The Sower and the Seed
by: Ronald L. Dart - #0318
You're all familiar, I think with the occasion of where Jesus was teaching a multitude of people and so many of them were there that He got into a boat and He pushed off in the boat so that He could sit out there and talk to them from the land. He must have had an incredible set of lungs.
I remember once having to speak to a group of probably close to 500 people without any amplification, and man, that was hard work to be able to project your voice and get it out there to a lot of people under that circumstance.
On this particular occasion, Jesus taught a lot of things to them by parables. There is one in particular though that Matthew and Mark both make a point of recording and I want to take you to it because there is something in it I had not thought about perhaps correctly before.
Some Seed Fell by the Way Side
It's in Mark chapter 4 where I want to go and I'll begin with Jesus' parable in verse 3, He says, "Listen; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: 4And it came to pass, as he sowed, some seed fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. 5And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: 6But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. 7And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. 8And other seed fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some a hundred fold. 9And He said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."
Now what on earth did Jesus expect them to hear from that? What was it that was supposed to go in through one or the other of their ears and lodge in between and somehow take effect in their lives?
What is the Sower Doing?
I had to think when I read this, what on earth is this sower doing? How can he be so careless about where he sows his seed? You have to spend money for seed. You don't throw it away carelessly. You're pretty careful about what you do with it. You want the ground prepared, you want everything done right.
Seed costs money. I would never think of doing that, and that may account for the reason why Jesusí disciples came to him afterward and said, "Lord what you mean by that?"
Jesus Taught in Parables
Jesus in verse 11 of Mark 4, said to them, "It's given to you to know the mystery of the kingdom of God, but to them that are outside, everything is done in parables: 12That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand, less that at any time they should be converted, and their sins be forgiven them.
Now that by itself is kind of a frightening concept in a way to think about, but you have to understand a couple of things. One is a parable is not just an illustration, it is one of the things that I was taught in Sunday School that Jesus taught in parables, those little stories to make His meaning clear to his listeners, and here He tells His disciples categorically the opposite. He did not use these things to make His meaning clear, so His listeners would understand what He was driving at, and His statement "He that has ears to hear, let him hear," implies that some people are going to get this and a lot of people probably are not going to get it!
By definition, a parable is a fictitious story given to illustrate a moral or religious principle. An allegory is the expression by means of symbolic fictional figures and actions of truths and generalizations about human existence. In other words, we create a story to convey a truth and it's a very interesting example of how fiction can actually be truth.
How something can be true without being literal? You may want to write that down by the way, so you won't forget it. It's profoundly important in understanding the Bible.
Every one of Jesus' parables is the truth and every one of Jesus' parables is fiction. There's a profound truth in that if you can just remember it. Try not forget it. It may save you some sleepless nights someday. But that's another subject, and I'll go to that at another time.
Jesus then said to His disciples, 13 "You don't understand this parable? If you can't understand this parable, how are you going to understand any parable that comes your way."
The disciples' problem was common to all of us. They had a habit of taking things literally that Jesus did not intend for us to take literally, and people still do this sort of thing.
There was a news item. I saw it, not that many years ago, where some poor guy had cut his hand off with a bandsaw, not accidentally, but on purpose because he read what Jesus said, "If your right hand offend you cut it off," so he thought, I'm supposed to do that, it never occurred to him that Jesus was speaking figuratively, but so much of that, accounts for a lot of the problems people have in understanding the Bible and agreeing with one another about what God expects of us to do.
I Am a Sower of Seed
Jesus now explains, 14"The sower sows the word."
Here I am, I today, a sower of seed. I debated briefly about bringing a handful of seed to church and just giving it a throw out over all of you here, but someone would make me vacuum the carpet so I decided not to do it.
Continuing in Mark 4, "The sower sows the word. 15And these are they by the wayside, where the word is sown, but when they have heard, Satan comes immediately, and takes away the word that was sown in their hearts, 16And these are they likewise which are on stony ground, who, when they hear the word, immediately receives it with gladness."
