The dirt by my house is sticky clay, further up it is nothing but rocks, on our hill is sand, and in the garden nice rich soil. It reminds me of Jesus’ parable of the sower. This is one of the few parables that Jesus actually explains. Maybe it’s because he wants to make sure his disciples get this one. Maybe he wants them, and us, to do a little self-work. They, and we, have known Jesus a long time. They, and we, have been with him as he heals and preaches and teaches. So maybe it is time to ask the “so what” question. What difference has all of this made in our lives? What kind of soil are we?
Are we like the hard packed earth of the path where we just don’t understand the Word? Are we like the rocky ground where the Word makes us joyful for a bit and then fades away? Are we like the weedy soil, where the Word is choked out by worries and the seduction of wealth? Or are we good soil, where we hear the Word, understand it, and it grows in us and bears good fruit?
We want to be good soil, but I at least, find I’m like the soil around my house. I’m spotty. There might be a few good patches, but there is a path here, some rocks there, and lots of weeds. I struggle to discern what God’s Word for me is. Things in life overwhelm me and my love wears thin. I get overly attached to things. My emotions get the best of me and I become incapable of living out God’s word. But there is good news — soil is a living, dynamic, changing substance. So the question is not just how is our soil; the question is also “how can we tend to our soil?”
I used to know this garden group, and healthy soil was a huge deal for them. They would put their food scraps in vermiculture bins to make “worm tea.” They’d take lawn clippings and leaves and compost them. And when fall came they would put their gardens to bed by creating layers of cardboard, blood meal, and compost, covering it with straw and spraying it down with worm tea. They would do this every year forming incredibly rich topsoil.
It might sound like a lot of work, but really, all it took was small daily changes. Instead of throwing peelings in the trash it went in the worm composter. Instead of tossing yard waste away it was collected. But the pay off was worth it — harvesting scads of tomatoes, beans, squash, corn and greens.
It is this kind of fruit, this sort of abundant harvest for God, that we want to bear in and with our lives. So what can we do to build up rich soil? Like my friends and their gardens, a lot can happen with little changes to our regular routines. Things like taking time each day to meditate, to read scripture, and to pray; or keeping a discipline of gratitude — pausing and giving thanks for things like meals, the sun coming up, a good night’s rest, or friends and family; or holding a Sabbath day. Keeping these sorts of disciplines doesn’t take a lot of time, but they do make a big difference in our lives.
So I encourage you to work on your soil — practice things like prayer, meditation, gratitude, and simplicity — so that when God plants a seed in your life it can bear good fruit.
Rev. Donald Hanna is the pastor of the Alamosa Presbyterian Church.