Written Sermons & Bible Studies

Seeds of Grace: The Sower’s Journey, Weedy Soil

We are studying the Parable of the Sower in Luke 8:4-15. Today, we will talk about the seed that falls on the thorny ground and is choked out before it can form a healthy plant. This represents people who hear the Word of God and receive it, but as they go about their lives, riches, worries and pleasures keep them from maturing in the faith.

When Jesus told the parable, he was preaching in Galilee and healing people. He was sowing the Word of God among many villages. Many came out to hear the teachings of Jesus from villages far and wide. While many were eager to hear and allow the Word of God to take root in their lives, many others faced the distractions of life. The Pharisees, who were the most religious, were the ones choked by the weeds of riches and distractions. Their external lives looked faithful, but their spiritual lives were choked with weeds. They were the religious authorities, but they did not mature in their relationship with God.

Let’s read our Scripture passage for the day.

Luke 8:7

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

Luke 8:14

The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.

The Word of God that we hear in church can be choked by the worries, concerns and distractions of life. Life in this world can choke our life with God in the Spiritual world. The earthly kingdom chokes out the life of the eternal kingdom in our lives. The pleasures and problems we experience can choke our life of faith unless we dig deep into the spiritual well provided by the Holy Spirit and experienced in a community of believers.

Paul encourages believers to strive together as one for the faith of the Gospel.

Philippians 1:27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.

A follower of Christ must be a diligent gardener. Weed management is a constant aspect of our spiritual walk. We cannot grow as followers of Christ without it.

Weed management encourages us to practice tending to the gardens of our souls. Just as a gardener vigilantly removes weeds to protect the health and vitality of their plants, we, too, must identify and address the ‘weeds’ in our lives that can distract us from our spiritual path. These can include excessive worry about material needs, the pursuit of stuff at the expense of relationships and allowing temporary pleasures to derail us from our deeper purpose and calling.

Weed management requires constant vigilance. For our spiritual maturity, we need to do a lot of self-reflection and time for prayer. We need space in our personal lives for deep-rooted faith to flourish. We also must have the humility to seek help. To manage our weeds, we all need community. We need the church to help us grow in our relationship with Christ, the Holy Spirit and God the Father.

Unfortunately, we cannot use my weed management system. There is no Roundup we can spray on the weeds of our life. When I spray Roundup, I kill the weeds alright, but I destroy a whole bunch of grass in the process. Unfortunately, there is no zero-tolerance approach to spiritual weed management.

We usually need to live with some weeds. We won’t be free of weeds until we are in heaven. While we are on this earth, our life among weeds must nourish and sustain us. Maybe you have a relationship in your family that is worrying or troublesome. Maybe you are suffering under a difficult boss. Maybe you have a chronic health issue. Our faith can and does thrive amidst the weeds and challenges of life.

As an example of wise weed management, I want to share some American Indian farming practices. They are based in a long connection with the land and wisdom passed down from their ancestors.  Among these practices was the cultivation of the Three Sisters—corn, beans, and squash—a trio that thrived together. When planted together, the Three Sisters supported and nourished each other and also nourished the people and the land. An interesting aspect of planting these crops together was it addressed the challenge of weeds growing up among the crops, competing for sunlight, water, and nutrients. To manage the weeds, American Indians did not pull-out Roundup or any chemical weed killer. Their approach treated these plants as part of the natural world. They sought to grow their crops without my level of weed hatred. They used three methods that relied on a deep understanding of life’s interconnectedness.

The first method was controlled burns: As winter waned and before the first shoots of spring appeared, they used controlled burns on their fields. These fires, set with precision and prayer, cleared the land of accumulated debris and weeds. The burned debris returned nutrients to the soil without harming the earth’s vitality. The tribe watched the flames and understood that fire was a tool of renewal, not destruction.

The second method was crop rotation: With each planting season, they rotated their crops. This was a practice that naturally curbed the growth of weeds. Crop rotation made sure that the soil remained fertile and vibrant, year after year. They planted legumes to enrich the earth with nitrogen. The following year they planted crops that drew heavily from the soil’s resources. Rotating these crops, they maintained balance in the soil.

The third method was the Three Sisters: In the heart of their fields grew the Three Sisters. The squash’s broad leaves shaded the soil. This deterred the weeds. The cornstalks provided structure for the beans to climb. The roots of the beans fixed nitrogen in the earth, nourishing the land. This living tapestry of plants created a natural barrier against the encroachment of unwanted weeds.

Native American agriculture managed these plants with understanding. They used methods that created balance between their crops and the natural world. They configured natural barriers for the weeds while helping the plants providing fruit to mature.

If only we managed the weeds in our spiritual life like that. We would avoid harsh methods to remove weeds. We would nourish the soil of our souls. We would seek spiritual growth through the support of other followers of Christ.

What if our neighbor’s yard is unsightly and full of weeds? It’s tempting to go over and tell them to pull them up. For people who are trying to remove the weeds in their lives, we would encourage them with the three sisters of understanding, patience, and care. We would unearth the weeds of doubt, fear, and despair by nurturing their soul’s soil and sharing the love of Christ.

In the parable of the Sower, the weeds choke out the Word of God not because they are stronger, but because the soil of the heart has not been tended with wisdom and love. The story of Indian farming reminds us that with careful attention, the soil of our hearts can be prepared to receive the Word. Good soil allows the Word to take root deeply, and we can thrive, even amidst life’s inevitable weeds.

Let’s return to our passage in Philippians:

Philippians 1:27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.

Paul is talking to a church community like ours. When we strive together as one, we are like the Three Sisters. When we stand firm in the one Spirit, we become mature believers that are unaffected by the weeds.

Let’s invite others to plant themselves in our field here at Place of Grace Fellowship. Using American Indian farming methods as an illustration, here are some gentle methods we can use to bring people into our church and the way of life in Christ.

Like Controlled Burns, Create a Welcoming Environment:

Just as controlled burns cleared the land for new growth, we can create a church environment that removes barriers to faith and community. People may come with skepticism, even fears, or negative experiences they might have had with church or religion. Let’s offer them a safe, welcoming environment. Allow people to ask questions about faith without the fear of criticism. Create a place of acceptance and friendship. Make space for honest discussion, authentic connection, and healing.

A Fuller Seminary study found that many high school students left their faith behind when they graduated. But high schoolers who were allowed to ask tough questions, express their doubts and have open conversation in their church remained more faithful through college and into adulthood. Let’s clear away the barriers to growth.

Like Crop Rotation, Foster Spiritual Growth:

We rotate the spiritual “crops” by offering a variety of programs as entry points into the community and faith. Some might be drawn to service opportunities, some to bible study groups, others to restoration ministries, and still others to worship services or fellowship events. We invite new people to experience more programs, because this variety can address different spiritual needs and promote well rounded spiritual growth. All of us can prevent “soil exhaustion,” and benefit from participating in service, worship, study, support, prayer and fellowship. This is the way our church remains a vibrant, nurturing space for all.

Like the Three Sisters, Support Deep-Rooted Faith:

Like the interdependent growth of the Three Sisters, we are a community where members support each other. We can open up this supportive community and include more people. Pairing newcomers with more seasoned members for mentorship can be particularly effective. As seasoned members, you can share your faith journey, providing shade and structure, much like squash and corn, helping to prevent the “weeds” of loneliness or misunderstanding from taking root. Let’s think about ways we can make this a reality for people coming into our church.

Judge Not the Weeds! Offer Compassion and Support:

Recognize that everyone comes with their own “weeds”—past hurts, doubts, or struggles. Avoid judgment and approach them with understanding and patience. Managing weeds with harsh methods can cause more damage. Offer compassion and support. We can be a place where people can work through their challenges without feeling the need to hide parts of their journey. Our church offers spiritual water to those who thirst and living roots to those struggling to thrive. Our church provides spiritual sustenance, renewal, and restoration through its biblical teachings, community support, and faith practices. We want people to experience the depth of faith that goes beyond the “intermittent rain of blessings” to the “river of life” that flows from Jesus Christ.

Pray for Rain! Cultivate Patience and Celebrate Growth:

Nudge people to come to our programs and join our community. Be patient with their level of engagement and growth process, understanding that faith journeys are as unique as the individuals themselves. Celebrate when people show up and show interest as victories.  Every step towards the community is a step towards deeper faith. Let’s make them feel welcomed, supported, and valued throughout their journey.

Pray for rain! Pray for revival in our church. Pray for the Holy Spirit to nourish us with encouragement, wisdom and passion for saving souls and making disciples.
In our spiritual lives, what spiritual practices can we do to manage the weeds?

  1. Controlled Burns: Purification and Renewal

In a believer’s life: Regular spiritual self-examination and confession can act as a controlled burn, removing the debris that chokes our spiritual growth and makes room for new, healthy growth in faith. Make prayer a regular practice.

  • Crop Rotation: Diversity in Spiritual Practices

In a believer’s life: Practicing spiritual disciplines like prayer, serving in ministries like quilting or Sunday school, or studying the bible in our groups can keep our faith dynamic and resilient. Attending worship service regularly can prevent the ‘weeds’ of apathy or disillusionment from taking root.

  • The Three Sisters: Mutual Support in Community

In a believer’s life: Actively participating in church where we as members support, teach, and uplift each other. This can protect against the weeds of life. Just as beans provide nitrogen for corn and squash, believers can nourish one another with wisdom, accountability, hope and love. Who can you encourage today? 

Let us pray:

Christ Jesus, we come before You with humble hearts, ready to receive the bread and wine, symbols of Your Son’s sacrifice for us. As we partake in this communion, let us remember the body of Christ, broken for our salvation, and His blood, shed for the forgiveness of our sins. Bless these elements as a symbol of your presence in our lives. As we consider your sacrifice for us, may your Holy Spirit nourish our spirits and draw us closer to You. May this act of communion unite us as one body in Christ, strengthening our faith and commitment to Your path. Amen.

Heavenly Father, as we navigate the gardens of our lives, bless us with the wisdom and resilience of the Three Sisters—corn, beans, and squash. Let us grow tall and strong, supporting each other, and spreading a canopy of protection over our community. In times of drought and amidst the weeds that threaten to choke our faith, remind us of the river of life that flows from You. Help us to extend Your grace and love, nourishing those around us and fostering a harvest of hope and renewal. Amen.

About Pastor Tim

Tim Holmes

Senior Pastor

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