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Sewing the seeds of our faith

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Sometimes parables are hard to understand. We want them to tell us to do something, but we know that we cannot earn our
relationship with God. It’s not about being able to find that one
sheep or have enough oil in our lamp or to make sure our soil
samples have been tested to have the proper nutrients for a
bumper crop.

In the parable of the outrageous sower Jesus gives some answers
for his story teaching. He tells us this is so we can understand.
Many of us have heard this before and we can jump to some
obvious conclusions. We might need to hear again, and learn
something new that we don’t already know.

Soil, like human beings, is shaped by its environment. So, if
soil is walked on over and over again, beaten down so that t becomes packed hard, it is no longer fit for the planting of seeds.
We see this in the human community, too. People who have
been walked on over, and over, and over again often develop a
hardened exterior to protect themselves.

We take good care of our lives. We set about cultivating good soil, we are not without hope. It is true that seeds landing on hard or rocky ground stands less of a chance of gaining root and thriving, but it does, sometimes, happen. There are remarkable pictures of trees growing out of rocks and flowers that push up through the pavement. These tenacious plants offer signs that the Word of the kingdom will continue to find a way to grow even on the days when we feel beaten down, overcome by thorns, or at our rockiest.

This parable is not only about the soil types, but let’s also spend a moment thinking about this farmer. In this case it is the one
who throws his seed, even into wasteful places. Lucky for us we have a God who is reckless with the way He scatters the seed.
This is the message of a street preacher who keeps standing on his soapbox every day. People seem to just keep passing by.
No one really listens to the rants. Or do they? It might not be the way we are comfortable about hearing the Word but that does not make it something other than the Word. Keep sowing. Don’t give up. 

One more thing about parables and what Jesus was really up to. Jesus did not just tell stories he observed in real life and watched real people. Jesus used these stories to tell us about everyday stuff. To get inside people’s heads and to see the kingdom was not found only in a synagogue or a temple but in daily life and in their very lives.

Jesus knew that the farmers in the crowd would wonder about this crazy method of planting. It does not make sense to real
farmers, but it got their attention. It showed them that Jesus knew something that no Rabbi would ever teach. The people were more familiar with hard, rocky soil than pristine words in the Temple.

The Kingdom of God is found in the farmer’s field and the Holy Temple. The household of faith is about the flower garden, the planted field, the rocky path and good soil. 

Our good work is to spend the time to till our own faith. To grow in faith, depend more fully on eternal hope and share the forgiving love that has made each of us whole. There is no need to be in the business of judging the fertility of anyone else’s soil.

In the household of faith, I recognize that some days God’s word bounces off my back. It’s as if I failed to recognize it even existed. On other days it can land in my hands and I hold on to it, at least until I wash my hands again. Then again sometimes it lands in my heart and grows deep into my soul. 

Resting in God's grace

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Often we like to think that having a relationship with God or being a follower of Jesus will make life easier. With God on your side, you’ll slide through life with no problems, right?

Evidently that was no truer in the days of the early church than it is for us now. Life has always been complicated. Families are diverse and opinionated. People are never perfect and fear can never be eliminated.

Daily, we experience that following Jesus will not eliminate all our problems nor will our relationship with God will remove all the obstacles from our path of life. No one is guaranteed a perfect marriage, perfect kids, a perfect job or a perfect boss.

Faith is not the path to a life with no worries. Jesus’ promise to us is about never being alone in the midst of each day’s complications and assurance of the ultimate victory. Jesus never taught of a life without battles.

Because life is not going to be easy for the faithful, some question the need for faith at all. Some people give up believing because they do not feel that it matters or that faith makes a difference each day. I see the world a little different than that. I believe the gospel is true. There is a God who loves us and wants a relationship with us. This relationship gives us the strength to face each day and every challenge. “God with us” is not just a happy thought it is the realization that we live in God’s world.

During these days of separation, it has been important for us to seek out the people and relationships that are most important for each of us. In times of high stress, it can be easy to turn on those
closest to us. Faith can even be one of those topics that divides families. The realization of God’s presence with us can bring healing and wholeness to relationships which are hurt or broken.
Faith can give us the power we need to know that forgiveness and repentance can close earthly chasms years in the making.

Jesus sends his followers out into the world prepared to face any situation they may encounter. They don’t know that they will
be empowered, they don’t even know what is going to happen. What they do know is that everything is not up to them, it’s up to
God. Their journeys are in God’s hands, just like us. Each day we must rely on God to bring us through and God will, because
that is what God does. It is enough to do what we can, it is enough to simply be God’s beloved one sent into the world.

One last word on our living in the grace of God each day, in the words of poet Denise Levertov:

The Avowal
As swimmers dare
to lie face to the sky
and water bears them,
as hawks rest upon air
and air sustains them,
so would I learn to attain
freefall, and float
into Creator Spirit’s deep embrace,
knowing no effort earns
that all-surrounding grace.

May you rest fully in the all-surrounding grace of our ever loving God, today and every day.