July 9, 2023 SERMON
‘A Twist of the Soil’
Rev. Jane Courtright
Some years ago, my husband Dave and I lived amongst
Tibetan Buddhists in India, who were vegetarian.
Not only did we eat vegetarian for the most part,
we were constantly around fresh vegetables and fruits,
sold by the side of the roads in small outdoor stands.
Every time we ventured out of our rooms,
it seemed that we passed
and sometimes bought food from those places!
One day, I noticed the women who prepared our meals,
carrying heavy loads of produce up the steep hill
from the small stand to the Peace House
where Dave and I were staying.
When we began to visit & interview children at their group homes,
we found that most homes had a produce garden,
as well as abundantly planted potted flowers.
I remember thinking of Rod McKuen’s comment,
“I like people who plant flowers,
because they’re trying, they haven’t given up!”
Unfortunately, I became ill
(not from Indian food, but from something I picked up in America!),
and we had to leave India about a week early.
We couldn’t find tickets to take the small plane
from Dharamsala to New Dehli,
so we had to spend 11 hours traveling in a small taxi
to the New Dehli Airport!
(We did stop for lunch – but that’s another story!)
A very long haul to be sure, but what an interesting ride!
Along the way, in addition to so many people, towns & construction, we viewed rice paddies with people hand-planting seedlings,
fields full of corn, sun flowers, beans and more!
These adventures came to mind
as I reread today’s parable about farming!
Of course, Jesus told a lot of parables or teaching stories.
When people think of these stories, the parable of the Prodigal Son
and the one about the Good Samaritan
are probably the first ones to come to mind.
But I think that the parable of the Sower would be a close third!
And just in case, for that reason,
you’re already thinking to yourself,
“Heard that, know that one, thanks anyhow,”
I dare you to listen again.
You might just hear a twist on this old, familiar story!
So, let’s look more closely at
HOW farming was done in Jesus ‘time.
A farmer would put a huge, heavy bag of seed over his shoulder
and then throw or cast the seeds over an unplowed field.
You heard right – first the seed was put down,
then gently plowed into the ground.
This might seem strange to some of us,
but I’ve read that ‘No-Till’ corn
is becoming more popular in our Midwest.
With the help of technology
(This is certainly NOT my area of expertise –
maybe a farmer could tell us more,) a corn crop can be sown
and cultivated without plowing deeply into the field.
Imagine that! The old saying,
“The more things change, the more they remain the same”
comes to mind!
At any rate, in Jesus’ time,
when a field was not being used for crops,
people traveling on foot would often cut through them….
fences weren’t much in use in the 1st century!
This created worn paths.
Naturally, some seed that the farmer threw invariably
ended up on these paths & made lunch for the birds!
Also, as Jesus said, some seed fell on rocky ground
where there wasn’t much soil, making the seeds spring up quickly,
then dying of heat & thirst..
And then thorns & other weeds made it near impossible
for other seeds to take hold and grow.
The GOOD NEWS is that some of the seed fell on rich ground
and there were astonishingly HUGE bumper crops.
Jesus ends the parable by urging all to listen:
carefully, deeply, thoughtfully…..LISTEN!
the scripture passage gives us an interpretation of the parable. However, I believe that LIKE Jesus’ other parables,
this one can have, must have, many meanings.
Jesus usually told open-ended parables to encourage people
to think….to draw their own conclusions.
Concerning this parable, you could say that the key
is to listen and let the words take root in your life!
So, again I dare you….double dog dare you…
to consider another angle or twist to this parable!
What if this story is about each one of US?
God knows, everyone of our lives have worn out,
or been rocky, or become choked with weeds!
But also filled with good, rich soil that is open to seeds growing!
If this parable is about me & you, what is God saying to US?!
If you’re like me, living from day to day,
life begins to take on well worn paths.
We call them ruts!
We usually take the same routes to work everyday,
shop at the same grocery stores,
fill up our tanks at the same gas station,
go to the same church (I like that one!,) & for the most part,
eat the same kinds of meals over and over.
But, another name for ruts is routines. They’re not all bad.
Sometimes they’re handy and efficient.
You wouldn’t want to reinvent the wheel every day!
God’s seeds can fall on the rocky places in our lives as well. Some of life’s hard experiences CAN leave us with cold, Teflon hearts…with little welcoming soil….rough.
Pain, cruely, crude remarks from strangers can leave us lifeless & cold. And of course, all kinds of thorns & weeds grow easily in our lives – choking any good things.
Reminds me of words the hymn ‘Here I am, Lord:’ “I have wept for love of them, they turn away. I will break their hearts of stone, give them hearts for love alone, I will speak my word to them.”
Often, at loved one’s funeral, appropriately called ‘Celebration of Life,’ the stories of people who were touched by the crops growing in their souls are amazing!
Sometimes, these stories are told during the memorial service, more often they are shared during the luncheon or coffee time following. I’m sure that the deceased did not know just how abundant was the harvest. It seems to me that some people carefully cultivate their souls, producing rich soil that welcomes seeds from God, seeds which are sown from scripture, yes, but also are sown through people who touched their lives.
So, that’s the twist in this old, familiar story. Sure there will always be people who are worn out or rocky, or wasted, and yes, GOOD ones as well. But what I see in today’s parable is that there will always be lots more good in all of us than we can know. GOOD soil in which God’s grace can take root!
There ARE all kinds of ground in our lives. Why don’t we clear out the rocks, cut down the weeds, change our routines or ruts? Why not give God even more chance to grow us into our potential?
Again, I dare you, this time I ‘triple dog dare you’ to believe this twisted truth of today’s parable, to discover it as you do the amazing work of God in and through your life.
When troubles come, let’s not give up as individuals, church or community. Let’s not give up and wither because of rocky ground. Let’s know that our roots are nourished by the love of God deep in us!
Let’s fee; God’s spirit growing in us, in our church, in our community!
And may the Force be with us! Amen.