July 13, 2008
Scripture: Matthew 13:1-9
Have you ever met someone who seems so spiritual, so Christian, it radiates from their very being? Someone so full of life it’s contagious, whose smile has the light of the world?
If so, have you had the chance to sit down and talk with them? I mean really talk? And talking discover that the person’s life has not always been easy, not everyone in their life has been nice, and it seemed as if trouble would last always?
These are the people I’m most impressed with. I am amazed to hear what some people have physically endured. I’m inspired by those who have lost everything and found their way back.
I am astounded at how the spark of life continues to shine in those who have faced the darkest of night. Of those who can proudly sing "This is my story, this is my song" even though they faced the most grueling circumstances you could imagine.
In other words, it is as if they are the most beautiful of flowers, but first they had to make their way up through the muckiest of dirt.
Jesus, in today’s scripture, talks about seeds and soil, referring to a farmer who is sowing his fields.
Some seeds are eaten by birds. Some land among the rocks in which they quickly grow and just as quickly die out. Others fall among the weeds and are choked off from life.
But other seeds fall into good soil, where they strike root and grow and producing a bounty of 30, 60, a 100 fold.
Now that’s some good bounty. That’s some good soil. But what is it that makes soil so good?
I had a chance last month to learn a about gardening and soil when I purchased plants to be placed around my tree. I went to the flower shop off of 28th and asked for plants grew in the shade. The man lead me to red leaf begonias, saying they would do fine. I asked what else I needed and he pointed me to a bag of cow manure.
I’ve never purchased manure before, but I figured he knew best, so I returned home with 8 begonias and 10 pounds of manure and went to work; digging and planting, covering the plants and the tree with the dried-out manure.
And wouldn’t you know it: he was right! The begonias are thriving , their colors popping.
That little tree that just a few months ago was a twig now stands six feet high and sparrows are now sitting in it between trips to the feeder.
The success of the tree and the begonias can be attributed to sheer luck, the amount of care they receive, but also what has been placed in the soil.
Too bad I can’t meet that cow and say thank you, because her poop has sure made the soil good.
Animal manure has been used for centuries as fertilizer. Not only is it cost effective, but it’s rich in nitrogen and other nutrients that help plants to grow. It traps in good bacteria which allows organisms to feed on it, making the ground fertile.
But it does more then that. Manure increases the grounds ability to hold water, lessens wind and water erosion, and improves aeration.
That’s a lot of good stuff that comes from something so stinky.
But there is something else about manure. For it to work best, it can not be fresh. It’s best if the droppings are allowed time to sit, to break down, before being added to the soil.
Now this is probably more then you ever expected to hear about the subject at church. But Jesus teaches us about seeds that grows in good soil.
And the truth is that really good soil, the kind in which you want to grow your plants and trees, is soil enriched with and made better by manure.
Which, when you think about it, makes Jesus’ parable about the sower much more interesting..
Anyone who works the earth can tell you that nature is full of mystery. There’s a lot of waste and death. But nature is designed to take that which is broken down and dead and use it to create new life.
And that good soil is not soil full of sugar and spice and everything nice, but good soil is full of decaying matter, a multitude of organisms, and often times, manure.
I believe this applies to people as well. That when you stop, and think about it, it is not always the good things that happen to us that makes us who we are as Christians. It is usually the bad, difficult, heartbreaking things we’ve encountered that have molded and shaped who we are.
Think about it. Think about who you are and where you are today. Is it so much because of all your successess and happy times that have gotten you here? Or has it been the losses, the struggles, the sacrfices that you have had to make?
Think back to the times when you have felt God’s presence the most, when the words of Jesus struck you the closest. Was it when life was full of all goodness and sugar? Or was it when you when life seemed to be filled with manure and decay?
We have each had our own struggles, our own pain, our own manure.
For me that manure has been living far away from home, dealing with deaths of so many loved ones, financial and professional struggles.
What is the manure you have had to face? Your hurts and pains? The disappointments, feelings of abandonment?
Who has death robbed you off? What are the dreams you have had to leave behind?
I ask these things because often times we try not to think about them. We try to ignore them. They bother us and they stink.
But those aches and pains, those become your own personal manure.
Those are the things that hurt and smell and we wish to run away from at the time, but those become the same elements God breaks down, uses and transforms into the nutrients that make us who we are.
Nutrients that make us suitable for the specific ministry God is calling us too.
Those elements of decay and loss may appear to you as waste, but to God they actually work together to become ground for new life and the fulfillment of purposes you have yet to realize.
God takes all that junk we experience and through the miracle of grace and his love, uses them to build us up. Creating in us soil that is able to weather erosion from the wind because we have faced it before and realized that we can survive.
Soil that is able to hold water because we know enough now of what to keep in and what to let go.
Soil that is good and ready to create a place for God to plant a seed within us, where it can strike roots, grow, and makes its way to the surface.
A seed that is able to say "Despite it all, I am still here."
When we try to hide that loss and pain from God, we are often times prevent the opportunity for God to plant that seed of new beginning we so much can benefit from.
So, in conclusion, when life does not go our way, when things get difficult, when we find ourselves hurt and lonely, feeling like a failure, sometimes the best thing we can do is say "Lord, this is all my stuff that I am going through and been through. I can’t make any sense of it. I don’t like it. It hurts. It stinks.
So I am giving it up to you. Take it from me. Do with it what you must. Break it down. Till it. Use it for your good, turn it into soil that you can plant your seeds, so your kingdom will grow, so something beautiful can emerge.
I know you are real and I am trusting that you can."
And after you say these words, step back because you will be amazed.
Be patient because God will make something grow.
As mysterious and unconventional at it may sound, God will take that manure you have faced, God will take all the manure you have been through, and from there create new life and create new hope.
From there God will create something that makes everyone, including yourself, step back and say "Wow. This is truly God, and this is truly good."
Only the most beautiful flowers and abundant crops come from soil that has been strengthened by all the problems and adversities we have faced.
We may not see it this season, or the next, but it is there, and God is working.
All thanks be to the Master Sower, to the Son who helps plant the seeds and to the Spirit that continues to shower us with joy.