Aloha Friday Message – July 11, 2014 – Tilling the Soil

1428AFC071114 – Tilling the Soil

Read it online here, please.

Isaiah 55:10-11As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Good morning, Beloved. Isn’t it strange that it’s nearly the middle of July? Maybe it is true that as we get older, time seems to rush by so fast – remember the joke about the roll of bathroom tissue? Anyway, these days it seems that I really can see the grass growing. Years ago, we used to say, “That’s as fascinating as watching the grass grow (or the paint dry),” implying it was slow and boring. Now, I swear, the grass does grow much faster than we can keep up with, and when we paint, it dries so fast that our brushes stick to the wall! Of course, in the back of my mind I hear that Little Guy in the Back of My Head saying, “Is the world speeding up, or are you just getting slower!?” Hmmm. I think we all know the right answer to that. But what got me thinking about that?

This weekend we’re coming up on a really fascinating parable – the parable of the sower (also called the parable of the four soils). It’s coupled with this passage from Isaiah at the top of the page. I want to show you one idea from this parable – which is found in all three Synoptic Gospels. It’s about the seed that fell on good ground.

 

Matthew 13:23 Mark 4:25 Luke 8:15
 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred. But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.

 

All from the Authorized King James Version.

parble_soils

When we read this, often times we identify with the sower, the farmer who is scattering the seed. He wants the seed to grow, but doesn’t seem to have 100% control over where the seed falls. Some lands in the rocks, some on the path, some in the weeds, and some – hopefully most of it – falls where it grows with great fecundity producing 30 or 60 or even 100 times more seeds in the crop that is harvested. Other times, we might identify with the soil. We are quick to hear the word but slow to take it in and it is whisked away before it can germinate. If it sticks with us for a while, we are shallow and resistive to the rooting of the word, so it sprouts up, but dies quickly. We are so distracted by the temporal and material wants in our lives that when the Word does take root in our hearts, it can’t compete with all the other trash planted there. And once in a while we are so open to the Word, so committed to nurturing its effects in us that we receive the seeds of the Word and its lush harvest is shared.

Most of us reading this, I believe, are part of the field of grain that is sown in the good soil. The Word has taken root in our hearts and we produce a good return on the seeds sown in us. Have you ever wondered though about how the good soil got to be good – or even better? It’s that thought that came to me earlier this week as I thought about that passage in Isaiah. What can we do that might make the yield larger? Let’s look at another parable for a clue.

In Mathew 25:31-46, Jesus is describing the scene at the Day of Judgment. We often think of Judgment Day as a day when punishment is meted out to sinners; but, it is also the day when reward is conferred on the righteous. In this passage, Jesus is telling his disciples – and us – that the Corporal works of Mercy (such as feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, welcoming strangers, clothing the naked, visiting the sick or those imprisoned) are the criteria on which we are to be judged. The passage ends with And the King will tell them, ‘I assure you, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!'” Loving our neighbor as ourselves enriches our lives.

We find another clue in the parable of the fig tree in Luke 13:6-8“A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and found none. So he said to the gardener, ‘See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?’ He replied, ‘Sir, let it alone for one more year, until I dig around it and put manure on it.'” The parable isn’t difficult to understand. The tree is Israel – and ultimately us as well. God is the owner of the vineyard, and the gardener is Jesus. The gardener gives attention to the soil to make the tree more fruitful. Ah. The soil is what nourishes the tree – and the grain – so it produces fruit, as is God’s will in creation, its God-given mission.

Jesus’ only mission was to do the will of God. We might ask if that is also our only mission. Jesus said he did nothing on his own but only what his Father told him. Sounds like a pretty good plan to me! We are to go out into all the world and spread the Gospel. We are to be merciful – physically and spiritually – to our neighbors even unto the least among us. We are to bear fruit that will last. John 15:16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. It was God’s will that Jesus should do as God required – see John 4:34and that is what we are to do. If we want to produce fruit that will last, what can we do to ensure a bumper crop? We return to Matthew chapter 6 for three more clues.

Giving: Matthew 6:1 Be careful that you don’t do your charitable giving before men, to be seen by them, or else you have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

Praying: Matthew 6:5-6 And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Fasting: MATTHEW 6:16When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.

These acts also enrich our lives. In fact, Jesus’ will is that we be filled-to-overflowing with life. John 10:10b I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. As with the gardener in the parable of the fig tree, we must make a little effort to make the soil better. Would the wheat grow for the farmer if he didn’t plow, weed, and irrigate the fields? Can we expect a yield of good proportions if we do not work at giving the Word a better place to take root in us? The life Jesus talks about is life here before the harvest, and life with him after the harvest. That is abundant life! Its abundance comes from living the Gospel as Jesus showed us. He was able to do that because he trusted that God’s will was better than his own.

The Psalmist contemplated that kind of trust in Psalm 70 (71):5 For thou art my hope, O Lord GOD: thou art my trust from my youth. The sower, the gardener, the man who built his house on the rock, the faithful servant – all these parables tell us that trusting in God and doing the right thing by caring for and sharing with others – these are the things that make rich lives in the Kingdom of God. Remember in the parable of the four soils that a noticeable part of the seed sown turned out to be food for the birds. So it was with Jesus’ Word. But that didn’t stop him; it shouldn’t stop us.

We’ve looked at preparing the soil, but just for a moment let’s look at the sower. Did he give up because some of the seed was lost? Did he give up because the sun was scorching hot? Did he give up because there were rocks, or weeds, or birds? Did he scatter only ONE handful of seed to see how it would do? Or did he sow great quantities of seed tirelessly and then care for it until the time of harvest? What will we do, Beloved, when it’s time to account for the fields and orchards we have been given to tend?

Whatever, whenever, wherever, whoever, however, if ever, forever — at your service, Beloved

Share-a-Prayer

Please take a moment to pray for our friends and family dealing with cancer, this week especially women with breast or ovarian cancer newly diagnosed, in treatment, or in remission. Ask Jesus to touch and heal their ailment and to increase the abundance of their lives.
Creative Commons License
Aloha Friday Messages by Charles O. Todd, III is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

About Chick Todd

American Roman Catholic reared as a "Baptiterian" in Denver Colorado.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Type answer *

Pages Email Newsletter Categories Archives Connect