Now let's imagine for a moment that I am the sower, that is not a very big stretch because that's what I do every day. It's my job. It's my life. Hardly a day passes that I don't sow some seed someplace. Now let's imagine for today, that you are the ground upon which my seed will fall. Today, again, no stretch.
Now from where I sit, day in and day out, behind the golden BTW microphone (BTW = Born to Win). I can tell there are some dittoheads in the audience.
The sowing of the seed has a fatalistic quality about it. You know, I have little control of where my voice will go. We select radio station here. We don't pick one there. We have little control over where my voice will go. I have absolutely no control over who will hear it. It can be rocky ground. It can be thorny ground, it can be briars, it can being hardpan. I have no idea who is going to hear it. All I can try to do is sow good seed.
So I can be fatalistic. I put it out there, I can say "Que Sera, Sera -Whatever Will Be, Will Be" and go my way, but from where you sit, I don't think you can afford to think that way. I think from where you sit, fatalism can be, well fatal. You need to think very carefully about this, as I speak today, seed will fall into your lap. It already has. I read the Scriptures to you. Now I have no control, from this moment on what will happen to the seed that I've already tossed into your lap today.
But that's not true where you are concerned. I have no more control over that seed, you do! It is there, you've got it, in your lap, in your hands. Maybe it fell in your pocket. Somehow or other, the seed is there.
Satan is Your Adversary
Continuing in Mark 4, "The sower sows the word," Jesus said. 15"And these are they by the wayside, where the word is sown and when they have heard it, Satan comes immediately and takes away the word that was sown in their heart."
Now what does that mean? Well, Satan is your adversary. He is a liar, he is a deceiver and there's not a lot that I, as a sower of seed, can do about that. You know, I can put a coating on the seed, you can prepare the seed, sometimes seeds come already coated with something that helps and preserve them until the time they are supposed to germinate and so forth. I can do my best to provide good seed and see that is properly prepared to give to you, but once I have given it to you, I can't keep the birds off of that seed, I can't keep them from snatching it away from you when it arrives there.
You will be presented with every excuse you will ever need to ignore the truth. You will never have to search for it, it will just be right there. If you need an excuse, it will be provided. If you need to be deceived, deception will be provided. If you just don't want to see it, somebody will put up a screen so you don't have to look at it. This is something you need to understand.
You have an adversary. He is a deceiver. He is a liar and he has a vested interest, somehow or other, in your not doing a thing with the seed that's has fallen in your lap or in your pocket.
Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, and said, in second Thessalonians chapter 2 verse 7, and he said this, "The mystery of iniquity is already at work. He who now restrains will do until he is taken out of the way, 8And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the breath of his mouth and destroy with the brightness of his coming. 9Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders."
Would You Follow a Man Because of a Miracle?
Now, you know, I know a lot of people, I'm sorry to say, who if they saw someone actually perform what they saw and thought it was a miracle, would believe that they should follow that man because of the miracle that they saw. They would do it in spite of all the warnings that the Bible has about this particular point.
Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2 they will do it. 10"It will be with all deceitfulness of unrighteousness in them that perish because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved."
Love the Seed
We could call it a love of the seed that has fallen in your lap, an appreciation of the value of what you have suddenly been given. You know, every week we carry a Bible to church. Hopefully every day we pull it down off the shelf and read a little section out of it and we have the word of God in our hands all the time and yet sometimes I wonder how much of that seed is cultivated and how much it is cared for, and whether or not we pay much attention to it.
Snatch the Truth Away
The implication of the parable is, that if you don't do something about it, it will be gone. It will be gone before you know it. The ravens are everywhere, confusing issues muddying the waters, snatching the truth out of your hands before it can take root, in you.
The prophet Isaiah said in chapter 5 verse 20, "Woe to them that call evil good and good evil that put darkness for light and light for darkness, bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter," and it's going on all the time. All the time!
Those of us who browse around the Internet on religious issues, may be more aware of it, perhaps more than many of you might be, but I mean there are people out there everywhere all the time, and it seems like their sole purpose in life, is to confuse people, to confuse the issues, to turn darkness into light, to make something simple, complicated, to turn people's hearts away from the truth. It's going on as we sit here.
