WHICH SOIL THE SEED FALLS ON BECAUSE GOD IS CONFIDENT OF THE POWER OF THE SEED. INSTEAD GOD’S ATTENTION IS FOCUSED ON THE HARVEST, THE SPIRITUAL FOOD THAT WILL FEED THE WORLD.
a plant-based parable from Matthew 13: 1-23.
If you’re a regular here, you’ve probably heard me talk about Ed the tortoise. I know some of you have asked to see him. Today would have been the perfect day for it, and if you stay with us you’ll see why.
A couple of weeks ago Ed officially became a free-range tortoise. We built him a house under the orange tree. And now the backyard is officially his.
This move has really brought out the best of Ed’s personality. Believe it or not, for a tortoise Ed has a lot of good qualities. One in particular is his love for eating dandelions. They’re like natures donuts to him.
Long before Ed became an outdoorsmen, I was obsessed with having that picture perfect green lawn, the kind you see on commercials. No matter how well I seeded, watered, aerated and fertilized, I couldn’t get rid of those damn-delions.
Whenever I saw a little yellow bud appear, I’d be on my hands and knees digging with great precision to keep the root in tact. Yet every now and then, one would slip passed me, and transform into a puffy white bloom.
Today’s reading is a parable found in the gospel of Matthew 13: 1-23.
Jesus begins his parable with, “A sower went out to sow.” Having lived in rural Michigan for a brief moment, I learned if you are going to sow seeds, i.e. plant them, you have to first prepare the soil. It needs to be till and turn to break up the dry surface so the seeds have an easier time to take root. You also have to remove any rocks or other impediments that will get in the way as you plow the rows for the seeds to be carefully dropped in. I’m sure there are a few more steps you have to take if you want to be successful.
But that’s not how it goes in Jesus’ parable. He says, this sower just went out and started throwing seeds everywhere. There was no method to his madness whatsoever. I imagine this guy is walking along, maybe whistling a happy tune as he grabs handfuls of seeds from a sack that’s slung over his shoulder and randomly tosses them up in the air without a care in the world. It doesn’t matter to him where they land, he’s just walking and tossing.
To most people this would seem like a waste of seeds. But not to this guy. Apparently, he’s got more seeds than he knows what to do with, and he’s going to cover literally everything in hopes that something takes root.
Of course, Jesus’ parable is focused on all the different places that seed lands on. Some hit the road and get gobbled up. Others take root in rock piles but don’t last very long. Some land among some not so good plants and get twisted up into nothing good. But a few lucky ones make it into the rich garden soil – yielding an amazing and bountiful harvest.
I’m sure if you put your mind to it, you can picture someone from each of these different soil “types.” Of course, we like to believe that we are the good soil. But let’s be honest, we probably aren’t – at least not all the time. Most of us shift between one soil and another - sometimes on the same day or even within an hour. Which is why I don’t want us to focus on the soil as much as i want to focus on the seed that is being thrown around so frivolously.
Here’s what I know about seeds. They are life giving and fruit bearing. Often, they are tough and pretty resilient if not downright defiant (like the damn-de-lion). But they are also vulnerable, and susceptible to all sorts of harmful things. Strong or weak, each one carries the DNA for great potential – even the tiniest of seeds can grow into a massive tree in just a short period of time. Moreover, a seed, which begins the life cycle, can actually move through death as a means to reproduce new life. This sounds like God work to me.
It begs the question: What is it that God has in great abundance that can be so easily tossed into the wind like a dandelion puff?
If you were to guess, what would it be? I believe the answer is love. God’s love to be exact. For divine love is the first and final word of the kingdom of God. Thus Jesus gives the impression that the sower isn’t all that concerned about which soil He allows His seed to take root in. The footpath, the rocks, the weedy soil – they all get a shot.
As my friend Roxy taught me, “God isn't content just to sow in the good soil. Though the farmer would want to preserve his seed for the field, God prefers to be extravagant in casting His seed as far and wide as He can – even to those who don't care, or won't respond the way God would like.” St. Paul called this grace upon grace. And we all might be happy to receive this grace from God since most of us aren't great soil to begin with. As Roxy explained, after living in this world like we so often do, “It takes a while to cultivate our hearts to be good soil.”
