Soil quality in the kingdom of God

Homily 433 – 19th Sunday after Pentecost
Holy Transfiguration Orthodox Church, Ames, Iowa
October 18, 2020
Epistle: (194) 2 Corinthians 11:31-12:9 and (260-ctr) Colossians 4:5-9, 14, 18
Gospel: (35) Luke 8:5-15 and (51) Luke 10:16-21

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God.

We spend a lot of time in Church talking about discipleship, and following Christ, and what Christ asks of us.

Many times we discuss how God expects us to behave, or how He expects us to live – us, meaning all of us. Sometimes followers of Christ, sometimes all of humanity.

In some cases, these lead to what we have come to know as culture wars. Culture – meaning Christian culture – against secular or humanistic culture.

Those wars are exacerbated every couple of years as we vote in our political process. Part of it may be natural – after all, elections are a time where we consider and express our views regarding the direction our country takes.

What we may hear in today’s reading from Luke is that our Lord may have a different view of things.

He uses the imagery of soil and seed in the parable of the sower. Many of us have heard the parable, and the explanation of the parable, for a huge chunk of our lives.

Maybe it is time to look again.

The common tendency, or perhaps just my tendency, I can’t be sure – is to break this down by soil type, and objectify the soil. That has an outward focus – it is more a critique of “your” soil – “his” soil – “her” soil.

Rarely do we consider that Christ asks us to examine not the soil of others – but our own soil.

The preparation of our own soil will determine how the seed of the Word – who is Jesus Christ – grows and bears fruit in our lives.

Most importantly for us to remember – we are only responsible for our soil. We cannot prepare the soil of another. It simply doesn’t work that way.

Neither can anyone else prepare our soil.

What kind of soil do we want for ourselves? More than anything else, that will determine the Christian life we will lead. Do we want a hardened, rocky surface? Are we full of thorns, focusing our energy on the worry, wealth, and pleasures of life?

That energy is diverted – and cannot be offered to the seed planted in us. And that seed then dies.

Most of us want, at least on the surface, rich soil. Freshly tilled, rich with nutrients – energy – that can be completely devoted to the seed planted there. Not divided.

Because while we may not be evaluated on our soil condition, we will be evaluated by the fruit we bear. We don’t get a choice in what that fruit will be – Jesus is the sower.

We may bear fruit like figs, or wheat, or barley, or tomatoes. Bearing no fruit – that will be disastrous. Recall what Jesus did to the fig tree that bore no fruit. It withered away overnight.

So we shouldn’t be distraught when we see our friends and neighbors bearing a different fruit than we bear. That is all within God’s garden. While I like tomatoes and carrots a lot, the garden needs squash, and spinach, and cauliflower as well.

We will be evaluated on our fruit – but the only influence we have is the quality of our soil. We have to trust the sower for everything else. God provides the seed and the growth. That is His promise to us.

All we have to do is prepare our own soil. And for what it is worth, God doesn’t seem to be a no-till kind of farmer. Tilling of our soil seems to be necessary – and tilling is violent and painful and traumatic.

But tilling is necessary.

How do we till our soil? To use another phrase, how do we soften our hearts? We know that rocky soil, or hardened hearts, are no good. So what are we to do?

We have to first give up the idea that our solid rock is a good foundation. For a house, yes – but not for soil. In other words, we have to give up on the idea that we know what we are doing.

That we are following Christ the correct way.

Maybe we are – maybe we aren’t. But we have to break up our preconceived notions and ideas that prevent us from hearing the word with an honest and good heart. Ready to say to ourselves, “I was wrong.”

Ready to break up the hardened ideas we have. Ready to hear again for the first time.

What we may find is that the ideas we held, and broke up, were correct. If that happens, we have to be aware that breaking up the idea caused no harm. It is still good, and we can receive the nutrients again, and use it to nurture the seeds within us.

Or, we may find them to be overshadowed by a larger good or a better understanding. Because we’ve taken the time and opportunity to break up these ideas, we are ready to receive what is good, to replace what we broke up.

There is a lot of analogy there. Bottom line – give up our ideas about what is right and wrong, what is harmful and beneficial – and prepare to hear what Christ tells us, through worship, through prayer, through Scripture.

Then, regardless of what is planted in us, our fruit will be abundant.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, One God. Glory to Jesus Christ!