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       Sermons | Passionate worship

      This sermon was preached by Pastor Keith Cardwell at Swift Presbyterian Church.

      Aug. 1, 2021 | 10th Sunday after Pentecost

      Third sermon in a series,
      ‘Locating Your Place in God’s Story’

      Matthew 13:1–9,18–23

       I  STILL HATE WEEDING my flower beds, but I do it. Most times, it feels like a losing battle. There’s something we can learn from weeding our flower beds or vegetable gardens that applies to this parable. Today we look at soil filled with thorns and weeds.

      In explaining this parable, Jesus says the Word of God is the seed. We are the soil and our receptiveness to hearing (and living) the word of God.

      Today we focus on the soil filled with thorns. These garden invaders compete for water, nutrients, and light. If left unattended, they can totally smother God’s Word, or greatly reduce ripened produce.

      † † †

      THE BETTER HOMES & Gardens website posted an article, “7 of the Worst Weeding Mistakes That Make Gardening Much Harder.”  I’ve adapted that for our use. Our spiritual lives — our living in community with others, our faithfulness to God — are easier when we weed our spiritual gardens.

         Know the enemy. A few months ago, I was talking with a landscape designer. She asked me to define a weed. My response was anything I don’t want in my garden. She said I was wrong. A weed is anything not in the landscaping plan. For me a crepe myrtle sprouting in my yard from the neighbor is a free tree. For her, it’s a weed. Identify the weeds in your garden. Annual, perennial, or biennial weeds need different approaches. Weeds that spread by seed, runners, suckers, require a different treatment. Know your enemy.

      Know, identify, the weeds in your life that choke your ability to produce Godly fruit. Matthew, Mark, and Luke record enemies of fruitful living: life’s worries, cares of the world, deceitfulness of wealth, pleasures, and desire for other things. Their list is not exhaustive but might stir your thought process. Weeds, thorns, briars, undesired lifestyles invade your life and suck the Godly life out of you; or stunt your commitment to God’s work. What invasive ways of living, desires, goals, or uses of time get in the way of our proper relationship with God?

      Think about the little things — thoughtless actions, unintentional comments, contradictions noticed by others. The more we think about it, the more we realize how much work it takes to be a fruitful person — one who, with God’s help, lives so that others may be their best selves. Unwanted things grow in every aspect of our lives, and we must be intentional about removing weeds from our mind, body, and spirit. Know your enemy.

         Use the right tool. You might be tempted to just use a weed whacker on everything or bombard the garden with herbicide. These sometimes work, but mostly don’t. For annual weeds, we’re instructed by BH&G to use a hoe to cut them off at the soil line. For perennial weeds, when the soil is wet, we are to dig deep enough to get the taproots. Weed whackers and herbicides used on the wrong plants or at the wrong time will be detrimental to your garden’s harvest.

      What tools do you use to fight back wants, needs, desires that invade your spiritual life? One method doesn’t work for all. You might need to fast. Pray. Spend time in contemplation. Worship. Insist on Sabbath rest. Attend a silent retreat. Maybe use the herbicide of singing hymns or listening to Christian rock.

         Wear gloves and other proper clothing. Hat, sunscreen, perhaps long sleeves. Some weeds have thorns. Some weeds may cause skin irritation. Now, in spiritual terms we see from Paul in Ephesians the wardrobe for fighting the enemy:

      the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the readiness given by the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.

         Don’t rely on landscape fabric. This is something of a controversy among gardeners. Landscape fabric topped with mulch is touted as a long-term solution to controlling weeds. According to BH&G that’s not the case. For our purposes, maybe we try to cover up the spiritual weeds in our lives. Hide them under a Sunday smile. Perhaps simply pretend they don’t exist. We ignore the dangers of desires, hungers, pleasures that consume the life-giving spiritual nutrients and block our growth. This leads to more work, more pain, more frustration, more uncontrolled spiritual weeds in the soil of our lives.

      † † †

      WHICH BRINGS US to our final gardening advice from BH&G.

         Don’t procrastinate. Small weeds are much easier to remove than big ones. The longer weeds grow, the deeper their roots. The harder they are to eradicate.

      Pull spiritual weeds as soon as they start growing and you’ll save yourself a lot of time and effort, pain and hurt. When it comes to spiritual weeding, it’s a mistake to delay.

      Don’t deny you have weeds. Identify the enemy, grab the right tools, put on your gardening clothes, and get to it!

      — Keith Cardwell   

      «Weeds, thorns, briars, undesired lifestyles invade your life and suck the Godly life out of you; or stunt your commitment to God’s work. What invasive ways of living, desires, goals, or uses of time get in the way of our proper relationship with God?»


      This is the Word of God for the people of God:

      Matthew 13:1–9,18–23
      Holy Bible, New International Version

      The parable of the sower
      That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore. 3 Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop — a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. 9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

      • • •

      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.”

      — This is the Word of the Lord.
      — Thanks be to God.


         a.  Matthew 13:15  Isaiah 6:9,10 (see Septuagint)

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