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Be Ye Doers of the Word and Not Hearers Only

Pentecost 8 – Year A

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

It is all about the dirt. Our parable for today is all about dirt. It is known as the Parable of the Sower, but that title is misleading. This story isn’ t primarily about the planter who sows the seed and it isn’ t about the seed that gets sown. Our parable for today is really about the soil into which the seed is planted. It’ s a story about dirt. And the question for all of us today is really a simple one What kind of dirt am I? If God is the planter and the Good News of God’ s love is the seed then we are the dirt into which that seed is planted. And the question all of us have to wrestle with is Right now in my life what kind of dirt am I?

At least three times in the past couple of weeks I have found myself in conversations with people talking about their dreams. Either they were sharing a dream they had had the night before or they were talking about some recurring dream but in each of these conversations someone brought up what the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung used to say about dreams. Jung believed that all the characters in our dreams are not representations of other people but they are actually different versions of ourselves. We are the characters of our dreams and each character can only teach us about ourselves. In other words, they really have nothing to teach us about other people. In the same way I want to suggest this morning that we are or have been all the different types of soil mentioned in our parable for this morning. Each type corresponds to the state of our souls at one point or another along our spiritual journeys. Because God’ s seed is not just sown once and received once. God spreads the grace of his love over us all the time and each time we receive it differently. The question is Right now at this moment in my life what kind of ground does God find in my soul? Because if you can honestly answer that question then you can know the state of your own spiritual health and when you know that then you can begin to do something about it.

Let’ s talk about dirt. In the first instance the seed falls along the path and the birds come and eat it up. These are those whose souls are at this moment in their lives quite hard and inaccessible. For whatever reason these are people who are closed down, shut up tight. Perhaps they have been hurt badly, perhaps they have been taken advantage of, perhaps they have given their trust and faith to someone and that someone betrayed their trust. I once met a man in the hospital who felt betrayed by his own body. He was in his fifties and newly retired. Seemingly out of the blue one day he had a stroke, his blood pressure had unknowingly been far too high for quite sometime and the vessels in his brain could not handle the strain. When I met him he was paralyzed on more than 70% of his body and he had been in the hospital for two months. He was closed down tight, wrapped up inside himself, consumed by his own anger and frustration and understandably so. He was mad with his body, he was mad with God, he was mad at the world. This was not what he had planned for his life. As someone who was supposed to minister to him there was nothing I could say, there was nothing anyone could say and more to the point there was nothing he was willing to hear. So I just sat with him for a little while everyday and prayed for him knowing that right then he could not pray for himself. What is your ground like? Are you the hard packed path? Has something happened in your life in recent days or weeks or months to close you down to God’ s presence? Has something happened, or a series of things that have left you mad at God? If so, then ask yourself What would it take to open you up, to plow your ground, to soften you once again to the God who only wants to see you grow and flourish?

In the second instance the ground was rocky and there was not much soil. Unlike seed on the path these seeds could take root but they could not root deeply. So although they grew they did not have the rootedness to withstand the elements and the sun quickly scorched them. These are those souls who want God’ s presence in their lives but they are not willing to let God go deep. They want God but only on their terms. They are perfectly willing to let God into their lives as long as things are going their way. But as soon as life gets rough, as soon as the going gets tough then their faith falls away. A friend of mine had a powerful religious experience one summer on a retreat. The environment was just right for him to be touched by God. When he came home he was a new man. He could hardly talk about anything else. He started going to church every Sunday, he adopted a daily prayer life and began to tithe. But it didn’ t last. While his experience on the retreat had been genuine, he was under the false impression that now his life should somehow all come together. When life didn’ t get easier, when he was still confronted by the same problems, the same challenges, his shallow faith could not withstand the heat. The tithing was the first to go (of course) and then the prayer life and after a few months his attendance at church. My friend wanted God to fix things and when God didn’ t, he no longer had room for God. What is your ground like? Are you the rocky soil? Have you found yourself open to God’ s presence in your life only to fall away again and again? Are you one of those persons who has made a Lenten commitment or a new year’ s resolution to pray more or go to church more regularly only to give up after a couple of weeks or months? Are you right now someone who wants to know God but only on your own terms?

The third instance is perhaps the most common for folks like you and me. This is ground where the seeds root well and the plants grow tall but the weeds overwhelm them, literally choking them to death. For souls like these the problem isn’ t the soil, the problem is all the other stuff they’ ve got growing in the soil. Matthew calls these weeds the cares of the world and in our current culture I don’ t know anything more devastating to the health of our souls than the cares of the world. On any given day you or I may well wake up with so many worries, so many fears, so many problems to be solved and tasks to be completed that before we even get out of bed we have so completely filled our souls there is absolutely no room left for God. How often have you said I am just too tired to pray, just too busy to pray, just too overwhelmed to pray. Most of us live on this horrible treadmill and it feels like we have to run full speed flat out all the time just to keep from falling. How are we supposed to hear God, be touched by God, understand God’ s will for our lives when our hearts and minds are so full that we can’ t even hear ourselves think? If you are like me then this is most often the condition of your soul over crowded, over burdened, over flowing with weeds. Know this when our souls are in this state nothing good can grow for long without getting strangled. What would it take to pluck those things out of your life that keep the best from growing there? What would we have to give up to make room for God?

Of course the last soil is the good soil. Here there is no packed dirt, no rocks, no weeds just plowed earth, open, willing and ready. For folks blessed enough to find their souls in this condition there is nothing they cannot accomplish. We have all met people like this, people who at a particular point in their lives just glow with the love of God. They are passionate, open, deeply concerned with the welfare of others and full of energy. They smile most of the time, they are genuinely glad to see you and there is nothing they wouldn’ t do for you if you had a need. Wherever they go people are drawn to these individuals, and whenever they leave a place they always leave a sense of peace behind them. Often these are souls who have been through much in their lives. Often these are people who have seen much sadness, survived many struggles. But instead of these experiences hardening their souls they actually plow them open, turning the earth making them deeper, richer, and more able to receive what God plants in their hearts. This is who we want to be, who God wants us to be we just have to know that it may not be easy or pleasant getting there.

My only point for today is for you to ask yourself At this particular moment in my life where do I fit into this parable? What is your ground like and what would it take for you to be different? The answer to this question is the place to start to build your spiritual life. If you are closed up tight then ask God to open your heart. If your life feels quite shallow then ask God to give you the strength to deepen your relationships, your commitments, and your self-awareness. If you feel the world choking you to death then ask God to give you the courage to rip up and throw away whatever it is that is keeping you from growing into the person God wants you to be.

Finally, just remember that Jesus makes it clear in this parable that the sower is quite extravagant. He doesn’ t cast seed sparingly, planting only in the finest soil. No God casts his love widely, flinging it with abandon on all of us no matter where we are at any particular moment in our lives. God won’ t give up on us, the seeds keep coming. Let’ s not give up on ourselves. Amen.

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