Homily: The Sower – Surviving the Coming Storm

Homily on the Sower: Surviving the coming storm
St. Luke 8:5-15

There is a storm coming and I am not sure we are ready.

God sowed His seed here in the Blackstone Valley.  It grows within the heart of everyone here.  Like a garden in the spring, there are beautiful shoots waking up to the possibilities of life.  Every single one of them has the possibility of bringing food to the hungry and the spreading of that same seed to other hearts [Johnny Appleseed, apple trees feeding the hungry and spreading more seeds; a metaphor for the Gospel].

It’s a beautiful metaphor.  We have all seen gardens and we love to witness God’s miracle of life in our own back yards.  The seed is such a simple thing, but it is has so much potential.  After we plant a seed in the soil, its potential quickly manifests itself as the first green sprouts push aside the dirt and break the surface of the earth.  But as beautiful as this is, it is only the beginning; as our Lord points out, there are so many things that can keep that sprout from growing into something truly good and useful.  This new plant has the capability to “spring up and bear fruit a hundredfold” (St. Luke 8:8), but there is no guarantee that it will.  

To reiterate, the seed itself is perfect, but even if the ground is good (and I spoke last year at this time of how we have to prepare this ground), it might not lead to the kind of harvest it should.  

There are so many shoots here in the Blackstone Valley – even here in this parish – but will they bear fruit?  I worry.  Not only do we have problems with our soil – there is a serious storm coming.  

The Parable of the Shoots and the Storm

You know what strong storms do to young gardens.  Even a simple windstorm can cause serious problems.  First, it pulls what soil we have up from the ground and then tugs at the plants, trying to bring them out of the earth and into the air.  These plants cannot survive in the air.  They may look good for a while – imagine thousands of small shoots with their delicate leaves being tossed about like ticker tape at a big parade – but they cannot last.  The rose for sale at the grocery store is beautiful, but it cannot stay that way long because it has lost its connection with the ground.   

Remember that the seed is the Word of God and that the soil is our hearts.  The size and strength of the plant is the size and strength of our faith; a measure of how much God has grown within us.

What do plants need in order to survive a storm?  They need strong, deep roots.  [They need] The kind of roots that have gone down far enough to hold things in place no matter what happens above the ground.  [They need] The kind of roots that pull nourishment from the earth in abundance.  If a plant has that kind of roots, it can survive the storm.  Nothing can pull it out.  With those kind of roots, it is sure to bear “fruit a hundredfold”.  

How deeply have the roots of the seed of Christ grown in our hearts?   Enough to weather the storm?  Again, I worry.  I look out and I see what grows above ground, and it is beautiful.  So much possibility.  So much potential.  But what will this garden look like after the storm?  

When the wind comes, I fear that many of our shoots will become one with the fury of the wind, giving up everything for the passion of a moment, dancing with abandon with other plants that have joined them in forsaking both God and the hope of any kind of decent future in favor of the frantic pull and crooked promises of the powers of the air.

 The Seed of Faith belongs in the Heart

Just as the sprout cannot survive outside the soil, faith in Christ cannot survive outside the heart.  Where else can you put it?  

There is a misunderstanding among many Christians in America (many Protestants) that faith belongs in the mind.  The undisciplined mind is full of hungry birds and beasts; if you try to grow the plant there, it will be like so much salad for them.  A disciplined mind can water the plant, but roots must be in the heart.  

There is another misunderstanding here in America that faith belongs in the feelings and emotions (many Pentecostals and Charismatics).  But untrained feelings – what the fathers called the “loins” or the “gut” are unreliable, as likely to burn the plant as they are to help it.  A trained gut can bring warmth and protection to the plant, but even then, the roots must be in the heart.  

How about trusting the plant to our culture?  Can’t it grow there?  No.  This would be madness – it is outside these doors that the storm is brewing.  Please don’t trust your faith to this world.  The roots of your faith belong in your heart.

Why in your heart?  Because the heart has infinite soil, it is the mysterious connection between us and our Creator.  Our minds and our guts are limited by the finite number connections among their neurons and by the supply of the various chemicals that shape their working.  No matter how many books we read or how much we augment ourselves with the latest gadgets (Google Brain, iBrain, etc.), there is a limit to what we can know.  No matter how much we jack up our senses with drugs and raves and stirring music, our feelings can only take us so far; there is only so much dopomine and adrenaline in our systems.  But what about the heart?  the heart that is open to God has infinite depth [image of the potted plant… with a stargate into infinity at the bottom of the pot!].  Our faith needs deep roots to survive the coming storm – and the heart is the only place where those roots can grow.  Infinite depth, infinite growth.  Perfect security.  No wind is strong enough to pull such a plant out; no temptation is strong enough to destroy this kind of faith.

How can this happen?

First, open your heart to God.  Give your life to Christ.  Make sure that you have Him in your heart and not just in your thoughts, opinions, and feelings.

Next, nourish that faith with the disciplines of Orthodoxy.  They are designed for nothing else but growing that seed into something strong, perfect, and beautiful.  Do not think of these as rules, but as guidelines for good gardening.  You can ignore the wisdom of the farmer’s almanac and all the accumulated advice of our agricultural ancestors.  After all, you are free to do whatever you want with your garden.  But if you want your seeds to bear fruit, you will take their guidelines seriously.  It is the same with the garden of the heart.  The Church has been deepening and spreading the Gospel for a really long time.  We can ignore its advice, but only if we don’t care about the results.

So what are these disciplines?  You may think I have pulled a bait and switch, but I haven’t.  The guidelines for developing a strong faith are simple and old-fashioned:

  • Abstain from meat, fish, eggs and dairy every Wednesday and Friday and during fasting seasons.

  • Read the daily prayers in your prayer book every morning and evening, and the Communion prayers before and after Divine Liturgy.

  • Come to Church at least every Sunday and Feast Day.  If you can’t come in the morning because of work, then come to the service the evening before.

  • Offer the first fruits of your income – whether it is an allowance, a paycheck, social security, or the lottery – to the Church.

  • See Christ in everyone so that you can love them, serve them, and nourish the seed of faith within their hearts.

These are not random rules, nor are they only meant for priests and monastics.  They are provided by God so that we might live well; and they are for everyone, young and old, rich and poor.  They move our faith from our heads and our feelings where “birds devour and thorns choke” into our hearts where it can really thrive.


Our faith in Christ is not a school exercise in developing the right opinions about God or a way to make us feel good.  Orthodoxy is not a way to satisfy God so that we can get into heaven.  Our Faith in Christ and Holy Orthodoxy are the only way to survive the storm that is gathering outside these doors.  Your love, your faith, your very soul are not strong enough to weather that storm on their own.  They need roots.