Monday, July 14, 2014

The Soils of Our Lives

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
Chatfield United Methodist Church
July 13, 2014
Rev. Debra Jene Collum

There has been some talk this year about the problem with deer and our gardens. It is so frustrating. Jeff Hare even posted photos of Candi’s hostas on Facebook to prove he didn’t mow them down while she was away on vacation. Every morning I wake up wondering if my lilies are going to still be there or if the deer had a late night yummy juicy snack of lily buds.
Did I say how frustrating it is?

This is my fourth garden. I have had animal problems in all of them. Deer, woodchucks, rabbits, the neighbors cats…if gardening is so frustrating, why do we do it?

For the food, for the beauty, for the satisfaction, for the joy, for the exercise. Each one of us has different reasons. But gardeners are, by and large, passionate about their gardens. And no matter what, we will buy chemicals that smell like wolf urine, put up electric fences, ribbon and fake owls, hang CD’s from our trees and generally spend a lot of time and money to keep our gardens less attractive to harmful wildlife.

You all know that I am very passionate about my gardens.

If you look on the Google maps street view for the address of the church and parsonage, you can see what the parsonage looked like before I put in the gardens. Lots of green lawn. It is kind of amazing to look at the before pictures and see the results of the labor of love Steve and I have put into the parsonage gardens.

But these gardens didn’t just happen. We had to work at the soil to get plants to grow in soil that was depleted and rock strewn. Many of you know of our pilgrimages to the Waadevig's and Kamnetz farms for organic matter. Unlike the gardener in the parable, I choose where I put my plants based on the soil conditions, the light conditions and the needs of each plant.

Unlike, very much unlike, the gardener in today’s parable.

Our biblical gardener just scatters seed willy nilly allowing them to fall here and there and everywhere.
This planting method is, of course, called broadcasting. That was the current practice of farming in Jesus day. Soil conservation, crop rotation, careful sowing simply wasn’t a reality. I have wondered if Jesus would change this parable to reflect current agricultural and gardening methods. If he would talk about the need to make sure the seed was planted in the right place for optimum growth, to not waste seeds.
I tend to think not. Because in this parable is so much Grace. And Grace is what parables of the Kingdom of God are about.

You see, if we could all cultivate the soil of our lives carefully, making sure that in each part of our life we would be rich fertile, always receptive to the word of God, so that each seed sowed in our life would grown into a magnificent plant, then this parable could be changed to reflect our more careful gardening and farming practices.

But we don’t always have that luxury. No matter how hard we try, there are going to be rocky places, shallow and thorny places in our lives.
I do not know why I was born in a peaceful town in Iowa rather than a hot dry poversty stricken barrio of Mexico.
I do not know why some of us are given loving parents and some of us must deal witih great adversity and strife.

I do not know why people who have been wise in their choices, trying to do what is good, bautfiul and right find themselves facing hardship and trouble.
And I don’t know why some of us must struggle with great bouders of hurt and distrust. Boulders that are going to take years to remove because it is going to take years to know how best to forgive heal and trust again.

And all of us have places in our lives where thorns of adversity and temptation threaten to choke out all of the good.
We worry too much; we have habits that tempt us from holy living.

All of us have all sorts of soils in our lives, not matter how hard we try to be a beautiful garden.
And we s should try, there I no doubt about that. Those habits need to change; we need to learn to give all of our worries to God, to learn to trust God for all that we do.
A beautiful garden with rich soil is the goal of holy living.
And our gardener God is ready to help us become such a garden.

For notice, in all the soils except the hard garden path, the word of God takes root, and grows even if for a moment.
In the great boulder fields of your life, the thorn choked corners which you want to hide from view and shallow sandy places, God’s word comes and begins to grow.

Yes, evil does all it can to snatch that word out of your life. The evil one loves gardens that are overgrown with worry, bad habits and frightful circumstances. But the seed, the word of God has sprouted even for a moment and in that moment---your soil has been changed forever.

You have seen the rock slides along our country roads. Great flat rocks that are now laying in the ditch, little bits of sandstone, shale and dolomite. Of course, erosion, wind and rain play a part in these rockslides, but so do the job’s tears, coneflowers, clover, and other weeds growing in the crevices and cracks.
Even on great mountains, plants grow in the shallowest of soils. Did you ever stop to think about what those small plants, with their shallow root system, are doing to that rock?

Slowly through the centuries those small plants change the entire makeup of even something as solid as granite. Seeds take root, even if for a season and change hearts of stone.

That is how the word of God works in our lives. A kind word from a friend. A sermon, a song on the radio, a bible verse on a picture somewhere. The faint memory of your grandmother prayers or a simple question of a child.
Even when God’s word is there for only a little moment, you life is changed. The boulders shift a little, the thorns and thistles move back some, in that place in your life where the word of God has taken root, the soil is made richer, deeper.

You see the greatest danger for us is in becoming the hard garden path, that place which cannot be receptive to the word of God. That is what we must and can guard against.

For while we cannot control much of our lives, we can make sure our hearts and souls, our gardens are willing to accept the word of God wherever it is scattered.

For we can be sure that this Gardner, our great and living God will continue to throw out seeds willy-nilly.

And that promise is this: the grace is this: That eventually, through the patience and grace of our loving God a harvest will be made, a rich and abundant harvest. Some thirty fold, some sixty fold and some a hundred fold.

This is the Word God as it works in your life, you who have ears to hear. Listen!

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