Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Parable of the Soils

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach.
And he told them many things in parables, saying: "A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, 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 produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear."

          - Matthew 13:1-9
In this short parable, there are four lessons that we can learn from studying the story of the farmer planting seed, known as the Parable of the Soils or the Parable of the Sower. With the first seeds, they are lost to the wayside, or the path. When anyone hears news of the kingdom and doesn’t take it in, it just remains on the surface, and so just as the birds ate the seeds, so does the devil influence our understanding. He comes along and plucks it right out of that person’s heart. This is the seed the farmer scatters on the road. If you walk through a field, you know where the path is, nothing grows. It is the same as when you walk through a pasture and there is a well worn path where the cows have walked. In those paths, the dirt is packed and the seeds cannot get into the soil and therefore are subject to being eaten and/or are unable to take root. The soil must be prepared and tilled in order to be loosened and be fertile. The same is true of our hearts; we must soften our hearts and minds in order to allow the Truth into our lives.
The seed that was cast in the rocky ground did not have enough soil for the seeds to take root. It grew quickly but was killed by the scorching sun because it did not have the security that the tilled soil gives a seed. In this instance, Jesus is speaking of the person who hears and instantly responds with enthusiasm. But there is no soil of character, and so when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it. Without deep roots and a good foundation, we cannot survive the scorching sun, which symbolizes the trials of life. With deep roots, we can persevere with God through a devastating trial, and we can prosper from the lessons of that trial. However, shallow roots will continue to be devastated because there is nothing that grounds us, causing our faith to wither and die. Hebrew 6:1, says “Let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity.” If we only have the basics and have not become spiritually mature, then we will be like the seeds on the rocky soil and will not be able to weather the rough times ahead.
The seed cast in the weeds is the person who hears the kingdom news, but weeds of worry and illusions about getting more and wanting everything under the sun strangle what was heard, and nothing comes of it. In the thorns and weeds, we get bogged down in the cares of the world and it chokes us. In the Beatitudes, Jesus tells us, “"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6) God's will within our heart is not mere observance of the law (Matthew 5:20), but rather an expression of brotherly love (I John 3:10). A continuous desire for justice and perfection will lead us to a fulfillment of that desire, but if we are strangled by the cares of the world then we will be pulled further away from righteousness and from God.
The seed cast on good earth is the person who hears and takes in the Word of God, and then produces a harvest beyond his wildest dreams. Galatians 6:6-10 says:
Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
The Parable of the Soils can be applied to LGBT Christians. I think LGBT Christians can be put into four categories: the hardened hearts, those of little faith, the worldly, and the faithful. Those with the hardened hearts have had their hearts trampled on by others who call themselves Christians and more importantly are the seeds left in that trampled path and have been plucked out of Christianity by those hateful and intolerant people who call themselves Christians but instead are like the birds (or Satan) who have hardened their hearts to LGBT Christians and turned them away from Christianity and destroying their faith.
Those of little faith may have been drawn to Christianity but never had a strong foundation and thus with all the hatemongering that the religious right heaps on the LGBT community, there seems to be no room for spiritual growth. The scorched earth policy of the religious right toward LGBT issues and rights turns many in the LGBT community away from Christianity, especially those who never had a strong foundation in faith. The soil was rocky and therefore it cannot take root and can easily become discouraged.
Others in the LGBT community are too bogged down in other worries to nurture their faith. Often this is not their fault. Issues with family or depression or health or life issues causes people to question the idea of faith. We get bogged down in worldly issues that have no bearing on our eternal lives. When we let these worldly problems strangle us, it is because we do not have full faith in God. These last few weeks since I lost my job have been very difficult, but it is only one of many struggles in my life. My own struggle with the acceptance of my sexuality was a weed choking my life. My family's rejection of my sexuality has been an issue that has tried to draw me away from my faith. Even my depression and issues with headaches have tried to strangle me. At one time, I let these problems bring me down, and I largely turned away from my faith, but several years ago, through much prayer and meditation, I decided to put my faith in God and let him lead me on the path he has chosen for me.
It was at that point when I put my full faith in God, and I have never been happier. Yes, there have been ups and downs, but I have found that as long as I remain faithful to God, He will help me through any situation. That does not mean that I can sit back and wait for life to happen, but I must be proactive. Just as the soil needs to be prepared and the seed nurtured, so does our soul. We must prepare our hearts to receive God, and we must nurture God’s plan, but we also cannot do it alone. We need to ask for His help, and we will reap what we sow.


silvereagle said...

Great post.....especially the last paragraph

Susan said...

As always, Joe, a lovely, well-thought out Sunday post.

Amanda said...

Love the Sunday post. Thanks Joe!

SteveXS said...

The church would benefit greatly from someone with your sensitivity and insights as a pastor.