Psalm 1:3; Matthew 13: 20-24
How do we make the parable of the soils concrete? I have always looked as this passage as encouraging us and our lives to be the soil for spiritual seeds coming from God. This is how that works. First, We have to be soil that can absorb nutrients. You all know that soils are different. Volcanic soil and river soil are often very fertile. But in Sacramento county if you go a ways from the rivers the soil becomes hard clay bad and takes a lot of work. Second, we have to be soil that is free from thorns and rocks. Third, we must be in a good location to draw water. Friends, it is quite a jump to go from soil to people. They are so different. But let us remember we all came from earth. We are part of the earth and the earth is part of us. In many cultures the location of that earth is crucial. Let us not forget that. There is iron in the earth and we when we evolved from earth took on elements of that earth. There is a lot of iron in our blood and we are told to keep it up by eating certain vegetables. We cannot separate earth from us and us from earth. This is why the way Jesus talks makes sense to the people. At the same time he stretches their minds, their imagination and their souls. We feel the same way. We get it and we don’t get it. It makes sense and at the same time it doesn’t. You see the seed is the spiritual, it is faith. If we are infertile soil for the seed it means we have no eye for God, no desire to search for God. If there are thorns growing all over the soil then that means that we put obstacles up to faith and spirituality: this could be our busyness or our selfishness or our pride. If the soil is in the wrong place, nutrients and water can’t reach it.
But there is another level to this parable as there always is in so many of the parables of Jesus. They seem to be simple mini-stories that Jesus just seems to make up. But there is so much truth in them. We assume this parable is about us, but what if it is really about God? What if it is a key into how God works in our lives, in the world, in the universe? Maybe the key way God operates is by sowing. We often get stuck in this notion of God as an authoritarian ruler who micro manages everything. In that thinking all decision have this forceful stamp on it. But what if it isn’t that way? What if creation is a lot like sowing life and energy which then takes on a life of its own? What if the Bible is a way of sowing truth and wisdom into the hearts and minds and minds of people who then, limited as they are, pen it down? What if through the Holy Spirit God sows love and peace in the world? The success of this sowing depends on how the seed is received. There have to be planets with the conditions for life to develop. There have to be receptive hearts who are inspired to write the sacred books. There have to be people who want to act in compassion and love and with commitment.
A few weeks ago I received a little bag of seeds from a non-profit. It asked me to plant them, because these seeds can grow into flowers that attract honeybees. I have been meaning to do that. If I keep them in the little bag, the soil cannot receive the. The soil in my yard and I have to cooperate with the people who harvested the seeds and the people who send them.
I have been reading the biography of New Englander Robert Lowell, one of America’s greatest poets. The book is called “Lost Puritan.” Robert Lowell had a troubled life and he wasn’t a particularly nice person. He was very fragile but when he was an adolescent he showed it by beating his friends into submission, even when it came to poetry believe it or not. But Lowell as a young man recognized that God wanted to use him to sow beauty into the world. In the thirties he said he saw God as: ”an infinite and ever-present power, always working objectively on man (sic) for what is good.” (Paul Mariani, Lost Puritan. P. 50, New York: Norton, 1994).
Friends, do you see what this mean? If God is a sower, God’s success is determined largely by us. Our effort matters a lot. And we are defined by God’s decision to sow. This is crucial. It is a partnership.
Friends, can a spiritual seed grow, can faith flourish in your life, what is in your soil type and how do you care for the soil? How far are you from the water? How does your garden grow? May God’s Holy Spirit find a place to grow. May the garden of your life flourish. Thanks be to God.