Be Good Soil

July 12, 2020

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

You could say that Sam did not know any different when he was growing up.

It was not unusual for him to come home from school and see at least one person passed out in the house from drinking or to find illegal drugs spread out on the kitchen table. As he became a teenager, this is what he knew. This was the environment that he was raised, and he witnessed his grandparents doing drugs as well as his parents. It should not really be all that surprising that for his fifteenth birthday, he received a bag of methamphetamine.

I would meet Sam several years later as he came in front of the panel for entrance into the Methamphetamine Court, where he could be given the opportunity to enter recovery. He was being housed in the same correctional center as a parent and a grandparent. I was serving as a clergy representative and had no vote in whether he could enter the program but was present to provide spiritual support.

The question was, did he have the desire and willingness to sow in good soil?

In our gospel lesson this week, Jesus shares the parable of the sower. One that many of you have heard before. Jesus continues to stick with these agricultural parables because that is what is familiar to the people of 1st century Israel. It is an agrarian economy, and Jesus speaks to the people in a language in which they will understand. He is also not afraid to turn everything upside down to show that the current teachings of the authorities may be a little off base.

Now, I am not even going to pretend that I know anything about agriculture, because I could be quickly called out by some of our members. However, I am sure that we could all agree that Jesus’ discussion of the farmer scattering seeds is haphazard. Wouldn’t you want to plant the seeds in the good soil where you know it is going to root and have the best chance of survival? It would be wasteful to just throw seed to the birds or in the rocks.

Jesus goes as far to say that in the good soil you could have a 100-fold return. A farmer in 1st century Israel would be ecstatic if this happened because it would mean that they could probably retire to a nice lake house on the Sea of Galilee.

The farmer is not that precise in his planting though. The farmer scatters seed throughout the fields, no matter the condition of the soil. Yes, the good soil will produce the most, but just maybe one of those seeds will take root somewhere else and have an incredible impact. Perhaps the bird that eats the seed travels across the countryside and the seeds end up being deposited for someone in need after the birds had digested them. Sounds kind of like the gospel being spread!

We have that same opportunity to encounter the Word of God through the gospel anytime we open scripture. It is the Word of God that nurtures the soil in which we choose to take root. Now, lets be realistic. Not all of us have had that opportunity to be nurtured in the good soil that Jesus speaks of. Some of us may have grown up between a rock and a hard place as the saying goes. Some of us have had more more opportunities given to us than others. It can be dependent upon the environment in which we were raised, the financial means of our parents, and the color of our skin.

I believe that there is a great desire for the majority to want to live and be that good soil that Jesus speaks about in the parable. We want his teachings to take root and shape our lives so that others can encounter the same grace we have come to know. It is this hope that we share with our siblings that are stuck between that rock and a hard place.

Sam was one of those people. You could say that his environment was like the rocks where the seeds were scattered, and it was difficult for them to take root. This was the life he knew, and he did not know how to move beyond the drugs he had grown up with on the kitchen table. Yet, it was the hope of the court to provide him with the proper support and tools to move beyond the cycle of drugs his family had become accustom. We were offering to show him the way to the good soil and he had to choose whether his was ready to receive the love and grace that was so ready for him. It is a long road to haul, and it is not easy.

God’s abundance is available to all and once the kindom of God is fully here, it will not matter what soil we find ourselves in because God’s grace and love will wash away all differences. We are far from perfect and our soil is not always the greatest. However, Jesus invites us to let the soil and in turn us be nurtured by his welcome and love. In the meantime, how are you (a follower of Christ), and our community, welcoming people to see how rich and vibrant that good soil is?

By Alex Steward

I am a husband, father, and pastor within the ELCA. I did not grow up in the church and thus come at this pastoring thing with an unique perspective.

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