People are writing stuff to put out there for people to read to the confuse issues. Do they know that's what they're doing? I couldn't even hazard a guess. I hope not. All I know is, they are at best, useful idiots! They are at best dupes in the hands of Satan and their job is to snatch the truth away from people before it can take root in them
Continuing in Isaiah 5 and verse 21, "Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! 22 Woe to them that are mighty to drink wine, and men of strong drink."
He's not talking here about booze. He's talking about wine and strong drink being mingled as alcohol, drugs, and the kind of thing to confuse your mind, He is talking about terms of spiritual confusion. Alcohol gets you in a lot of trouble, but so can the spiritual confusion that is brewed up by people, who justify the wicked for reward and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him.
Now I have to tell you this, as an elder in your church, it's tempting to try to protect you from the ravens, it's tempting to do everything in my power to keep them from being able to get close to you, to keep them from being able to confuse you, but in the end, the sower cannot do that and in the parable Jesus gave, He does not do that.
Jesus cast the seed out there and what happens after the seed is cast out there is entirely your responsibility.
Did you ever think about that, in relation to this parable? It is your job to protect the seed that has been given to you, because you see, in the end, no one else can. No one else can! The attempts by churches or organizations to ban people who have other doctrines, the attempts to protect you from reading or seeing things you ought not to read. from listening to tapes and CDs you ought not listen to, is all an exercise in futility. It is worthless. It's pointless, because if your mind or your heart is to go away, you will go away. You will find a way. The devil will be there to provide you with the way. So that's not my job.
My job is to sow good seed and I think when you read the parable, you should stop and think about this. There are two different positions or ways of looking at this, one is the position of the sower and the other is the person who receives the seed, because when Jesus uses this parable, obviously there are people involved, right? People are in receipt of seed, the seed is falling upon people who are in life situations.
Some Seed Fell on Stony Ground
Verse 16 of chapter 4 of Mark again, "These are likewise they that are sown on stony ground when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness, 17 But they have no root in themselves, and they endure for a time, and afterward, when affliction or persecution arises for the word's sake, immediately they stumble."
That's what the word 'be offended' in your King James version means. "Immediately they stumble."
You know, these people are what preachers often call 'head nodders.' They are like the little dog in the back window of somebody's car. Their head is continually nodding. No matter what you say in the sermon, they nod their head. Some of you are nodding your head right now!
Now as a preacher, you get to the place sometimes where we appreciate the fact that you appear that you are paying attention. As a speaker, I'm always looking at the audience. I'm always taking feedback from the audience. You know if I see someone dropping off to sleep, I hold myself accountable and I try to work a little harder, and if I can't overcome it, I say, "Well maybe the guy is just too tired, let him sleep. That's not the kind of thing I'm talking about here.
What I'm talking about though is the person who when you are talking to them face-to-face, they nod their head. They appear to agree with you, but they don't believe a word you say. Have you every met anybody like that?
I see some heads nodding now. We have met people like that. We all know people like that. There are people who receive things too easily. They don't try or test them, they don't examine what it is that they have been given.
Ezekiel wrote of this and it is in chapter 33 verse 30, "You son of man, the children of your people are talking about you by the walls and in the doors and the houses."
I mean, they're talking about you all of the time, it is just a little buzz out there. "Oh, Ezekiel did this. I saw Ezekiel over there. You know Ezekiel doesn't practice what he preaches." And on and on it goes.
People talk, they say, "Come, I pray you, let's go listen to what's coming out of the mouth of the LORD, we want to hear what God has to say today from Ezekiel and "They come to you as the people comes and they sit before you as my people, and they hear your words, but they will not do them, for with their mouth, they show much love, (nod their head), but their heart goes after their covetousness. Low, you are under them as a very lovely song of one that has a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument, for they hear your words, and they don't do them."
I get a lot of emails and letters from people who talk about how much they enjoy my program and what a nice voice I have, and it always makes me think of this. I'm glad God gave me a voice that people like to listen to, but at the same time it takes me back to this particular thing. Now here's the thing about these people. They love to hear you talk. They like to hear the word of God. They like to hear church music. They love all these things but as soon as the gospel costs them something, they are gone.
