That guy must be crazy!
This would have been going through everyone else’s mind when Jesus told this parable.
You have this farmer who doesn’t seem to care where his high priced seed is falling, instead he is taking it by the fistfuls, not even bothering to walk on the tilled soil of the farm but walking along an ordinary road like Mahoning Ave. and tossing the seed here, there and everywhere. It seems like at least two-thirds of it is landing on places lousy for seed like the asphalt, sidewalk and that overgrown weedy section at the corner by the sheds for sale. When it hits the asphalt it gets run over by the cars, some of it falls into the cracks in the sidewalk but there’s not enough soil to gain root, some falls into the weeds but gets choked out.
Then seemingly by accident, the seed hits fertile soil, producing a crop that yields healthy and vibrant plants producing a variety of different kinds of fruit. But no matter what happens to the seed, the farmer keeps walking up and down the path scattering the seed out, over and over again.
When I think about this parable from Matthew 13, what has always stuck out to me was the fertile soil. We’ve seen plants grow in some of the crazy places, but fertile, tilled, rich, deep, dark, moist, ready for seed soil does not happen by chance. It is deliberate and intentional, hard work with the right tools is necessary to make it happen.
I remember working with my grandfather one year breaking up an old and broken concrete patio so we could replace it with a wooden deck and garden. That is back breaking hard work, breaking the concrete with the sledge, pulling out the stone, working the ground, pulling out the roots and weeds and putting down some good soil to mix in. None of it was by accident. Someone has to make the soil ready for the seed.
When we hear this parable I believe there is an invisible helper in the background who we can’t see working but instead we can see the fruit of their labor.
Because the soil is our mind, heart and soul; the places where we hear and receive the Good News of Jesus which is the seed being thrown. But in our own mind, heart and soul there is first a spiritual battle being waged against the good seed of Jesus, the spiritual forces and principalities of this world struggling with all their might to take away the opportunity for the seed to take root. But despite the best efforts of these spiritual forces some seed manages to fall into the cracks and shoot up and grow like crazy. But it happens, like the blink of an eye, where there was once enthusiasm and excitement for Jesus the reality of the cost of discipleship, the cost of following Jesus, begins to set in. Because the Christian faith is not a show up on Sunday sometimes, crack the Bible open once or twice and occasionally get inspired by a new concept you haven’t thought of, kind of faith. The Christian faith is a all who you are, everywhere you go, alone or in a crowd, carry your cross along the way of sorrows and follow Jesus, kind of faith. Shallow roots, wedged into a tiny corner of someone’s life, choked out by the concrete pavers of the world, will only grow plants that are weak and helpless. Much like the seed of faith growing in the thistles and thorn bushes, which I think is a fascinating comparison. Jesus says that the thorns and thistles are compared to the deceitfulness of the world, with all of its lures of false security, self-absorbed comfort and lust. But, you know what happens when you full on grab a thorn bush with no gloves on. Now compare that to reaching out to a strong fruit tree with appealing sweet and tasty fruit. Jesus is saying in the garden instead of reaching for the good fruit people are willingly and eagerly grabbing on to the thistles and thorns bushes instead and letting those thistles take control of their hearts.
That’s a lot of junk in our hearts that needs to be gotten rid, but we know that as long as we live this side of heaven, we will always be sinners and saints, thistles and fertile ground together. We cannot ever do away with all of the junk that has been growing in our hearts alone. We need a helper, strong and powerful, equipped with the right tools to work through all of the junk. Jesus has promised us that strong and powerful helper in the Holy Spirit who in faith uses the backhoe of God’s Words and the tiller of the Holy Sacraments to work the ground of our hearts, breaking the concrete, digging out the stone and pulling out the weeds. The Holy Spirit is that invisible helper in the background of the parable working hard to make the ground of our hearts fertile and ready for the seed of faith to grow and produce.
Just like weeds always grow and stones always seem to pop up in the garden, this work of the Holy Spirit is ongoing throughout our Christian faith. If someone asks why they should go to church, this is one of those reasons why. If you take yourself away from the tools that the Holy Spirit uses to work on the soil of your heart, take yourself away from the Word and the Sacraments, it’s like giving the Holy Spirit a teaspoon to dig out 20 acres of land. To grow in the Christian faith its so important to position are ourselves in the places where the Holy Spirit has the best tools possible to work and grow our hope in Jesus.
Now one of the things that people sometimes get a little freaked out about with this passage is they think that this is a once and done kind of thing with the farmer, like he only goes by once spreading the seed and that’s it, either you are fertile or thorny and stony and out of luck.
But here is where the message at the very heart of this parable reaches out to you with some very, very good news.
Jesus never gives up on you. That guy must be crazy! He never stops walking along the path, back and forth, spreading the seed of faith at you, over and over again. Thorny, stony, fertile, and always somewhere between, Jesus never stops throwing the seed of faith your way. Even if everyone else has given up on you. Even if you have given up on yourself. Even if you’ve given up on Jesus. Jesus, never ever gives up on you. Amen.