Today we have as our gospel, The Parable of the Sower. A farmer goes out and sows seeds, and some of it falls on good ground, and some in the weeds, and some on the rocks. And depending on where it falls, it either sprouts up into abundant fruits and vegetables, or it dies among the weeds, or it dries up on the rocks. For some reason the disciples do not understand this parable, so Jesus spells it out for them. What Jesus wants us each to think about is: Have you let the seed of Him the Word, his spirit, to live and grow in you?
Jesus often used the image of seeds, growth, and gardens, because it was an easy image for his audiences to understand, and that continues today. Like many of you, I have a garden that I planted, and, as we know, in order to get any fruit, we need to have at a minimum two things—rain and sunshine. Those of you who have a garden or a yard know that after a good rain over days, our yards and gardens turn into jungles that need to be trimmed and weeded, and our fruits and vegetables pop into being. But to get ripe fruits and vegetables, you have to have sunshine too. That is the case for spiritual growth as well. God uses the rainy days, the thunderstorms and the sunshine of our lives to help us grow in our life of faith.
To carry the garden analogy forward, our Lord expects us to tend our gardens. The sower sows The Word, but pay attention, it is we who determine the outcome. It is what we do with The Word, to prepare for and tend to the seeds that are sown, that determines the growth. And it can be a lot of work. But the more we do it, the better we get.
When I was a child, I remember planting those first seeds in a garden, carrots and radishes, something the children at Camp McDowell farm school still do today. I could not wait to pull out the carrots. We begin the garden of our faith, tilling the soil of our hearts as children. Learning our prayers. Learning to share. Learning that we are not supposed to fight with our brothers and sisters. But God expects us to grow in faith, and tend are heart soil beyond those years. We get a lot of help at first, but then steadily we are allowed to grow, so that when we are teens, we begin to test our own soil, to make our own choices. Do we actually go to the movies like we say, or we are or going out with the crowd that is drinking and what not? Do we help others, or do we join the crowd making fun of them? And then as we get older, it is our responsibility to carry on our prayers, our choices, our disciplines of faith, our daily decisions that mirror God’s ways, or not.
In tending a garden, the more you do it the better you get. You start to know the difference between the weeds and the plants. You learn about worms and fertilizer. You learn about pruning, cutting off the dead parts, so that new growth can occur. That is what it is like when we live a proactive life of faith. Tending our lives with the spiritual disciplines of prayer, coming to church, making every day God-willed choices. We get better at spotting our sins, learning to pull them out by the roots. We learn to avoid the worms—those yucky sins that eat away our insides—dishonesty, lies and betrayals. We begin to understand that God can use even the manure of our life to make our life more abundant when we trust Him to do so. He uses your well-tended soil, to bring out fruit in abundance. You become a place that attracts others, filled with beauty and the bushels of fruit that begin to arrive, which you share. Because in the end, God want us all to be master gardeners, raising up our children and grandchildren and all whose lives we touch, in his ways and his teaching. Where we join him in sowing the Word of the Kingdom of heaven for harvests in the future.
The Rev. Robin Hinkle is the rector of St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Jasper.