Jesus 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!”
ON HOLY SEED AND LENTEN SOIL
This Markan text reminds us of what happens when precious seed is scattered on differing types of soil. Traditionally the seed in this text has been associated with the Word of God. The soil is generally representative of our hearts and its response to God’s word. Although this is not the only interpretation, it is one that can be helpful in exploring the nature of our faith during this Lenten season. How receptive are we to God’s Word as it challenges our lives? How receptive are we to God’s Word as it is spoken and brought to us in unexpected ways? How receptive are we to God’s word when our understanding of it is challenged? In other words, as we continue our journey toward Jerusalem, what soil would best describe our openness to the Word of God at this time in our lives?
It does not take a farmer to know that seeds that fall on a “path” will not grow. “Paths” are walked upon and hardened. They are usually parallel to where the seeds will grow. There is no place for the seed to take root. It’s no wonder birds come along and eat it up. Is your heart ever like a “path” – God’s Word can fall upon your ears and heart, but it bounces right off never really allowing that holy word to shape our life.
Then we have the seeds on rocky ground. Now my understanding is that seeds can birth new life around stones by making their way around the stones into the soil. But without the depth and richness of fresh soil, the plants that grow will have but shallow roots. They cannot survive under challenging changes. When has your heart been like rocky ground? When have you allowed God’s word to touch your heart for a moment, but in the end, did not allow that ‘holy seed’ to dig deep to shape and transform your heart?
The seed that fell on thorny ground is interesting. I did not know this about thorns (my city-self speaking), but apparently thorns can indeed grow up and choke the plant life around it. Has there been a time in your life when you were in a spiritual place where you could not hear the Word of God? Can you recall a time when perhaps you could not bear to hear the message of that “holy seed” because it challenged you to a way of life that you were unprepared for nor interested in embracing? Have you ever responded by metaphorically “choking it,” destroying it – thus not allowing that holy seed to take root in your life?
The final seed in the parable fell into good and rich soil, which allowed the grain to grow and multiply. This is a wonderful and hope-filled image. The ability to allow God’s Word to permeate and take root in our hearts is one that we all long for. When have you been like that good and rich soil – able to absorb the life of the holy seed, of God’s word? When have you experienced God’s Word growing in you and blossoming in ways that even gave life to others? This is the kind of soil that I pray we all might be like.
As we continue on our pilgrimage to Jerusalem, I invite us to think about the richness of the soil within our hearts. May this Lent be a time when we allow the “holy seed” of God’s Word to pierce the deepest dimensions of who we are – so that we might more faithfully be a people of growth and new life in the places where we have been planted.