By the Reverend Kevin McGrane
I suspect many of us have planted gardens this summer. We did at Windy Hill. The apple trees, tomatoes, and strawberries are doing well. The veggies? Not so much. We’re still working on them.
We made raised beds this year and created these 4x4 foot boxes of special planting beds, with just the right amount of soil, compost, and water. Unlike today’s parable, no rocky ground or weedy places for us! Just the perfect micro-environment to grow in.
But, as I was reading today’s Gospel and thinking about our garden, I realized that life is not like our garden. Life isn’t like a 4x4 box with perfect soil and compost and water to create a micro-environment to protect us from rocks and weeds and foraging birds of life.
Jesus knew this. Jesus sees life as it is: one with cares, and temptations, and challenges, and failures, and fears. He teaches the crowd that gathered to hear him in today’s Gospel that building the Kingdom of God was not going to be easy, but littered with its own cares, temptations, failures, and fears.
This is a wonderful parable Jesus tells. You know, we are reading only the first 9 lines in this passage of the NT, and we skip over 9 more before we get to the second part of the passage, which explains the parable. Jesus explains why he teaches in parables in that edited 9 lines, and he quotes Isaiah to explain why. He says:
“For these people’s senses have become calloused,
Yet Jesus, talking to his disciples, says to them, “ Happy are your eyes because they see. Happy are your ears because they hear.” He says that we, disciples of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, can see and hear many things that others cannot.
So, if this is a parable about hearing the words of the Kingdom, and the Kingdom starts with me - in my heart and mind and soul - then could I hear Jesus talking about my individual life as being rocky soil, and thorny soil, and even good soil, all rolled up into one?
Could I be hearing Jesus say that, instead of one person in today’s parable being hard-hearted, and another person shallow, and a third person care-worn, he means all these people are wrapped up in one person? Me?
The words of God are sown in our soul and psyche. This is where the Kingdom of God starts. Yet the words of God can be eaten up by the concerns of my ego and my false self, worrying about what people might think of me.
The words of God can be withered by challenges of a once-happy life, now taken away from me by hard times, like Covid, and unemployment, and sheltering.
The words of God can be choked with the lure of security rather than wealth as I worry about finances during these times. Every one of these challenges - the eaten up, the withered, the choked - I experience myself, not just once, but day by day, year by year, over and over.
This parable isn’t about a bunch of people; it’s about me.
Yet... Jesus teaches us that the seed that falls on the well-worked ground, ground that’s been composted, turned over, and watered, is a ground where the seed can take root and grow.
Jesus teaches us that the ground of our life when worked over by repentance, by struggle, by listening instead of talking, by humility, spiritual modesty, study and prayer, this is the life where the words of God can grow deep, sink roots, drink water, eat earth, and help create the Kingdom of God. It will move us to a great harvest and help build the Kingdom of God.
Today’s parable isn’t just about individual people, but about different parts of our own psyche: from the superficial social self (which is false), to the depths of our real self that God made. Our true self... our essential self.
Each one of us could be the various soils in today’s Gospel at any given moment in our lives. It is up to us to dig deep, start each day fresh, and discover the good soil in our souls. Amen.
The Reverend Kevin McGrane serves as a deacon in the Diocese of Missouri, and serves at St. John's.
Various members of the St. John's congregation contribute to this blog. For editorial suggestions, contact Jeff McIntire-Strasburg at email@example.com