A man goes out to sow. And as he walks, he casts the seeds far and wide. The seeds land every which way. Some on the trodden path, some in the rocks, some among the thorns. But, as he walks and casts the seeds from side to side, some land on good soil.
One of the things that I hear avid gardeners talking about is soil. They can really get into details about improving the soil, or as they say, amending the soil. I know just a little bit about that. Perhaps you know much more if you’re into planting seeds and nurturing them along.
When I hear the community gardeners at St Luke’s making their plans for a coming season, I notice how the conversation soon turns to the soil and how they can work with it to improve its quality. And I hear similar comments from people who have home gardens. I’m thinking notably about the Plant Managers of the Plant and Bake Sale at St Matthew – St Aidan. So, I deduce from this wisdom that the condition of the soil is a key factor in cultivating a bountiful crop of vegetables or in nurturing abundant blossoms on flowers.
The gospel reading today is one of Jesus’ parables. A parable, it seems to me, is a story that invites a person to go deeper. It’s an encounter and engagement with the story. It concentrates the meaning of the story just as a parabolic reflector concentrates beams of light on one focal point. The words have similar roots—parabolic, parable.
So, I think a parable focuses Jesus’ teaching so that it beckons us to go deeper. After all, it’s not just a story to read. It’s a story that is an invitation to dig more deeply into it. It is also an invitation to dig more deeply into oneself, to discover the chords that it makes resonate at the depth of ones heart. In the terms of Depth Psychology, you’d say the parable beckons us to a descent within — within oneself.
So, the parable today is called the Parable of the Sower but maybe it should be entitled the Parable of the Soil.
The tendency may be to look at it from a distance--detached. Jesus even explains the parable which is a rare occurrence. Usually, he leaves us to try to figure it out on our own. That’s the engagement part, the moments of encounter. And, that process is what can draw you and me more deeply into a first-hand experience of the teachings of Jesus and into a personal encounter with Jesus.
Take this parable as an example. Jesus uses an allegory to explain the parable. It’s pretty clear that the seed represents the word of God. He gives some examples about the various kinds of soil. I wonder if we can work more deeply with that.
What I mean is that a person could consider figuratively what kinds of soil we have within our selves.
When I think about the parable in this way, I wonder what kind of pathways I may have within where the seed stays only on the surface. I wonder where the rocks are within me that prevent the seed from getting enough depth to put down roots. I wonder what parts within me make it that the seed is choked out.
I invite you to engage with the parable in this way. It can bring you into a direct encounter with the parable. It’s no longer a safe and isolated story of some imaginary sower. The parable becomes you. And I think that’s what a parable does which is to draw you more deeply into its meaning. A parable is ultimately an encounter with Jesus.
You and I live in a fallen world where the reality is both darkness and light. The human condition is one of darkness and light: it’s the reality of who we are. So, there are hardened pathways along our journey. There are rocky places along our steps. There are places where weeds choke out good things. Those are the types of the soil that is each of us.
But, let us take a lesson from our gardening friends to identify the conditions that hamper our growth. Let us discover how to work the soil within to soften the hardened pathways, to remove some of the rocks that cover things up and the weeds that choke out the fullness of life.
The good news is that the parable tells us about the good soil. The good news is that you already have good soil within in the depths of your heart. The good soil is the sample that shows how to amend the other soil within. The trodden path, the rocky soil, the places choked with weeds can be understood, managed and even overcome. You can make the poorer soil better soil. There is more hope… there is more good soil.
By understanding your trodden paths, by understanding your rocky soil, by understanding your weeded corners, you can discover how to till new soil. And again, the good news is that it will bear fruit a hundred fold, sixty fold, and even thirty fold.
The fruit is forgiveness, acceptance, and compassion. And the parable is an invitation to engage, to dig deeper within your heart and to encounter Jesus as you go out to sow.