Seeds and Soil

The Parable of the Sower, Mark 4:1-9 (NRSV)

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!”

Daffodil shoots started coming up hours after a few inches of the garden bed emerged from snow and ice. Through a four inch snowfall and freezing cold, they continue to grow and green. There are seven or eight green clumps in that small edge of the bed, even though I only planted four or five bulbs in its whole length a couple years back. Who knows how many others will grow when the rest of bed surfaces? Last year, they filled the bed – beauty in yellow visiting this small piece of soil, yielding so much more than was sown.

It was a different story three years ago, with just a few dozen green leaves and a stray flower or two pushing through a bed lost to grass and weeds before I called this place home. I took a spade to them one August, hoping to find a few bulbs to fill in a bare spot in the garden. I found hundreds; the bulbs were good but the soil wasn’t. All that potential slept within those bulbs until they found good soil.

I couldn’t throw out those hundreds of bulbs, so I planted them in every available spot in my yard – under the lilacs, off the walkway, on the banking – and at the town library. Another hundred or so I gave away. Every Spring, those bulbs that couldn’t grow in poor soil bloom all over my yard; they grow and multiply to grace the library beds; they edge the yards of friends and strangers alike. There must be thousands of them by now. For some digging, soil preparation, and generosity, I’ve had the honor to see the abundance of God.

I think the same is true of me and everyone else. We have been given seeds, talents and gifts that will grow in beauty, honoring God and blessing the world. But they can’t grow just anywhere, and we have to be willing to do some digging and rearranging. What we’ve been given is more than good seed, it’s unearned and beautiful abundance. As Jesus tells us, “let anyone who has ears to hear listen!”

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I am a Christian educator and writer.I have worked in churches, denominational offices, and seminaries. I have a PhD in Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, with a focus on Practical Theology and educating in faith. In 2010, my book, "How the Other Half Lives: the challenges facing clergy spouses and partners," was published by Pilgrim Press. I believe that words can build doorways that lead to encounters with God through the Spirit.

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