The Garden Path
The Garden Path
Scripture: Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-23
I am not a gardener, I would never describe myself as having a green thumb. I appreciate a beautiful lush garden, but I don’t have the patience to get out and do the work that is needed on a regular basis. That being said, I don’t want my own garden to be a disaster and an eye sore. As I said, I appreciate a beautiful garden. The house I’m living in now has a very full, lush garden that was allowed to overgrow. I think from one owner to the next the amount of time spent in the garden changed and that’s ok. However, it’s left me with a garden which needs a bit of work. If I’m honest, probably a lot of work, but I do a little bit at a time and call it progress.
One of the things I have not done is plant anything new. No new seeds have been placed in the ground, right now it is all about managing what I already have. Jesus talks a lot about seeds in our passage this morning. It’s a well known story, the Parable of the Sower. In it Jesus talks about the various places a seed can land:
- On the path
- On rock places
- Shallow, thorny soil
- Good soil
In each of these examples our focus is on the seed. We watch what happens to the seed when it lands on the path, the birds eat it. We watch the seed land on the rocks where it can’t grow. We watch the see land on the shallow soil, unable to grow roots. Finally, the seed lands on good soil and it grows. Our focus is on the seed and Jesus sets us up when he says: “A farmer went out to sow his seed.” Jesus puts our focus on the seeds.
John Carroll reflects on this passage, he writes, “The parable rivets our attention on the activity of the sower and therefore on the good-news message of God’s reigning presence in the world. On the one hand, the repeated images of failure lend realism to the work we do as church and ring all too true in our time: many will not be receptive to the message we are called to speak, and some will not persist in faithful practice. Yet the parable also reassures Jesus’ first followers and Matthew’s readers—both ancient and contemporary—that if we persevere, even against the odds, what we do matters. What we say and how we embody the gospel in practice will make a difference in the world. (John Carroll – https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/ordinary-15/commentary-on-matthew-131-9-18-23-6)
However, we can just as easily focus on the soil in addition to the sower. If this parable is a metaphor for the seed of life, then we are represented by the soil. A new question presents itself; what kind of soil are we? Are we fertile ground for God’s renewing word to take root or are we hard and rocky?
Like good soil, we require years to mature in our faith. We don’t simply come to faith and find ourselves a mature, fully developed Christian. We are constantly being worked and refined. Each reading of scripture, every moment we spend in prayer, and time spent doing the work of the kingdom, each of these works us, refines us, makes us fertile ground for God’s work to be completed.
Jesus talks about this when he explains the parable to the disciples. He explains what he meant about the different types of soil. Those represented by the seeds that fall on the path hear the message, but don’t understand it. Those represented by the rocks, receive the word with joy, but it doesn’t sink in and the moment trouble comes the abandon the message. The seeds that fall on the shallow thorny ground easily become distracted by the promises of wealth and power. The seed that falls on the good soil is the one who hears and understands.
What does this mean for us? Are we destined to only be one type of soil? Does doubt and questioning our faith mean we are the rocky ground and the seeds of faith may never take root? No, just as soil can change so too can we. The point, I think, is to continue to strive towards that state where we are ready to hear, receive and act on God’s word. Sometimes that is easier than others. Perhaps that can change in a day or over the course of a season.
We should always live in hope. We have all seen weeds, flowers, trees growing in the most remarkable of places. We have asked and wondered how is it possible that it could grow? Perhaps the most remarkable thing we should keep in mind is that Jesus told a story about planting seeds in good soil from a boat.
Nothing is outside the realm of possible with God. That weed growing where it shouldn’t, is a sign of how tenacious the word of God is at finding good soil. Because as much as we are the soil represented in this parable, the focus Jesus put was on the seed. The seed is the word of God, brought to life in the body of Christ and given renewing purpose through the winds of the Holy Spirit. God’s word, the seeds of life, can take root in the most remarkable of places.
As you reflect on this parable and how it plays out in your own life, ask yourself the following:
- How can I be fertile soil for the seeds of the kingdom?
- How can I help others become good soil?
- What are the hard paths, rocks and thorns that exist in my life which might impede the seeds of life from taking root?
I found this poem about gardens, it’s short and it’s simple and it holds profound truth:
Whoever makes a garden
Has never worked alone;
The rain has always found it,
The sun has always known.
We don’t work alone. We alone aren’t solely responsible for being good soil. God is at work in us, God helps to prepare us to receive God’s word. We are nourished by the power of the Spirit, fed the seeds of life by Christ himself. Just as creation is ever renewing itself, God is ever at work in us. Thanks be to God. Amen.
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St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Cobourg is part of the Presbyterian Church in Canada. The congregation was established in 1833 and continues to serve the community.
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