Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ, amen.
What new crop did the farmer plant? (Beets me!)
Why shouldn't you tell a secret on a farm? (Because the potatoes have eyes and the corn has ears!)
There is a joke in my family, who are farmers, that a farmer is a man who is outstanding in his field. Or out, standing in his field.
And let me tell you, farmers earn a meager celery, come home beet and just want to read the pepper, turn-ip the covers, en-dive into bed! (I got all these jokes from a website)
Let anyone with ears…. Listen!
While it is true that a week of running around with 35 kids of all ages probably effects one’s mental state, these jokes DO have a point. Much like the stories that Jesus told his followers, like the one that we heard today, which often gets the name “the Parable of the Sower.”
These stories get a fancy name – parables – which comes from a Greek word that originally means “to throw alongside.” Sort of like when you have two rows of three to five-year-old lined up facing each other, and get them to gently toss water balloons to one another until they fall and pop. It has varying degrees of success.
For those of you who are gardeners or have experience farming, think about the parable that Jesus just told for a minute. Is this how you plant your gardens? Is this how your rows of crops in the fields get planted? Even during the time of Jesus, this was NOT how people planted their crops. Jesus’ people didn’t have big farm machinery, but they still took great care with their seeds, vineyards, and livestock. After all, this was their livelihood, and could mean the difference between being full or starvation.
So, what is Jesus getting at when he tells this story? What two (or more) things is he casting side-by-side for us to link together?
When I was a youth, I remember hearing this story at a youth event and the leaders asking us what kind of soil we thought we were. However, at this point in my life, I am less interested in that question. Thinking this way reminds me of those funny online personality quizzes I take every now and again. Can’t you just picture this going around Facebook? “Which kind of soil are you? Take this quiz NOW!”
My theory now is that if we are asking ourselves what kind of soil we are, we probably aren’t rocky soil, soil on the path, or soil with weeds. Or maybe we are all of these things at the same time, or we even have been all of these kinds at different stages of our lives. This is not an all-or-nothing label, which sticks to us forever and ever, amen – “Too bad, you are rocky soil… good for you, you are good soil.” Like a personality quiz with an obvious right answer.
I also think Jesus left something out when he – or Matthew writing after – tried to make sense of this story. What I wish would have been added is an explanation for good soil.
My Dad could tell you about good soil – while out standing in his field, ha ha ha – and every day he does go out to his fields, to make them good soil… by spreading cow manure. That’s right. A key component of good soil is a waste product that are left over from what the cows could not digest, and smells bad, and is gross to talk about, is exactly what makes soil rich and robust for new life to grow out of it.
The rest of the world sees something that should be thrown away, cast out, criticized, forgotten, disregarded, and shamed.
But God sees… good soil.
Good thing for us… that God is actually a terrible farmer. God sees the good soil, and casts seeds like crazy, looking and hoping for growth. But then God sees the rocky soil… and does the same thing… and the same with the soil on the path! And the soil with the weeds! God’s idea of farming is not unlike being a guest on an Oprah show… YOU get seeds… and YOU get seeds… EVERY SOIL GETS SEEDS!!!
This seems incredibly wasteful! Especially when God only seems to expect a 25 percent success rate. Image, for those out there who are teachers, that your students need just a 25 percent to pass.
It’s outrageous, it’s irresponsible, but it is also who God IS. God is a farmer who takes chances. God is a wasteful fool who takes an infinite amount of chances on us, as much as it takes for as long as it takes.
This week our heroes learned a verse from the Psalms – “Do good, seek peace, and go after it.” That became our hero code to inspire us to be God’s heroes… because that is what God does for us. Even when we don’t always act like heroes. Even if we don’t always feel like we deserve it.
Last week I mentioned how many super hero movies are coming out now. I of course had to go see the new Wonder Woman movie, for research purposes. Diana is Wonder Woman, and she is raised by women who are strong and fierce, chosen to protect humanity. Young Diana wants to train for this too, but her mother, the queen of the Amazons, won’t allow it. One night, the queen tells a disappointed Diana, “be careful of mankind, Diana, they do not deserve you.”
Later, of course, when Diana grows up she defies her mother and goes off on a quest to save human kind, seeking to defeated the god of war himself to end World War One. She collects along the way her posse – a rag tag bung of heroes who are brave and loyal. At once point the group is trapped in a trench, and hear the cries of innocent civilians – women and children – who are trapped on the other side.
Diana tells her new friends, “We need to help these people.” But she is told, “We can’t save everyone…this is not what we came here to do”
Diana sheds her coat and brings out her shield, ready to go into the fray. “No.” she replies… “but it is what I’m going to do. I’m willing to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.” Then she stepped into the no-man’s-land, and with her shield she took all the fire while her friends charged the trench on the far side, and liberated the captives.
In that movie, Diana had to learn the hard way that humanity would too often rather scatter bullets of hate rather than seeds of love. We are capable of truly terrible things. We would rather bury the son of God in a tomb rather than face this God who relentlessly loves us, and also loves those we don’t think deserve it.
But still, God the bad farmer keeps throwing seeds at us, hoping that at some point, someday, something will take root. Because when it does…. AMAZING things happen, and the yields are AWESOME.
We certainly threw out a lot of seeds this week at Vacation Bible School. Most of these kids were members of this community. And we have no idea if they will EVER darken the doorway of this church on a Sunday morning. But we were faithful heroes of God, scattering the seeds just as Jesus did, not knowing what kind of soil they were landing on…. But trusting that God does give the growth.
It may take months…years… or even decades to sprout sometimes. We may never see the yield that comes with our planting. But the words about the love of God that we spoke last week will not return to God empty.
God’s word returns full, and the tomb is empty. The seed that was buried sprouts and yields a hundredfold. Manure becomes good soil. Mountain and trees burst into song and clap their hands. Death becomes life. All soil gets a chance. Let anyone with ears… listen! Amen.