult life.

And in this time of intense trial,

The roots that those practices nourished and grew

Sustained him.

He told me that in the most difficult times

Of sadness,

He felt closer to Jesus than ever before.

It was like Jesus came into his life anew,

And replaced the intimacy he had with my mom,

With intimacy with himself.

Now, he is doing so well,

Enjoying life, relishing time with his grandchildren

And children.

While he still misses his wife, he seems full of joy.

This to me was an example,

Of how the sun that could scorch others

(many do wither and even die

After the end of such a long marriage),

The suffering in our lives,

When our roots in the word go deep,

Becomes a source of new growth and life.


My brothers and sisters in Christ,

This experience is what I want for you.

I want you to be able to weather

The trials of life as growing times

Rather than destructive times.


I focused on this part of the parable,

Because I sense that if you are here this morning,

You have been a person as I have been

who heard the word of God

And received it with joy.

That means there is rocky ground in our midst,

And we have to take care

To help our roots grow deep.

Look for opportunities to develop

The practices that help your roots grow.

If you need help discerning what is right for you,

That is what Noel and I are here for,

To help you grow deep in your faith.

So that when the sun beats down on you,.

As it does on everyone,

You will experience its nourishing rays,

And find new life through the struggles of life.



The Rev. Robert P. Travis

Father Rob goes by Father so that he remembers his duty to the people of God whom he serves. He’s been ordained since 2006, serving in Florida and Tennessee and before that served as a youth minister in Long Island, NY. More details