Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Sower and God's Ecology

The Gospel reading this Sunday was the familiar parable of the sower of seed (Matthew 13:1-9). Perhaps this parable is too familiar and we don't hear it with new ears. We think we understand it because Jesus gives us his own interpretation (verses 18-23). We'd like to think we're the ones with a heart that is like the good soil. We might envision that we could work a little more on the hard soil, the rocky spots and weedy patches, as if we were the gardeners of our own lives. We are uneasy about the barren spots in our lives.

This time around reading the parable of the four soils, I find myself more puzzled by the indiscriminant sowing of the sower. What farmer would throw away good seed in places that are not prepared for it? Would not a good farmer first break up the compacted soil, remove excess rocks, and pull up the weeds? You are right to point to God's initiative here because soil is completely passive. It cannot make of itself "good soil". Perhaps the path was worn by Roman soldiers advancing on Jerusalem. What can the soil do? What is redemptive here for those who have been trampled under foot, or for the rocky soil or the weedy soil? Why doesn't the good farmer tend the soil before mocking it with seed that will not come to fruition?

Perhaps God has a higher wisdom for these difficult patches. Perhaps the sower uses the compacted paths to enter the field without crushing the tender plants he wishes to grow. Perhaps compacted soil and stones are part of building up a "highway for the Lord." Perhaps the rocks line canals and ditches for the flow of water into the fields. Or the rocks could serve as a wall or terrace to protect and uplift the good soil. Perhaps the weeds are rehabilitating lifeless soil or retaining moisture and reducing soil erosion. All these conditions are part of God's ecology.

This winter St. John's needed to repave our parking lot. For years weeds and water had been making steady progress breaking up the asphalt. As much as we might try to preserve our parking lot, nature breaks it down. If we left it completely alone, the natural environment would utterly reclaim it. But for now, St. John's has a beautiful new parking lot.

We might not like all the terrain in our lives, but it is all part of God's ecology, God's new creation.

Blessings, James

No comments: