- Genesis 25:19-34
- Psalm 119:105-112
- Romans 8:1-11
- Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
The Third Discourse of Matthew 13 consists of a number of parables on why some hear and accept the Gospel, while others reject it. This was an issue during the ministry of Jesus and continues to perplex the Church even now.
Today’s reading includes the Parable of the Sower and its interpretation. Jesus describes four kinds of soil that illustrate the different responses to the good news of God’s Kingdom fulfilled through him. Although it is referred to as the Parable of the Sower (also in Mark 4:1-9 and Luke 8:4-8), the story is actually about the soil in which the seeds are planted. The seeds themselves are good and represent the teachings of Jesus. It is the soil in which they are sown that determines what kind of harvest they bring forth.
Tilth, a word gaining usage in the organic farming community, means the physical condition of the soil as it relates to the ease of tillage, seedbed quality, ease of seedling emergence, and deep root penetration. Jesus talks about what every good farmer knows – fields with good tilth produce a good harvest. Even though, as Paul makes clear, we are dependent on God for our life in the Spirit, we do have a role to play in developing and nurturing our spiritual tilth.
There is however, an element of grace in Jesus’ parable, just as in farming. His sower throws seeds recklessly and seemingly wastefully, given how many don’t produce anything. But in the end, the farmer is still given a shockingly abundant harvest.
For reflection and action:
- Read about the many things farmers and gardeners do to improve the condition of their soil, and think about how this relates to the disciplines of the Christian life.
- Unlike farmers who can get soil analysis done at the county extension office, we can’t easily discern which places have good tilth. Many urban gardens are examples of something good flourishing in surprising places.
- Episcopal Relief and Development offer a free, downloadable curriculum for children, The Abundant Life Garden Project. Perfect for a VBS program or summer Sunday school, one of the lesson plans directly relates to this parable and the necessity for good soil for abundant crops.
- What are some of the factors in your own life that interfere with your spiritual growth?
- What constitutes good soil for growth? How can we help prepare rich, fertile soil for God’s Word? What implications for evangelism and the mission of the Church do we find here?
- What are the fruits of life in the Spirit?
- The Sower and the Seeds (brakeman1.wordpress.com)