God’s word, God’s promises to us, will not be un-fulfilled
One of Winston Churchill’s hobbies, when he wasn’t busy leading the world’s fight against Nazis, was building brick walls all across his country estate. Apparently though, he wasn’t an especially good brick-wall builder and the walls weave around in something less than masonry perfection. But I’ve always liked this image, because there really is something about building with stone that I too find immensely satisfying and I have left behind my own monuments to masonry imperfection in the yards of my multiple former homes. Your next rector will undoubtedly puzzle over my handiwork at the Rectory some day in the distant future.
And as much as I like stacking up rocks and bricks around the yard and landscaping generally, I’m not much of a gardener. Gardening requires a kind of patience and love of dirt that I just don’t quite have. I like planting things, trees especially, but I’m not keen on tending and trimming and watering and weeding and whatever else one needs to do to garden successfully.
But I do know enough to suggest that the sower from Jesus’ parable seems a bit, well… reckless with the seeds. Why on earth would one through seeds for your wheat field on rocks or amid thorns? This sower is clearly not very efficient, which is probably why their yields vary so much; I mean even in the “good” soil there’s a 70% variation. Surely a more consistent seeding strategy would yield greater returns, no?
But of course, Jesus isn’t giving us gardening advice; He is telling us something about the kingdom of God; about what our lives would look like if we truly lived into our created selves. It’s as much about the generosity of God as it is about the perverseness of evil. And I think these are important words for us to hear. To be assured of God’s love and to be reminded that evil still lurks in the world.
Isaiah, the prophet, wrote;
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
God’s word, God’s promises to us, will not be un-fulfilled. It shall not return empty, but it shall accomplish its purpose – with success. This is God’s great good news; it is the purpose of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. It is the very life that we have been invited into through faith.
And this promise looks like mountains covered in song, like orchards bursting with fruit, like fields glorious in color and bounty, like a land of towering trees surrounded by soft glades. It looks like Eden, the fabled garden at the beginning of creation where life unfolded in perfect harmony and balance.
But the promised land we are working towards is not a return to a lost past, but rather a new future where the goodness of creation is restored, where heaven and earth are as one, where we receive our daily bread, where our mistakes are forgiven, and where we live in grace and safety enough to be forgiving ourselves.
And in the Jesus’ story, we also can take comfort, that the sower, who we can know is God, is not satisfied with seeking only the few. No, God’s desire is that everyone, no matter what, might have the opportunity to know and respond to God. And since the sowing needs to be done repeatedly, year after year, we can hold onto our hope that no matter what condition our lives or the lives of those we love, may be in…no matter the condition of their soil today, there is a new dawn coming and God will be there again, sowing the seeds, beckoning to them, extending an arm in love to invite us into the promised abundant life.
Thanks be to God.