That's what He's talking about here, because He mentions this, their covetousness is involved here, their heart goes after their covetousness. It's all a question of what's in it for me, as long as it pays, as long as it feels good, as long as it supports me, as long as it helps my self-esteem and makes me feel good about myself, I'm all for it. But when someone comes along and starts making me feel bad about myself, when someone comes along and starts criticizing the way I live my life, when somebody starts calling on me to Repent with a capital 'R', that's a different matter entirely.
When He calls for the denial of the self, it's all over. That's what Jesus is talking about here.
My Job Is Over
Now from where I stand, I can't do anything about the seed that I have tossed out there in your lap, nothing, I can do my best as I give it to you. And after that, my job is basically over.
Your job is just starting. That's where the problem lies, how does it look from where you sit? Is there anything you can do?
I think there's a clue to what Jesus said, "He said when they have heard the word, immediately they receive it with gladness, but they have no root in themselves."
What Kind of Seed is It?
Now if I gave you a seed, unless you were a farmer, you probably wouldn't have any idea what kind of seed it was, and even a farmer might have a hard time discerning between different kinds of seed, if he hadn't really been exposed to them very much. I probably, if I knew they were both grass seeds, I could probably tell you the difference between Bermuda seed and ryegrass without too much difficulty. But beyond that I might be at a loss. Go down and buy several packets of flower seeds at Lowes and bring them, put them on a table and ask people to try to tell you what kind of seed is what. How would you find out what it is? We all know how to find out what kind of seed it is! Don't we? Plant it and water it! And wait. We will find out what kind of seed it is when it sprouts and begins to grow. Now is that really hard to figure out, then, from the point of view of the person receiving the seed, what you're supposed to do? You are supposed to plant it and water it. How would you ensure a good root system? You would fertilize it and you would keep the soil loose. You keep it weed free. Be sure it had exactly the right amount of water, not too much, not too little. You would take care of the seed, having planted it and you will find out, eventually, what it is and it will eventually have roots.
Now it seems to me that there is a lesson buried in this parable, for the one who hears it from Jesus and that's what He said, "If you have ears, listen to me. I'm talking to you, what you do makes a difference in how this is all going to come out."
It is really fatalistic from my point of view, but it's not from yours. You can make a difference in what's going to happen on this. I think that in the past, I've heard this parable preached many times, as though it just happens, whatever's out there, that's whatever will be will be.
I don't think that's necessary to what Jesus had in mind at all and I know it is not what He has in mind as I talk to you people sitting here right now.
When I toss the seed out to you, what you do does make a very large difference.
Can you figure out from what I just said, what to do with the seed that is the 'word' that I've given you? I hope you can, because if you can't, you are out of luck.
The Cares of the World
"These," Jesus said," in Mark 4 verse 18, "are they that are sown among thorns. They are such as hear the word and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful."
This is the state most of us find ourselves in, much of the time, I'm afraid. And we know it, if we are honest. We do realize that the 'word' gets choked by the cares of this world, by the deceitfulness of riches and the lusts of other things entering in. The question is, whether there is a thing in the world you can do about it? Now, intuitively you know there has to be, intuitively you know this.
There are 'cares of the world,' though, that we have to address. If you are a mother and your baby is crying, you have to respond. That's a care of this world, but that's something you have to do, right? If you are a father with mouths to feed and rent to pay, you have to go to work. This is a care of this world, but it's something you can't get along without. You have got responsibilities. You have got to take care of those responsibilities and so that is not what He is talking about.
You have to also. according to the Bible, is that "A good man, lays up an inheritance for his children and his children's children" (Proverbs 13:22), which means you have to pay attention to and tend to your investments. This is not talking about the deceitfulness of riches. This is talking about taking care of what God has given you, over which you are a steward. It's good stewardship! You have to do that.
