Many of you have followed the progress of my garden as it has been both built and planted. I am amazed by it. A plan was made, the raised beds were built, dirt was brought in, plants were purchased, seeds were planted…and it grew. It’s always amazing to me. This garden is a beautiful place to sit and relax in the afternoon and perfect for watching the stars.
When you think of a garden, it has intention. It is planted to grow and bear fruit.I have had gardens that didn’t grow very well.I have had gardens that grew but gave no fruit (it’s always the tomatoes that do this to me). But, the intention is always growth and fruit.
In the gospel reading from Matthew, Jesus shares the parable of the sower;
Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boatand sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.
It is clear that the point of the parable is to communicate God’s intention for us: that we should grow and bear fruit in our life. Just like me planting my garden in the hopes of it producing, God’s goal is for us to experience good, healthy growth in our lives that bear fruit in the lives of others.
But sometimes we are stuck.
Like the seed on the path.
The seed on the rocky soil.
And the seed in the thorns.
Life throws us for a loop (can anybody say pandemic?). And for many, these troubling times are not times of growth or times of bearing fruit.
We get impatient.
We have “off days.”
And this is like being in the poor soils shared in the parable.
We don’t invest as much as we can in our spiritual life and we don’t grow.
We fall on hard times and it discourages us away from our faith.
We allow the things around us to command our attention and we get distracted from our call to faith.
This not God’s intention for us.
Like the example from the Old Testament reading in Genesis:
These are the descendants of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah, daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-aram, sister of Laban the Aramean. Isaac prayed to the Lord for his wife, because she was barren; and the Lord granted his prayer, and his wife Rebekah conceived. The children struggled together within her; and she said, “If it is to be this way, why do I live?” So she went to inquire of the Lord. And the Lord said to her, “Two nations are in your womb,and two peoples born of you shall be divided;the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.”
I guarantee you that Rebekah would not have wanted things to happen the way they did.
But she and her husband played favorites with the twins (which is seen later), and it doesn’t end well.
Again, not their intention, but still not growth oriented.
No fruit there (or I should say no good fruit there).
It is like the Romans 7 reading from Paul in the previous week.
Paul basically says, “I know what things in my life cause growth and what things in my life don’t cause growth. When I want to choose the things that will help me to grow, I do not choose those things. When I do not want to choose the things that do not cause growth, those are the very things I end up choosing, every time.”
Ever find yourself in that predicament?
The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
After these words, Paul says,
“Wretched man that I am, who will save? Thanks be to God through Jesus.”
This is good news.
When we find ourselves in bad soil that keeps us from growing and bearing fruit, we can make adjustments because of God’s grace and his mercy. He will see to it that we are transplanted from the bad soil to the good soil.
That’s what the Romans passage says from this week:
There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
Basically, we are free from being stuck in our own bad soil. God will rescue us from bad soil and place us in good soil. But we have to agree with Him that we need different soil.
We need to choose to hear God and respond. We need to trust that He has a bigger and better perspective than we do. That’s the rub for us.
I think I shared this the week before last, but it is warranted here as an illustration of this point.
Trusting someone or something else is difficult, especially when the consequences of trusting have the potential to be damaging. We have many adjustments over the last several months to be able to keep meeting (whether virtually or in person).
If you remember, at first we recorded the sermons.
Then it was an “okay” video with some audio.
Then we adjusted and made things a little better.
Then we got to meet in person, but there were “rules” to do so: Masks, spacing, no hugs or handshakes and no wine during communion.
Then we had to drop the singing.
This can be very frustrating. It has been.
All along the way there have been choices to be made. The great thing for us (and mostly for me) is that we have a bishop who is responsible for these calls and has a perspective that takes into account all of the variables.
For me, it is good to be under authority.
I did not want to make the call on the whole singing/no singing thing. She did.My vows say I obey.
It is the same with God.
He is our authority.
He has determined what is best for our growth and created us to thrive within that space.
It should make us feel relieved.
And it doesn’t mean that the path through this is not frustrating.
But we must place ourselves in soil that we can grow in.