Faith Matters: Good Soil

Contributing Writer Rev. Dr. Scott D. Hannon St. John Lutheran Church, Amherst, NY
Contributing Writer Rev. Dr. Scott D. Hannon St. John Lutheran Church, Amherst, NY

When we went to plant a garden at our new house, we were quite meticulous about just about everything. We found the best spot, made sure that there was good soil, we tracked the sun to make sure the garden would get enough light, and we were careful to make sure each plant was spaced perfectly so they had room to grow. I placed each seed in the ground absolute precision following the instructions on how to get the best growth.

Most gardeners I know are like that. They plant with precision and care – always thinking about what will yield the best flowers, the biggest plant, or the greatest harvest. Instead of just throwing things here or there, they are intentional and discerning – always trying to find the best soil or the best place to plant.

Contrast that with our sower in our gospel lesson for today. In today’s text Jesus tells a crowd a story of a sower who, in my opinion, is either reckless, aloof, or extravagant. Either this guy has a hole in his seed bag or he’s clumsy or he’s excessive. See, as he goes out to sow, the seed falls everywhere. Jesus says some falls on the path, some falls into the rocks, some falls into thorns, and eventually some makes its way into good soil. As you might expect the seed that fell on the path was immediately snatched up by birds. The seed that fell into the rocks sprang up quickly but was eventually scorched by the sun because it had to root. The seed that fell into the thorns was choked out by the brambles around it. And, only on the good soil was there the harvest the sower hoped for.

Jesus tells the crowd this story to help them begin to understand why his teaching and the ministry of his disciples produces different reactions and results for different people. He will later suggest to them that sometimes the word gets snatched up before it can take root in a person’s heart. Sometimes it takes root but fades away in the midst of adversity. He says sometimes it starts to grow but it gets choked out by the cares of this world and the lures of wealth. And sometimes in the right soil it produces an abundant harvest.

As we hear this story today – in the midst of a wild and wacky time in the world – I believe there are two takeaways worth contemplating. The first is this: as disciples of Jesus we are the sowers in the kingdom of God. We are called to scatter seeds of love, to spread Jesus’ message, and to labor in the field for our God. Oftentimes as disciples we pick and choose the best moments to do that. We seek out the best soil and the safest place and plant the seed. Like meticulous gardeners we sometimes try not to waste our energies or efforts, but in some ways I think this parable teaches us that we are free to sow extravagantly – to be excessive with our love, to be generous with our time, and to endeavor to sow things like grace and peace in all places, at all times, and in all circumstances regardless of how rocky or thorny life seems.

And, for me, the second takeaway from this text is may our hearts be good soil. May God’s seed take root in your life and may it produce an abundant harvest. And if you’re feeling like your heart isn’t good soil right now – maybe you’re feeling beat down, or kind of edgy, or feeling scared to move because of the thorns all around – rejoice that our God is still sowing seeds and sharing love and grace with you.

After planting my garden, I had a handful of plants and seeds leftover. I was going to throw them in the woods when my daughter, Molly, interceded on their behalf. She asked if the kids could plant them somewhere. I told them to go for it. They picked a terrible spot in the yard for a garden. They didn’t till the soil. The ground doesn’t drain and there’s virtually no sunlight. To my surprise, against all odds, these few weeks later they are successfully growing tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. All of which I only mention to say this: if you’re extravagant when you sow seeds, you never know where you’ll find good soil.

In the Way,

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