Jul12SunJuly 12, 2020
One of Martin Luther’s often repeated quotes is,
Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.
While the world is not ending, Covid has certainly caused upheaval. During this Covid lockdown, Sebastian and I have planted a few more trees at our home. Trees are one of my favourite gifts. Much better than cut flowers that will last but a week. In trees there is hope and anticipation of tomorrow. In late spring, we planted a self-pollinating cherry and a crab apple which brings back memories of childhood. They are small little trees that will grow alongside my family. Producing blossoms, possible fruit, a home for the birds and eventually a little more shade in our yard . For now, they are spindly youngsters needing attention.
As you likely know, the most important part of planting a tree involves preparing the soil. Preparing the hard ground by digging, in our case clay like soil, a hole large enough for the root to expand well, then filling it with nutrient dense soil.
It’s hard not to think of this parable as you prepare to plant a tree.
This parable has long been heard as an encouragement to prepare our hearts and lives so that we are good soil to receive God’s word. We heed the warnings to not let our hearts become like the soil trampled on the pathway, or the rocky path that produce shallow roots or thorny places that don’t leave enough room for the word to grow in our lives.
For good reason, we take heart in these familiar words to be good soil. We know God’s word produces good things in our lives. And so we want to cultivate this in our lives.
We sing favourite songs such as:
Lord, let my heart be good soil. Open up the seed of your word.
Lord, let my heart be good soil. Where love can grow and peace is understood.
Even as we prepare the soil in our homes, at church and in the world, it’s inevitable that sometimes extra care is needed for those rocky and thorny patches, for the ground trampled under foot. We cultivate good soil through prayer, song, scripture reading, partaking in the meal even if it is virtual at this time of Covid. We seek to experience God’s abundant grace. For God’s abundant grace is what prepares the best soil.
What I am drawn to most in this passage today is less the encouragement to make ourselves and communities good soil, although this is very important. But more so, I am drawn to the abundant and wild sowing of the sower. It seems that the sower scatters these seeds of life abundantly in all places. On trampled ground, on rocky ground and in even in patch full of thorns. Even these inhospitable terrains do no scare the sower away. For God the sower can and does grow life in the most unlikely of places. In fact, perhaps that is the most remarkable place to witness God’s growth in our midst.
In these turbulent times of Covid, the sower continues to sow grace bearing seeds among us.
Seed and Sowers
I love this image of the sower. Now picture this, imagine the sower with an overflowing handful of seeds being scattered over the earth. Now, you at home, imagine taking a handful of seeds in your hand. Have you ever held that many seeds in your hand at one time? So many, it’s difficult to keep them from falling through the cracks of your fingers… but that’s the point. Some fall to the well worn path. Take that handful and scatter it on the earth, wherever you are. When you are done with that handful, pick up another handful to scatter. It land in the places you intend to scatter and some places by chance.
Scattering seed across the land with such inhibition. Have you ever sown seed this abundantly? Maybe if you are a farmer or landscaper. I have certainly not. Most of us, take our saved seeds or purchased seed packages out with careful anticipation not to let any spill to the ground and be wasted. We prepare the soil with nutrient rich compost, pull out the weeds, dig the holes and plant a few seeds. Marking where the seeds have been planted to care for the hoped for crop. And when it begins to emerge from the ground, guiding, staking, watering and pruning. Our manageable little gardens gets a lot of love.
As I read about the sower and relate it to my life, I start asking a few questions, noticing similarities and differences. When we ask questions of the text and the text asks questions of us our hearts and minds are re-oriented once again toward God’s way.
So, while my seed sowing is more guarded and careful, even scarce.
The gospel sower plants in a very different manner.
I am not surprised in the least that God’s story of sowing involves extravagent abundance. It flows into the overarching theme of abundance and how God provides in the most unlikely of places.
For the sower to sow with such wild abandon… Well that is just something that God would do. God the sower in the parable, scatters seed everywhere even in those places that aren’t hospitable to growth and even in places that cannot adequately host life. For the sower to sow with such wild abandon. Even on the trampled pathways, on the rocks and even where the thorny plants reside. How bold. Well how dare….
Thankfully God is God. And there is always have something to learn from God.
We are pointed toward God’s abundant way.
God, the sower sows with such wild abandon…
Well wait a minute…
Isn’t that how we are suppose to live our lives too? To sow life with wild abandon for the Gospel is exactly how God calls us to live. Wild abandon for the kin-dom is not destructive to ourselves or our neighbours. It’s freedom to live boldly and without fear while being being faithful and safe. It flavour the world with character and justice. Compassion and love for all of God’s marvellous creation.
The lesson from this narrative of faith, is perhaps to live a little more freely but Covid-safely in the faith however that might be during these times.
In our Covid diaries, let’s record stories of living faithfully with wild abandon as God sows among us and in our communities, and how we are sowing seeds along side God.
May the seeds sown be ones of kindness and compassion, generosity, welcome and hospitality, patience, love, flexibility and adaptability.
Sowing seeds of kindness and compassion means wearing a mask even if you don’t want too.
Sowing seeds of generosity might mean being gentle in spirit with people who are having a more difficult experience during this pandemic.
If you have deep pocket it might mean financially supporting local charities that support the vulnerable for in this pandemic we hear the most vulnerable communities are by far the most impacted.
Sowing seeds of welcome might mean taking someone who is isolated a little closer into your ten person bubble. Continuing to reach out with cards and calls.
These are the seeds God the sower plants in your life. Even if the terrain is a little packed down, or the ground rocky, or there is not enough space because of all the weeds. The promise of this Gospel text is that God plants in these places too. God plants seeds of abundant life in those hard to reach, very unlikely spaces. And the remarkable thing is that even in these places it’s possible for life to emerge.
If you ever hike in Elora Gorge you’ve happened upon some of the oldest cedars growing despite odds, on top of the large limestone rock. Gnarly, ancient roots of the trees entwined. Deep connections normally invisible to our eyes, made visible. It’s hard to tell where one end begins and the other ends.
Looking at these trees with their magnificent roots visible, I get the impression that they’ve been there for very long time and will continue to grow into what seems like eternity. I also get the impression that, all things are possible with God.
The trees are a glimpse for us of God the sowers steadfast love and faithfulness even in the most unlikely places.
In Isaiah 55 we are reminded how all creation praises the Lord.
The mountain and the hills are singing.
The trees are clapping their hands.
And the word does not return empty.