All that said, there is a danger here, of 'other things entering in,' and that was what Jesus said, 'other things entering in,'
I puzzled for a while over this odd expression, "The lusts of other things." What is He talking about? What could He mean? I found it could be translated, when I did a little word study and so forth as a 'longing for the rest,' a reaching out for, a longing for the rest, the remnant, the more, and then I realized, that what it does, it refers to that whole range of other things, that we are not responsible for, but exercise ourselves in, all the time.
You have to take care of your baby. You have to go to work and do you job. You have to pay your rent, you have to meet your obligations in the world. But then there is a lot of stuff out there. that we worry ourselves over, day in, day out, day in and day out, and I think this is what Jesus meant when He talked about the 'longing for the rest.' That hungryness that man has.
You know I really think that God has put in man a 'longing for God' and it gets substituted for a longing for 'fill-in the blank.' However, you have already filled the blank in, in your life.
I have to do that, if you stand up after church services and brush the seed out of your lap, I will regret that. But I will not lose any sleep over longing for something I cannot control. Do you understand the difference? It doesn't mean you don't care. If I put the seed out here, you stand up, brush it out of your lap and go your way and do your thing. I'm sorry, but I will not lose any sleep longing for something I cannot control.
How many hours of sleep have you lost longing for other things? Worrying about the other things, things that are not your responsibility, things you can't change, no matter how much you would want them to be some other way. There is not a blasted thing you can do about it, and yet you will lie awake and worry about these things. How do I know you do that? Because I do!
We know these things. How many hours have you spent on other things? That could've been much better spent on the 'word' and no I don't mean the things you're responsible for. I mean the other things, the things that you're not responsible for, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches and the lust of other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.
A Great Supper with Invited Guests
As I read that, my mind immediately turned to another parable that Jesus did, you'll find it close by in Luke 14.
Luke 14 and verse 16 and Jesus said, "A certain man made a great supper and invited a lot of people 17and he sent his servant at suppertime to say to the people he had invited, "Come for everything is ready." 18 And they all with one consent began to make excuses. The first said, "I bought a piece of ground, and I have to go see it. I pray you have me excused," 19And another said, "I bought five yoke of oxen and I have to go check them out. Have me excused." 20 Another said, "I have married a wife and I can't come." 21 So the servant came back and told his Lord, and then the master of the house was angry."
I don't blame him, I would be angry too. That would really tick me off, if I had a bunch of people out here and I made a big feast for them and I sent out invitations to all these people and nobody wants to come. I would say, "What's going on here?"
21 "Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, "Go out in the streets and lanes of the city and bring here the poor, the maimed, the crippled and the blind.""
These are people who don't have to worry about going to prove a yoke of oxen, because they can't afford oxen.
The master said, "Bring the poor in here!" The servant said, 22 "Lord, I've already done that and there's still room." and the master said "Go out and get some more!"
Do you know why he did that? He wanted every single chair filled! He said, "Go out on the highways and hedges and compel them to come in that my house may be filled, 24 I am telling you, none of these men who were invited shall taste of my supper."
The master wanted a full house. No empty seats, you come in late, "Oh, I'm sorry, we are full up."
Time for God
All the places at that feast were filled by people who had time for God. Do you understand what I just told you? Every seat at the feast was filled by people who had time for God, not by the people who didn't have time for Him.
So, you're all smart people. What can you do about that? Is there nothing you can do about that? Are you just helpless? Are you put into a pair of plastic handcuffs and all you can say is, "I'm sorry, there is nothing in the world I can do about the situation in which I have found myself." Of course, you know better than that. What can you do? You can make time for God. You can plan time for God. You can take care your personal business in its time and you can be with God in His time. How hard is this? This is not rocket science. It's a question of what do you want? It's a question of where you want to be? What do you want to grow out of the seed that has fallen in your lap and dropped in your pocket when you were not paying attention. What do you want out of all this type of thing?
How do you keep this from ever happening? You make time for God.
You cast off the burdens that you don't have to carry. You give them to God.
That brings to mind another Scripture, Psalm 55 verse 17, David says, "Evening and morning and at noon, I will cry, I will pray and cry aloud, and He shall hear my voice. 18 He has delivered my soul in peace from the battle that was against me, for there were many with me, 19 God shall hear, and afflict them, even he that abides of old, because they have no changes, therefore, they don't fear God."
