Father Mark, Sermons


Less soil
More soil

Matthew 13 7/12/20

Seeds are small but powerful.  Yet they are not self-sufficient.   They are dependent on their environment if they are to take root. Seeds thrive best in soil that is prepared for them.  

I tried some pole beans for the first time in our back yard and had plenty of leaves but no beans.  I roughed up the dirt, added a little topsoil, added fertilizer and watered them.   The only thing missing was the sun.  Our yard is blessed with shade from numerous trees but without enough direct sunlight to grow much of anything.  There are environments in which seeds do not grow. 

Jesus speaks of three of them: rocky soil, compacted earth and thorn infested. 

I am amazed when I go through the Rocky Mountains and will occasionally see a few Indian Paintbrush growing out of a bottle cap size of dirt collected in the rock.   But they do not grow as full and expansive as those that grow in locations with more dirt and less Rock.    You can see the difference in color intensity and size of an individual Indian paintbrush and one that had more soil surrounding it in the two images. 

Parables are intended to awaken the listener to hear a point of spiritual truth.   

Parables differ from allegories in that allegories are analyzed into parts, each part holding a symbol of meaning for the greater story.  It is easy to take a parable and slip into allegorizing it, which may or may not cause us to miss the point Jesus is trying to make. 

With so much information in this parable of the seed, it makes it more difficult to ascertain the poignant message truth Jesus is attempting to get across to us. 

Even the title of the parable is confusing, thinking that it is about a sower, because the words for seed and sower are near identical:  Zara for seed is the word used, not Zarua for sower.  

The parable is really about the seed not the clumsy sower who sows seed willy nilly all over the place, only getting some of the seed in the fertile soil.  So it’s not wrong to say, that we could learn from the story not to be like the sower and do a better job of planting the seed of life God gives us in places where it can grow.  Sowing seed properly is part of our spiritual stewardship. 

But this would be to allegorize the parable.

Is the parable pointing to Jesus giving us a reality check that not all seeds end up in good soil?  Three quarters of the seeds failed to bear fruit.  Is Jesus setting up the expectation that not every seed will grow?    Environment has influence over a person’s development.

Ok, so only some of the seeds will grow.  That seems to be borne out through historical evidence.  Not even all the green bean seeds I planted germinated.  

Was Jesus being apathetic here, saying, well, not everyone wakes up to the gospel, and that’s just the way it is, and then goes off and not care one way or another?  This doesn’t seem to fit as Jesus kept going teaching and healing. 

Is Jesus being indirect here, giving us a hint?  Is he saying that it important to create an environment where seeds can be planted and grow?  Several times in his parables Jesus follows with, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” 

How do we prepare the soil of our environment to receive the seed?  Personally?  For our children, grandchildren and family?  In our community?  

Where in our lives has the soil given out or have the weeds of other priorities or values choked off the young plants?   What kind of soil do we need to grow our roots deep into God?   

Parables are for listening to.   When we hear Jesus speaking through [arab;es to us, what are we hearing?   Do we move on from the parable after we hear something, thinking, “Oh, I’ve got it. I know what it means?”   Or do we continue listening for the Spirit to rise again and again through the parable?   

Forgive the possible allegorizing of this parable, but one thing I can really identify with and I wonder if you can too is the soil.  I/we are the soil for the seed of the Divine.  God will plant himself in us but cannot prepare our inner soul to receive Him.  That’s our responsibility.    

During this COVID invasion, the stories that I am getting from many of you is that your soil feels depleted in some way.   We’ve spent four months adjusting to it hoping for deliverance of some sort but it appears we’re going to be dealing with this for a long time. We’ve all been trying various strategies to cope with the changes depending on how our lives have been affected. 

But the question remains, what do we do with our soil?  How do we get the rocks and thorns out with which we are faced?  How can we revive our inner soil that is spent?   Filling in the gaps with stop gap measures begins to break down because trying to find diversions simply obscures the boredom, parched meaning and sometimes even the flickering presence of God that used to burn more brightly than it does now.   

Listening for Divine Guidance saves us from the novelties and nostrums that keep us from reaching into the deep pain that many of us are experiencing.  

In the last two months, the Spirit has led me to make changes: to intersperse the Jesus Prayer into my day as well as become certified as a mediator to volunteer at our county mediation center.   I am also studying for a HAM radio license to volunteer as a part our county emergency communications and in case we have another hurricane at the coast, God forbid.   These new directions are not something to fill the time but plug into the Gospel’s imperative for ministry. 

Parables, like God, were meant to be heard, to be listened to, not something where we search for answers.   God is not an answer, but a Divine living Being. 

One of the risks of coming up with an answer to a parable is that when we think we hear it, we cut off listening to it for a greater yield of truth.   A parable is never figured out as it is still revealing more of God.

COVID has given us a lot of lemons.  How is the Spirit leading us to make lemonade?