Bread – Soil

March 19, 2014


Readings for Wednesday, March 19, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Gen. 42:18-28; 1 Cor. 5:9-6:8; Mark 4:1-20; Psalms 72,119:73-96

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We recently re-did our yard. We mowed the yard closely to remove the dead grass and then spread chemicals to kill the worms which were eating the grass, to kill the fungus which was weakening the grass, and to feed the grass with nutrients so that it would grow when warmer weather comes. Our bushes were diseased, so we pulled them up. Our flower beds were hardened from a summer of sun-baking and no water, so we tilled them up. We added mulch and new soil to maximize the chance that our new plants would thrive and live, in spite of Texas summer and the lack of water.

In today’s reading from Mark, we have Jesus giving the parable of the sower and the soil to the people, and then explaining the meaning of the parable to the disciples. Even though this parable is called in most Bibles the “Parable of the Sower,” I really think this is a parable of the soil. What is the condition of the mind and the heart which claim to receive Christ (together with His people, the sower) and His Word (the seed)? Our hearts and minds are our soil. Are we hardened to hear anything, are we shallow, do we share our mind and heart with weeds, or are we well-tilled with good earth and nutrients, producing an abundance of harvest?

There is a tendency to believe that these four conditions of the soil (hard, shallow, mixed, good) are just who we are and that this parable then is a parable to explain why some people are saved and others are not, and why some people, once saved, are unfruitful in their daily walk with Christ.

But I would challenge this in part. Clearly, because we are dead in our sins, it must be God who prepares our soil for reception to His Word and Himself, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But what happens after, after the seed has been sown and received? What is our responsibility to till our own soil, turning it over so that it can breathe and grow good fruit, filling it with things good for its health, killing the insects which would weaken it, planting anew when the atrophy of selfishness has harmed the plants?

If we have received the seed of truth and our soil is shallow, so that the scorching sun of day causes our faith, life, and fruit to wither away, what is our responsibility to take that seed of faith we have and, mixing it with the Holy Spirit, dig that shallow ground so that our roots can grow deep? If we have received the seed of truth and our soil is mixed with weeds and thorns, what is our responsibility to take that seed of faith we have and, mixing it with the Holy Spirit, weed our soil, removing the doubts, the cares, the worldly thorns and replacing those things with good fruit? If we have received the seed of truth and our soil is good soil, what is our responsibility to refresh that good soil with good nutrients, being always vigilant for the insects, the fungus, and the inattention which will cause good soil to become poor?

One answer to this question is that we have no responsibility, because that is just the way we are. We sin because we are made that way. We doubt because we are made that way. We are hardened because the world has made us that way. We are bitter because of how other people have treated us. It is God’s fault, the world’s fault, other people’s fault.

If that is your answer, then you have forgotten that, when Jesus came and chose you in His mercy, He brought you from death to life, freed you from the prison of yourself, re-birthed you in the Holy Spirit, made you a new person, and proclaimed victory.

You have also forgotten that Jesus has given us the tools to improve our own soil. He has given us His Word, which is fertilizer to encourage growth. He has given us spiritual disciplines so that we can dig up our old, tired, hard soil and mix in fresh. He has given us medicine in His Word, the Holy Spirit, and the disciplines to kill the worms which would eat at our roots and the fungus which would weaken us. He has given us the saints who can help us keep our soil healthy.

Using the tools He has given us, we can work on our soil daily, and take pleasure in the fruit it bears for the Kingdom. However, we have to use them.

When was the last time you worked, really worked, on your soil using our God-given tools?

Well, it is Lent, so now is as good a time as any. Pick up the rake of truth, the hoe of the Spirit, and the living water given to us by Christ, and start tilling.

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© 2014 GBF

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