This Sunday we’ll spend quality time with Jesus as he discusses seed scattering, reminding us of spring planting and the summer growing season (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23).
Farmers rely on good soil along with water, sunshine and nutrients as crucial to a healthy crop. Similarly, Jesus’ words in Matthew remind us that our spirits require nurturing. Speaking of which, is God your Master Gardener? If not, then perhaps Jesus’ parable about seeds will convince you.
Planting seeds involves sowing, and Jesus’ story has four examples. The first is seed that had fallen on top of the earth before being planted (the birds quickly ate these due to exposure). The second set of seeds fell into shallow, rocky soil (lack of good roots destroyed the unfortunate seeds). The third instance of seeds fell into thorns (competition from weeds choked the life out of them). The fourth and final seed batch landed in good soil (these multiplied goodness in the world and thereby fulfilled their potential). The meaning behind all this is that people are supposed to be in good soil and multiply blessings upon the earth. It sounds simple, but how does this happen?
The seeds in Jesus parable can represent each person’s life circumstances. However, a person can’t choose when, how or where God will plant the seed of their life. After a person is born, they begin to have control over their choices. Babies don’t face as many complex choices as adults do, and depending on each person’s situation the choices may be slight, modest or consequential.
Also, a person’s environment can exert tremendous influence on choice and destiny. People are impacted by many external and internal forces, a fact we mustn’t downplay. Jesus made the point that, even faced with factors beyond our control, we, like those seeds, may find ourselves in good or bad soil. But we must remind ourselves that a seed or person sowed in the wrong spot can’t be blamed for where it lands.
As to responsibility, the status of each seed category first depended upon the sower, who in Jesus’ parable represents God. As the divine Master Gardener, God can scatter seeds anywhere and we don’t have a say. Even if we wanted to, we can’t hold God accountable for randomly scattered seeds. Like it or not, humans must make the best of many challenges and hostile conditions.
Some people are fulfilled where they are planted in life while others are not able to take root and grow because of conditions beyond their control. Compassionately consider the struggles some folks must endure while other people are born into ease and privilege. From our perspective, this isn’t fair. Sadly, there is no easy way to sort out life’s inequities. Rather than live eternally frustrated, we must help ourselves and other people to make good choices. We may even need to create new soil to replace the dirt into which we were born and raised.
Seeds are not held responsible for where they are planted but people are held responsible for where their choices lead them. Yet there’s caution in all this metaphorical talk about seed sowing because people are not seeds. This means that we risk oversimplifying life when trying to stretch the analogy between people and seed planting. It also isn’t good to condemn or blame people who need encouragement more than criticism.
An implied take-away from Jesus’ story is that if you feel you are in a bad place then you have an obligation to attempt uprooting and transplanting yourself to good soil, which can also refer to better thoughts and attitudes. Presumably, improved circumstances along with superior choices will help you thrive. Even if you don’t have access to a better environment there is still the obligation to develop a positive outlook, which also impacts success and failure.
Wherever you find yourself, it is best to respond in a manner that will improve matters rather than making it worse. Take responsibility for what you can and experience vitality through growth in a well-managed life. Planting roots in God’s love involves an ongoing process of holistic renewal, where there is constant input from all aspects of human existence (i.e., emotions, thinking, body and spirit). These interrelated parts come together to form the entire or holistic person. It’s the same with nature in that the separate elements of sun, rain, soil and nutrients come together holistically to maximize seed growth.
While trying to make the best of harsh circumstances, God and other people may provide assistance that you can’t accomplish on your own. Despite not always having the best soil, you can make progress toward a better life. No matter where life takes you, your great choices form a foundation, a wonderful starting point from which to grow toward wellbeing.
Any way you plant it, the ideas emerging from today’s message can lead to a deeper understanding of a highly fruitful, productive life. We can act on the encouragement that God’s people can and should seek goodness, love and vitality across the soil of the universe. Are you planting anything? I sure hope so, especially if it’s a bountiful life.
–Reverend Larry Hoxey