I would like to point out again that God does not discriminate where this seed is scattered and sown. God doesn’t think twice about grabbing a big handful of love, and liberally throwing it at us if for no other reason but to see what kind of love it will yield.
Grace, mercy, forgiveness these are just some of the fruits born out of God’s love for us. Love is the good news, the Word of God incarnate in Jesus Christ, the very seed of everlasting life.
Will we allow God in Christ to take root in us? Now before you think to yourself that you’re not good enough, or faithful enough to receive this seed.
I‘d like to point out that just because the soil seems bad doesn't mean some seeds won’t take root. The Burren National Park in County Clare, Ireland is a great example. The name ‘Burren’ means, “Rocky place.” The area got its name because it’s literally hundreds of acres of exposed limestone that lacks any normal soil base.
Yet this park is covered with wild nutrient rich herbs and an abundant of floral species that grow inside the hidden cracks and crevices of these rocks. In fact, Burren is home to twenty-three of Ireland’s twenty-seven unique orchid species. Now, imagine all the missed opportunities to bear rich, diverse beauty if God only sowed in those who were already good.
The good news is God doesn’t overlook any one of us. Whoever we are, wherever we are God’s greatest love has already been abundantly sown in us through Jesus Christ, who took the soil of death itself and harvested everlasting life.
Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed..."
The question you must ask yourself is will I allow God’s love to take root in me? Are you willing to accept God’s love and a grow to produce the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?
You see, just as every botanist knows, seed bearing plants always yield more seeds. Just as seeds produce more seeds...love produces more love. Kindness produces kind results. Same is true with generosity and gentleness.
If we choose to follow Christ, then in essence we are not merely the soil, We are also the seed and the sower as well. Jesus invites us to accept God’s love and grows God’s love and scatter God’s love all over the place without ever worrying about running out.
Jesus also knows the abundant ways of God. He says some of us will receive God's love and even thrive in it. But when the struggles get real, those people flee. What they tend to forget is that seed has already been planted. Where there is a seed there is an opportunity for a new life to sprout even if it’s been dormant for a while. Think about Amaryllis bulbs...for most of the time they just sit buried in the ground or frozen in your freezer. But once a year they let their true beauty shine.
As Jesus pointed out some of us will work hard to grow stronger in our faith and understanding. But we have to be careful. We are vulnerable too. The ways of the world can still overpower us and draw us away from fully relying on God’s abundance.
And of course, some of us will thrive; producing a great yield - some even a hundredfold. They are the ones who give us hope and remind us of the power of God’s love to transform dark, barren soil into thriving, life giving plants.
Here’s what I hope you will remember: God is patient and purposeful; sowing the seed of love anywhere and everywhere because God’s redemptive love can reach everywhere and anywhere.
God is not concerned about which soil the seed falls on because God is confident of the power of the seed. Instead God’s attention is focused on the harvest, the spiritual food that will feed the world. God knows love has power to take root in the harshest ground, but will it bear the fruit of justice, mercy and grace in spite of the terrain? I guess it all depends on how we respond to God.
This week I hope you will take some time to think about this parable. As you do, ask yourself if there is any place in your life where you feel God is not present. Maybe there’s a difficult challenge you’re facing alone. Maybe you have fears or doubts that are causing you to look elsewhere. Maybe you’re stuck in a place you DON’T want God to be present. Maybe you’re in a dark place right now. If that’s the case, then remember this; all seeds thrive in darkness.
It’s there the shell cracks and falls apart. It’s in that dark place, the plant first takes root – descending deeper into the dark ground to find its foundation before it sprouts upwards towards the light. The darkness cracks us open so God can do something great. Eventually our faith becomes rooted enough to begin to grow big enough. And before we know it, we are bearing the good fruit of God’s kingdom – yielding a hundred, sixty, or even thirty times the amount of love we are given.
Seeds producing more seeds. Love producing more love. This is the Kingdom of God that Jesus invites you into.
*This is a refreshed version of a sermon originally given on July 16, 2017 which can be found at https://www.jesusnotjesus.org/be-kind/sowing-seeds-of-love