Show of hands, how many of you have ever grown anything in the ground? Okay, so many of you are like me and have, from time to time, planted something in the ground to see if it would grow. Sometimes it would grow big and tall, and other times it would just wither and die.
In my previous church, I had a rather large garden that I planted all sorts of plants in. Of course, I had to have tomatoes but also planted a variety of squash and cucumbers. I was always going to try corn but it never actually happened.
When I first began the garden I just dug out a patch of the earth and planted some stuff, and that worked out okay but not great. Then I read an article about the benefits of raised beds and enhancing the soil. So, I went to the Home Depot, and I purchased some lumber, and I built several raised beds. I was keeping chickens at the same time, so I would compost their output and turn it into the richest soil I had even seen. Now, too much of a good thing can be bad so trying to find the right balance is necessary.
The garden flourished, but it needed constant tending. Each day I would spend some time out in my garden weeding and tending to all sorts of things, the more I managed, the better it grew and the better the output was. If I let it slack, even for one day, the weeds would take over, and all would be lost.
Our gardens are like our spiritual life and today’s Gospel passage points us in that direction.
At first glance, we want to focus, as we are directed, on the seeds that the sower is throwing around. My first thought is that he is not very careful with his seed if it is not falling on the best ground and he is wasting a lot of money. I would also guess that he is growing some cover crop like clover or winter wheat and he is not too concerned with where it lands. Cover crops can be useful as they hide imperfections from the world, but they can also enrich the soil.
But nothing is said about the seed itself of the soil that the sower is sowing the seed in.
A bad seed can ruin everything, in the garden and our spirituality.
When I was gardening, I would select the best plants I could find. I was never very good at growing things from seed so I would seek out the best plant material. Plants that were native grown and local are always the best as they are used to what we have around here for soil. Wrong plant equal bad output it’s just that simple. Large scale farming is the same. The farmer selects the seeds by first going through the pile and picking out the bad ones, no sense in wasting time on the wrong things.
But what about the soil?
If the soil is not balanced correctly, nothing will grow. Soil balance is interesting and if a high yield is what you are seeking then spending time on the soil is the way to go.
At the start of every season, soon after the frost would pass, I would be out in the garden turning the soil and warming it up in the sun. In the fall I would have turned in the rich compost that had been heating up all summer and now that compost needed to be turned through the whole of the bed. Turning the soil also introduces air into the equation, and that is important as well. But the main reason is a hard soil makes it difficult for the new plants to grow. The tiny, delicate roots have a difficult time if the soil is too hard and water will not penetrate as deep as it should. Sure, the plant will grow, but if a high yield is what we are striving for, then the soil needs to be at peak performance.
All of this is the same in our spiritual life, and the most important part is that it requires daily care and maintenance.
For some, our spiritual life is like the rock ground. Sure there is some soil in-between those rocks, and maybe something will grow there if it happens to land. Some of our spiritual lives are like the pavement. We are so locked into what we believe that nothing will penetrate that hard outer shell. Underneath the soil is fertile but the word never actually gets there through that hard surface.
For some, we are like the thicket full of weeds and thorns that when we hear something that just might be different from how we think of things, we choke it off and do not want to hear it.
We are all there and have all been there at one time or another. This parable is not about the seeds it is not even about the sower; it’s about the soil and how we prepare it.
Just like the soil in my garden the soil of my spiritual life needs constant attention. I need to introduce new material to it each day and turn it over. If we grow the same thing, in the same patch of ground, year after year eventually that plant will no longer grow in that spot. Our spiritual life needs to continually be refreshed and turned so that the output will be at its highest.
So how do we do this?
A simple routine of Scripture reading will go a long way. If we read Scripture each day, and the amount is not important, the important thing is that we read every day, we will start to notice an improvement. There are all sorts of helps for us. There is the Our Daily Bread that we make available. There are numerous websites that will send you a small portion of Scripture each day, and of course, you can just open the book. Don’t have one? Just ask, we have plenty hanging around here and would be happy to give you one.
Listening to sermons in another way to feed the soil, not just mine and not just from people that you like or agree with, listen to a preacher that comes from a different philosophical position that you do. As much as these guys grind my gears now and again, I do learn something from them, and they do cause me to think and to think outside the box. Again, putting the same old stuff in will not make the yield any different.
The important thing to remember is that our spiritual life, like our gardens, needs daily maintenance.