Scripture: Matthew 13:1-9 & 18-23
We love a good story. Early in our education we learned to read stories of Dick and Jane with a dog named Spot, and how they ran. To be able to read is the pathway to knowledge and wisdom. And stories are what drive us to learn. Stories have been a part of human history from our first words. When we look at drawings on a cave wall it is hard to not build a story to go along with the images. In Celtic history the tribal leaders would have a special druid called a bard whose sole purpose was to learn and to tell stories. Stories of inspiration, teaching, history, and of heroic feats. Stories to pass the knowledge of the tribe to the next generation.
Today we may not think we are devoted to stories but we watch the news, stories of contemporary history. We watch programs of comedies, dramas, and action adventures. All of which are stories of history, inspiration, teaching, and heroics (with a little fun and romance to let the story flow.) Stories are our language, we tell our families the story of our day, send our children to bed with a bedtime story, and remember the teachers that accompanied the lessons with stories.
Stories are important, they connect all people, every culture in the world have their storytellers, and media to transmit the stories. The ancient Celts told their stories around a fire, as do many oral traditions. Some cultures us the printed word, radio, or television. No matter how we transmit the story we love to listen. Jesus was a master storyteller. Most of his teachings came in the form of a story or a parable, and one of the most known of these stories is the story of the sower and the seeds.
This story grabs onto my heart because it speaks to me, it is attached to my background on the farm. But what is this story about? Many focus on the soils, others focus their attention on the seeds, some even reflect on the sower, but what about the process? There are four soils: the hard path, the soil filled with rocks, the one filled with thorns and weeds, and the soil that is good. We could discuss what type of soil each of us are and this is a very apt approach. But as a farmer I know all of these soils can be good.
Even the hardest places on earth can become a haven for life. Trees can grow on the side of a rock face, and can even break through our driveways and sidewalks. Farmers will find a way to make hard soils produce. The state of Kansas is a testimony of the ability of farmers getting hard soils to produce. They will make tools like the plow and the tractor. Or the Ripper, the ripper is a common name because that is its function I really don’t know if it has a technical or official name. This implement is used for one purpose to dig deep into the earth and break the hard places, the compacted soils called hard pans. Farmers can also use other things to do this with less drama. There is a plant, the sunflower, whose beauty is celebrated all around and seeds are enjoyed at many ball games across the nation, this flower has a root that drives through the hardpans like a jackhammer yet blooms for the world to see. We can also add minerals to soils like lime to break up the tight clays. Even in our lawns we get hard soil treatments by having our lawn companies aerate, by pulling out cores of soil leaving little holes for water and seeds to enter. Hard soil doesn’t mean it is unusable it only means that it requires more attention and patience.
Rocky soil is a soil I know about also since it is about half of our farm back home. But let us consider it for a bit; what do we need to do to get rocky soil to produce? If you look at photos of the Irish countryside you will see fields outlined with walls of rocks. These aren’t just a landscaping trend; these stones were removed from the fields and place along the edge of the property eventually forming great walls. Once these stones were removed these soils were great.
The third soil is one filled with thorns or weeds. Every field is filled with weeds; two-thirds of a farmer’s time is spent of getting rid of the weeds. Weeds steal from the crops; they suck the water and nutrients that would otherwise be utilized by a crop.
It is clear that Christ is telling us about the conditions that keep a seed from growing through this story, but in the same breath He is speaking about ministry and the process of becoming more like Him. There are hard people, stony people, and people being choked by weeds.
Hard people are people that have been hardened by constant traffic, people who have heard the message so often they no longer hear. How can we rip through that hard pan without causing more damage? Friendship, by being there growing around them just waiting for an opening where the hardness cracks. Sending a taproot deep and breaking their shell with kindness and love. The stony people are people with little hang-ups. Little things that keep them from truly embracing life, little things that seem important to them but are actually holding them back. These stony people often think they are close to God vices, habits, and masks hang them up. As a community we need to help move these stones away out to the fringes of life to build a boundary as a testimony to the power of God. The weeds are the sins that suck life out of us. As friends and fellow Christian Disciples we should do all we can to apply weed control activities to keep sin from taking hold of our lives. Encouraging cycles of prayer and action, of study and rest. Also to encourage periods of honest and wholesome fun.
This parable is about the soil but also how we can tend the soil. We all have gifts of ministry, gifts given to encourage and uphold the church. Gifts given for the common good, to be used to help others clear their soils so they can then be the garden of life God intended. We have all tended a garden, mowed the lawn, planted flowers or enjoyed a park. These things bring us food, pleasure, irritation and pride. This is the same with the church. Everyone out in our community is loved by God, unique and beautiful just waiting to bloom in their full glory. Everyone here too has great beauty and with out each of us this would church would not be what it is. We need to tend our garden, pull the weeds, tie up the vines, pruning but not cutting off. We need to remove obstacles to allow each other to grow greater. We need to transplant to other places to start sharing the beauty of life with God in other areas. The garden of God, the Kingdom of God, heaven and Eden is available; it is all around us but we don’t always see it. Mankind was created to tend the garden but we laid it to waste, allowing the weeds to over run the soils choking out the beauty. Yet slowly, person-by-person God is calling us back. Our blooms are just as beautiful in His eyes as the tulips, roses, ivy, holly and oak is to ours. We are all different in some way but we enhance and accent the beauty of others.
Today let us remember those who have tended our needs and helped us along the way. Consider those you are around daily and think of at least one thing that they do to enhance the community as a whole and how they have helped bring out the color in your life. As you consider this also imagine what this Garden or church would look like if we lived our lives not restrained but blooming fully for God, and let us start writing and telling our story of Loving God, Embracing the Holy Spirit, and Living Christ love with others.