6th Sunday After Pentecost, July 12, 2020
– Isaiah 55:10-13, Matthew 13:1-13
– The Reverend Dr. Arnold Isidore Thomas –
The Parable of the Sower and the Seeds is sometimes hard to grasp because Jesus throws a lot of images at us all at once – sower, seeds, good and bad soil, weeds, rocks and thorns; and we wonder how to make sense of it all. So, now and then Jesus had to explain what he meant.
Now the sower is God or Christ, while the seed is the Word of God. However, the focus of the parable is neither the sower nor the seed, but ground on which it falls. Because the condition of the soil determines how receptive it will be of sower’s seed. You are the soil.
Soil, like people, is conditioned by its environment. If it is constantly trampled over and neglected; if it is constantly polluted by toxic chemicals and waste products, it will ultimately serve no productive purpose for God, others or itself. It becomes a contaminated site from which people need to keep a safe distance until the land is fully restored.
Unfortunately, such is the world in which we live where both the environment and the people who depend upon it have been trampled over, beaten down and neglected to the point where our surface has hardened itself against any potential for growth. Life becomes nothing more than an endless cycle of going through the motions and doing as we’re told; of staying in our own lane; of trusting no one outside our immediate circle, and repeating the same-old-same-old until we die.
In a previous sermon I preached, based on another parable of Jesus about a fig tree that wouldn’t produce figs (Luke 13:6-9), the owner of the tree was persuaded to allow the tree to live for another year so that the gardener could fertilize the ground around it with manure and provide the kind of nutrients needed for the tree to produce figs. In that sermon I compared the fertilizing manure to the Word of God but, more accurately, I should have compared it to the Spirit of God; for it is the Spirit that softens the surface of our lives, enables us to receive God’s Word and live into our potential.
I’ve come to appreciate the goats that my wife Vicky herds, not for their wool, or their craving to consume unwanted shrubs, but for their manure. Did you know that goat manure is considered prime fertilizer? And when goat urine is mixed in with the manure, as is the case in their stalls, the mixture creates an abundance of nitrogen and other nutrients enhancing its fertilizing potential. Goat poop was probably the source of salvation for the parabolic fig tree, providing the ground with the stimulus package that enabled the tree to bear fruit.
People of God, please forgive me for what I’m about to say, but I feel it is appropriate for this context. Our world and our lives are in desperate need of a radical infusion of Holy Shit! Our faith has been bottled up and confined with the kind of caution and fear that hid the disciples from the world until the Holy Spirit swept into their closeted lives inflaming their tongues to preach good news that opens the eyes of the blind and sets the captives free.
What condition is the ground of your faith? Is it unfertilized and unplowed, trampled over beaten down, neglected and good for no one? Is the racial and social upheaval you see in cities and states across our nation reflective of your life and faith crying out and demanding much more than the scraps that have fallen to you?
The seed of God’s good news and the fertilizing force of God’s Spirit are not flash-in-the-pan, momentary encounters. They are meant to serve as everlasting realizations of the divine that overturn systems of oppression so that “justice may roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24)
Don’t simply ask in your skepticism how this might be. Once you’ve determined by the fertilizing Spirit of God that it must and will be, then you will move mountains. For “the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song,” says the Lord, “and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands…and it shall be to the Lord as a memorial, as an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” (Isaiah 55:12b-13)
Open the ground of your life to the fertilizing Holy Spirit of God, and then be prepared to bear an abundance of amazing fruit. Amen.