Parable of the Soils

This is my radio devotion for Friday, August 28, 2020, aired on KBBN/KCNI, who graciously airs devotions from the pastors of the Custer County Ministerial Association.

Could you use a little good news today?

Good morning, I’m Pastor Matt Fowler of Broken Bow United Methodist Church. This week, I’ve been exploring the opening chapters of the Gospel of Mark to hear and share some good news, because my spirit needs it. Maybe yours does too. Incidentally, I’ve also be preaching on Mark for the past few weeks if you want check out BBUMC.org.

Let’s get this out of the way first: I am not a farmer, nor do I come from farming people. So, I’m as far from an expert as you could get on the topic, which is why I’ll let Jesus talk farming for minute. In Mark 4, Jesus tells this parable – a story meant to be obvious, and yet deep, for its hearers:

“Listen to this! A farmer went out to scatter seed. As he was scattering seed, some fell on the path; and the birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on rocky ground where the soil was shallow. They sprouted immediately because the soil wasn’t deep. When the sun came up, it scorched the plants; and they dried up because they had no roots. Other seed fell among thorny plants. The thorny plants grew and choked the seeds, and they produced nothing. Other seed fell into good soil and bore fruit. Upon growing and increasing, the seed produced in one case a yield of thirty to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of one hundred to one.” (Mark 4: 3-8)

Two things stand out about this parable to me today.

First, God’s hopefulness, as the farmer in the parable, is striking. If God sowing the Living Word, Jesus, in our lives, God, the farmer, is prodigal – that is, excessive to the point of wasteful. After all, if a farmer knows the soil is poor, weedy, or rocky, he/she doesn’t plant until the soil is prepared. Yet, God plants widely, giving every single plot of ground the opportunity to grow something good. This is how much God believes in us. God doesn’t care how many weedy things we’ve done in our lives, how many ways we’ve been dense and rocky, or how many times we’ve been planted in before. God keeps planting. It’s an act of grace – of God’s firm belief and mission that all will come to know God in Jesus.

Second, this parable inspires me: there’s hope for us. Maybe, in actual farming, some soil is just poor soil. But in this parable, it seems like we might, by the things we do and the work of the Holy Spirit, grow into better soil. After all, why tell us about different types of soil if there’s no hope that we could ever be anything other than what we are? So the question is, through what practices, by what methods, might we grow into better fruit-bearing soil?

Here are two possible practices. In order to keep birds away, pluck out thorny plants, and remove rocks, we need a crew, a team, of people. So, could we create a group of people that are committed to helping each other pick out and shield us from the bad stuff of our lives? I have a group I meet with weekly for just this purpose. And second, the plants need nourishment – water and nutrients. So, could we tap into God’s living water and nourishment through regular prayer and worship? In the life of faith, these two – sharing faith and life in a group, and prayer and worship – can be means through which God grows us as fruit-bearing soil.   

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