Till Before You Sow
Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” Again he began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”
Jesus has now become popular — lots of Twitter followers and Facebook “likes.” He gets in a boat so he can be heard by the crowds. Today he’s teaching about seeds, and what it takes for them to take root and grow. This sower is taking a lot of chances here, sewing seed without tilling the soil, and doing the necessary work to prepare the dirt to receive the seed. Instead, he casts the seed around willy-nilly. He’s making some bad, self-defeating choices. Seeds need to be gently raked into the soil, out of the sight of birds who might eat them.
New England farmers know that one never plants before picking rocks out of the field. Thorns, thistles, and milkweed need to be dug up (because they’ll come back if there’s even a small piece left in the ground). Jesus told the parable, of course, intending to teach about spreading Words (The Word), not seeds. We can’t just shout the Good News from the street corner and expect it to “grow” in passers by. We won’t get far with someone whose life is riddled with thorny bushes and hard, “stoney” places, who will first need some loving pastoral care to be capable of accepting and nourishing The Word. Not doing this preparatory tilling and cultivating will ensure failure of the mission of telling this person about the Good News of Jesus Christ which can be his.
As the saying goes: No one is closer to God than when she is in her garden.
Bishop Gene Robinson
Holy Gardener, till our hearts, remove the stones that plague us, rid us of weeds, so that we might better sow holy seeds in others. Help us respect others by assisting in the slow, hard work of preparation to receive The Word. And when the garden blooms, let us give the glory to the Master Gardener. Amen.