Sunday, July 12, 2020

Paula Stoltzfus: The Relationship between Sower and Soil

“Tending God’s Seeds”

Isaiah 55:10-13; Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

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The relationship between sower and soil

Parables. Stories that evoke the imagination often used to make a point.

That same day before Jesus taught this parable, Jesus was healing people with the suspicious onlooking and questions from the Pharisees.  They were making a valiant effort to try to trap Jesus in a theological quandary, so they could build a case to punish him. 

The crowd that gathered in this setting must have been a mix of people, those who were inquisitive, those who wanted to be healed, those who were following, like the disciples, and those who were sceptical, like the Pharisees.

At times based on context, we can surmise to whom Jesus was directing this teaching?

What seems obvious from the beginning is that the sower is the source of abundance and is generous with the seeds, perhaps even careless, tossing them everywhere no matter the type of soil it fell on.

We know there are 4 kinds of soil that the seed falls upon that Jesus describes, with an explanation as to how the seed fairs. We have often heard this interpreted from a personal standpoint.The soil health within us determines how we are able to have God’s seeds of faith take root.  We are exhorted to take care of the rocks and weeds, the sin in our own lives so our soil may be enriched and become more fruitful.

In light of our current cultural milieu I began to look at this with our cultural system in mind.  

Our country’s history, guided by the religious mandate of the doctrine of discovery, has set in place a legacy that has cast aside rocks of self-righteousness and oppression, weeds of judgment, and created a path of racial inequity.  Indigenous peoples, Africans and their descendants who were enslaved against their will,  the Japanese internment camps, the Mexicans and other Latinos fleeing persecution, and Asians labeled as terrorists, to name a few, have endured many hardships as a result.  In doing so, people of color are disproportionately living in poverty, experience police brutality, and are incarcerated.  How can they experience the sower’s abundance of seeds when the system they live in makes daily living so hard?

Now I’m not saying that faith can not be rooted deeply in our brothers and sisters of color.  In fact I find a deep resilient faith.  But the cultural obstacles that are in their way at every turn can crush the spirit, distract the focused, and claim the innocent.

I recognize our history is difficult to reconcile.  Hard to digest.  Hard to acknowledge that I/you/we are a part of the devastation the path, rocks, and weeds have had in others lives and are toxic to our own.

Where is the hope?  Where is a path forward?

Perhaps we can learn from a present day sower. Second Mountain Farm, where John is working, considers the health of their soil paramount. 

They have dedicated garden beds that they are constantly amending, planting, weeding, harvesting, and amending again. 

    To begin with, the soil is worked up and a generous layer of organic compost and compost tea are applied.  This provides a natural steroid, if you will, to the seedling as it is planted to give it the best chance of survival and ability to thrive.

    They plant more than what they need.  They measure in the fact that not all seedlings will produce what they want, bugs or weeds may affect one but not all.

    Weeding is a regular practice.  Pulling the weeds while young allows the seedlings space to grow which in turn doesn’t allow the life of the weed to take over.

    Harvest.  When these three steps are followed, harvest is full.

As the farm grows, more garden beds are developed.  Any clearing of rocks, weeds, and thorns are composted or control burned as to not inhibit another future garden bed.  The soil health of the whole farm is important, not only the health of the existing garden beds.


We too, need to not only take care of developing the health of our own soil, but the soil of those around us. Building an ecosystem for healthy soil. When our neighbor thrives, we thrive.  When we thrive, they thrive.  This could be seen on a one to one relationship, familial, neighborhood, organization, and cultural levels.  The health of one affects the health of the whole.  The health of the whole affects the health of one.

How might this practice of amend, plant, weed, harvest, amend inform us as we ponder the state of our own soil in relation to the generous sower?

    Consider how we clear the rocks and weeds of judgment, resentment, racial superiority, self-righteousness, fear, and worry.  Do we do the hard work of transformation or cast it off on others? This takes a posture of willingness to listen.  Listen to God. Listen to yourself. Listen to others, especially those that are different.

    Amend our own internal health.  Consider life practices that enrich our well of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

    Plant more than what you need.  How does this look?  How about allowing yourself to bask in God’s limitless love for you?  Give space for the sower to toss as many seeds of love and grace in your soul as possible. And let nothing hold you back from receiving it.

    Weed. Weed. And weed some more.  When judgment crops up, notice it, reflect on it, and pick it.  When anger comes up in destructive ways, notice it, reflect on it, and pick it. When self-righteousness appears, the “I’m right and you are wrong” comes up, notice it, reflect on it, and pick it. Gather the weeds, thank them for what they’ve taught you and let them compost, transforming them into something that can be used again.

    Harvest.  When will you know the harvest is ready?  Trust that the fruits of the spirit that you have amended your soul with will guide.

    Lest we think we have arrived when we harvest, be aware (not beware), but be aware, it is time to amend the soil again.  Consider the life practices that enrich your soil/soul and spend time there again.

As I conclude, I would like to invite you into a time of silence. Consider where you are at in your internal health.  Do you find yourself with heavy rocks or choking weeds?  Do you find yourself in a place where you want to share an abundance within? Are you in a place where you need to rest in God’s limitless love for you?

Listen. Sink into a deep listening, where is the sower in relationship to your soil?

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