Friday, July 25, 2014

"How's Your Soil?" - Matthew 13


(A personal reflection on  Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 by Robert C. Orr, July 2014)

Here’s the way the first book of the Bible, Genesis, speaks of our beginning . . .

 the Lord God formed the human from the topsoil of the fertile land and blew life’s breath into his nostrils. The human came to life.  Genesis 2:7  CEB

While not to be understood literally, still we are to see the profound connection of human life and the earth on which it was born.  We, you and I, are living, breathing animated topsoil! 

And a bit later in the story of our beginning in God we learn of how we’ll live and how our end will be. 

    by the sweat of your face you will eat bread—
 until you return to the fertile land,
 since from it you were taken;
 you are soil,
  to the soil you will return.” 
Genesis 3:19 CEB

Then in the New Testament, the apostle Paul is teaching about who we are in God and how we are to live. 

19 Or don’t you know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you? Don’t you know that you have the Holy Spirit from God, and you don’t belong to yourselves? 20 You have been bought and paid for, so honor God with your body.      1 Corinthians 6:19-20 CEB

Before Paul, there was his Lord, the Messiah. It’s to him we look now. 
Jesus tells a story.
There’s a sower, 
And there’s soil.
God’s the sower.
God’s word is the seed.
We are the soil. 
We’re receivers (that’s another way of defining grace).
We’ve always been the receivers,
And we are today.
We may have many questions about this parable/story Jesus tells.
His first listeners did for sure.
Some of their questions may be ours also.
Here’s the bottom line -
    Because of God’s extravagant grace, and profound generosity, we are given in the 
course of our life, dozens, maybe hundreds of chances to hear, respond to and 
share what God gives us.  What do we do with those moments?  

How’s your soil Adam?
How’s your soil Eve?
There’s hard soil,
There’s rocky soil.
There’s soil where there are so many weeds and choking vines that we can hardly see the soil underfoot.
Then there’s the rich soil with all the right nutrients and minerals, with sunshine and shade, with rain and gentle breezes - in short, perfect growing conditions.  

I was on the coast of Maine once and had a conversation with a local man about garden fertilizer.  I had heard that old-timers gathered seaweed.  I asked about it.  He said that he did a little gardening and after a big storm, he’d go down to the shore with his wheelbarrow and gather  seaweed the storm had broken loose and thrown up on the beach.  I asked him if it helped his vegetables grow.  He bent low then gestured with both hands and arms in an upwards manner, and said it nearly made the plants jump out of the soil!

How’s your soil Eve?
How’s your soil Adam?
Anything growing?

I want you to think of a time, a person, an experience when you were be able to say “God gave me something in that moment, through that person, when that happened and look where I am now . .  because I listened, I responded, I took it and ran with it!”

 When I was in my last year in college I didn’t know what I wanted to do.  Going to graduate school or seminary or the Peace Corps were three options.  
I learned of a weekend program at a nearby Presbyterian seminary for college students like me. The invitation was to come and meet some faculty, share some time with men and women my age who were preparing for ministry, listen to panel discussions, ask questions.  I went.  I listened. I questioned.   One of things I heard was a professor tell of going on personal retreats at a nearby Catholic Trappist monastery.  I heard the name Thomas Merton mentioned,   He came to be know as the 20th century’s most celebrated American monk.  The Abbey of Gethsemani  in Kentucky was where he lived his life in community with other monks embracing a vow of silence but writing many books, carrying on a correspondence with hundreds of people around the world and keeping a  voluminous journal. 

The summer after I graduated college, seminary was not my choice.  I took a different path, but even that changed and by the end of August I was enrolled in seminary in Chicago.  As I look back on it,  was that a monastic “seed” God planted in my life?  Maybe.  I didn’t think of it that way at the time, however I can report to you today,  forty-seven years later that I went off to seminary, was ordained as a teaching elder and practiced ministry for thirty five years.  I can’t count the times I’ve been back to that monastery,  mostly for silent,  solitary retreats but sometimes taking a friend along to introduce them to monastic life. That “seed” has grown in my life in ways I never expected.

I speak of my own life only to invite you to think today about seeds you have received, people who have guided you in the way of Christ, times you have been shaped in God’s way.  

To be honest, there  were  other  “seeds”  which came into my life.  Did I respond?  Sometimes,  but sometimes not at all.  There were times I didn’t even recognize a seed.  Other times I recognized a  seed, watered it, tended it for a while but it withered.   

Robert Frost (1874–1963).  Mountain Interval.  1920.
1. The Road Not Taken
TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

What kind of soil are you Adam?  Eve?

Being prepared, being fertile, being receptive is what this story is all about. 
What makes your soil hard as stone?
What makes the path that is you full of rocks?
What chokes the life out of you?
What can we do to prepare our soil, ourselves for God’s grace?

God’s plan is still sowing. . .  hundreds of seeds,
Thousands of seeds. 
Blowing in the wind . . . of the Spirit. 
Don’t allow the stones, the weeds, the boiling sun, the torrential rain,
and the distractions of modern life to take your eyes off the prize. 

“All the way to heaven is heaven, because Jesus said, ‘I am the way.’ “
Catherine of Siena and John 14:6

The pathway you’re on today, if it’s the path Jesus invites you to travel is one filled with hope, opportunity, life, and heaven on earth.  

How’s your soil Eve?
How’s your soil Adam?
Never forget God made you, and God is the Master Gardner.
What’s growing in your life today?

No comments: