In our reading today Jesus tells a parable. He begins with, “A sower went out to sow,” throwing seeds here and there and everywhere. Some hit the road and got gobbled up. Others took root in rock piles but didn’t last very long. The ones that landed in the grass got twisted up in nothing good. But a few lucky ones that made it into the rich garden soil yielded an amazing and bountiful harvest.
It’s safe to say Jesus is telling us a parable about God (the sower) and our response to God (as the soil). Alone with his disciples, Jesus explains the seed represents the “word of the kingdom.”
Now, I think this is a pretty straightforward story for someone who knows nothing about farming. But it begs the question what kind of farmer would waste seed? Is the word of the kingdom that cheap that God can just toss it into the wind like a dandelion puff?
Even a novice like myself knows that seeds are vulnerable, and susceptible to all sorts of harmful things. Yet they are tough. Some are pretty resilient if not downright defiant (like the damn-de-lion). Fortified with an armor shell, even the tiniest of seedlings can somehow grow a hundred-fold 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.
In a spiritual sense, they are mysterious and perhaps, I’ll admit, even a little bit magical. So I guess the real question is: what kind of seed would God want to sow liberally?
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 wrote in an email last night, “God isn't content just to sow to the good soil. Though the farmer would want to preserve his seed for the field, God prefers to be prof-li-gate in casting His seed as far and wide as He can - even to those who don't care, or won't respond the way He'd like. This is Grace upon grace. This is especially important since most of us aren't great soil to begin with. It takes a while to cultivate our hearts to be good soil.”
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. God does not discriminate where this seed is scattered and sown. Thus God doesn’t think twice about grabbing a big handful of love, and liberally throwing it at us to see what it will yield.
My friend Dawn argues, "Just because the soil seems bad doesn't mean some seeds won’t take root." She’s right. We can’t discount what we can’t see in the soil (or on the road or under the rocks). God sees it and that alone is sufficient.
The Burren National Park in County Clare, Ireland is a great example. The name burren literally means, “Rocky place.” On the park’s website it states the area got it’s name “because of its lack of soil cover and the extent of exposed limestone pavement.” Yet despite it’s appearance, it has also been called “fertile rock” because of its mixture of nutrient rich herbs and floral species.”
With its scattered pockets of wet, peaty soil among fissured limestone, Burren is home to twenty-three of Ireland’s twenty-seven unique orchid species, as well as other flora and fauna that grows inside the hidden cracks and crevices of this magnificent place.
Imagine all the stuff we’d miss if we only looked at the good soil. Or if God only sowed love in those who were already good.
The good news is God doesn’t overlook any one of us. God loves us all and wants to be with us. Whoever we are, wherever we are… God has sown into all creation the greatest of his love, Jesus Christ, who took the soil of death itself and harvested everlasting life.
Jesus reminds us the sower throws seed amid the rocky, barren, broken places because God’s vision for the world is often found in strange and broken places. Like pesky dandelion seeds, God’s love floats all over creation, and finds its way into all sorts of nooks and crannies. It’s up to us, the soil, to allow that love to take root.
Our calling is to yield the fruit of love, in spite of our soil condition or any earthly predicament we find ourselves in.
Jesus knows the hard ways of this world. He knows that some of us will reject God’s love with hardened hearts, but even the hardest objects can radiate God's truth and beauty. A diamond is a perfect example. Sadly, too many of us don’t see ourselves as valuable.
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. The seed has been planted. So there’s always an opportunity for a new life to sprout even if it’s been dormant for a while.
Some of us will work hard to grow strong in our faith and understanding- but we have to be careful. We are vulnerable too. And the lure of greed and the cares of the world can still overpower us and draw us away from fully relying on God’s abundance.
Novelist Bebe Moore Campbell put it this way, “Some of us have empty barrel faith. Walking around expecting things to run out. Expecting that there isn’t enough air, enough water. Expecting that someone is going to do something wrong. But the God I serve told me to expect the best, that there is enough for everybody.”
God is patient and purposeful; sowing the seed of love anywhere and everywhere because God’s redemptive story can reach everywhere and anywhere we find ourselves. 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? It all depends on how we respond to God.
This week I hope you will take some time to think 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 doubts that are causing you to look elsewhere. Maybe you’re stuck in a place you DON’T want God to be present.
Observe the many soils of your life, relationships, and troubles. Then ask yourself if you really believe there is anywhere on that list that God’s seed of love cannot take root and sprout something beautiful and life-giving, thirty, sixty, and hundred-fold?
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
“Prius vita quam doctrina.”
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
* “Life is more important than doctrine.”