In other words, these people have been here for so long they have forgotten what God is all about. They are not afraid of God anymore.
20 "He has put forth his hands against such as be at peace with him, he's broken his word to other people. 21 The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart, his words were softer than oil, yet they are drawn swords."
Cast Your Burden Upon the Lord
And then comes this beautiful saying, 22 "Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you. He will never suffer the righteous to be moved."
Oh yeah, these other people are a real pain. Oh I know, they cause all kinds of difficulty. Oh I know you have to struggle with them and I know you lost sleep over all this type of stuff. He says, "Don't worry about this. Cast your burden on the Lord."
Now, the word 'cast' seemed very important to me when I read this, because it doesn't mean that you lay your burden on God and keep your hand on it, and then tell God how and where to go with it or give Him instructions as to what to do with it. Tell God, stand here, turn there and put it down here, pick it up again and go on.
You don't do this, when you cast something, it is like casting seed. If I brought a handful of seed in here and I'd give it a throw, once it had got out there, I couldn't very well stop it, and that's what were talking about when He says "cast your burden on the Lord." Throw it off.
Now what is it? I don't know what your burden is, I have mine. I worry about mine. I don't need to worry about yours, that your problem and that is your duty, to take care of your burdens and deal with your problems.
I can tell you where to put them. I can tell you what to do with them and I can tell you when you give them to God, then let them go. Then stop trying to tell Him how to handle them. I think God has a better idea about that than you and I have.
Sow Your Seed on Good Ground
Finally, in the parable of Jesus, Mark 4 verse 20, there is that fourth category of the people, upon whom the seeds fell. "These are they which are sown on good ground, they hear the word, and receive it and bring forth good fruit. some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred fold."
This is a marvelous thing to consider. When I let go of the seed, I have absolutely no idea, how much fruit God will receive from it. You can see that, can't you?
Whenever I get on the radio, and I talk out there, I have absolutely no idea. It's like when you throw out a handful of seeds, and you have a bunch of seeds to hit an 18 wheeler that is going by, sooner or later that 18 wheeler going down the road may be washed somewhere, and the seeds may blow off along the road side as he drives down the road and those seeds will hit the grass, or the ground and they will take root and will grow somewhere.
I never have any idea where they would end up. Birds will pick them up and take them in their feathers to some other place. All of this is going on all the time, and it is that way with the radio program, it goes out there. I have no idea what will happen to it. There are thousands of cassette tapes and CDs we have sent out. I have no idea how many hands they have passed through. I have no idea how many people have duplicated them and have sent copies to other people.
Once I do a broadcast of a program, it's gone. I can never get it back. I can't steer it, I can't correct it. I can't hold your hand. I can't take you further down the road. There is not a thing in the world I can do for you, once I have given you the seed.
I'm sorta like Johnny Appleseed in a way. According to applejuice.org, his real name was John Chapman. He was born September 26, 1774 in Massachusetts. Johnny Appleseed's dream was for a land where blossoming apple trees were everywhere and no one was hungry. He was a kind and gentle man. He slept outdoors and walked barefoot around the country planting apple seeds everywhere he went. It is even told that he made his drinking water from snow by melting the snow with his feet. They say Johnny was a friend of everybody he met, indians and settlers, and even the animals liked Johnny Appleseed. His clothes were made of sacks, his hat was a tin pot that he used for cooking. His favorite book was the Bible. Johnny Appleseed died in 1845. It was the only time he had ever been sick in 70 years. He created apple orchards in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Ohio, and they claim that after some 200 years, some of those trees are still bearing apples. He's dead, moldering in his grave, but his work goes on.
Think of that! You do realize, don't you, that for this to be true, someone besides the sower had to do something. So what should you do? Frankly, I have no idea, that your problem and it varies from person to person.
I have done what I'm supposed to do. I can sleep tonight. I hope you can too!
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This article was transcribed with
minor editing from a Sermon by: Ronald L. Dart
Titled: The Sower and the Seed #0318
Transcribed by: bb 3-6-23
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