This week we have a very well-known parable about the word of the kingdom God as seed falling onto good and poor soil. The way that Jesus explains the parable is that the listener is the soil. Some soil is good, and some is poor. As a gardener I’m very much drawn to this story.
I have cultivated five gardens now. Three were on heavy clay which could only be worked a few months a year in-between being too heavy to dig and so hard you couldn’t get a spade into it. Two have been on sandy soils which are hard to cultivate as they dry out so quickly. What I have learnt from all these gardens is that soil, all soil, needs work.
When I arrived at this vicarage I found a garden that hadn’t been cultivated for 20 years. It had the bare bones of structure of someone who had loved gardening, but the patch you can see in this picture was covered in overgrown shrubs. These were removed and for the next five years I’ve been digging it over, taking out the stones, adding homemade compost and experimenting with what I can grow from seeds and cuttings.
In garden design terms it isn’t amazing but it is colourful. What you can’t see from this picture is soil that had no life now full of worms and slugs. You can’t hear the bees buzzing through the flowers and you can’t smell the salvias, lavender and roses in the early morning sun. What was barren and lifeless, sand and no worms, at all is now very alive.
All gardeners and farmers know that soil needs work.
As we hear the parable of the sower and how the good soil yields 100 fold it is tempting to think that is us; well maybe the 30 fold if we have Christian humility and not wanting to brag! But good soil needs work. We are loved by God, we know that; but if we take time in prayer the light of Christ will shine into our lives and expose that which is false and shallow and not rooted in God. We might find that we have taken on the assumptions of our culture about race or sexuality. Or maybe we have bought into the culture of loving ourselves and not our neighbours. It is painful to see ourselves as we really are and so easy to find a distraction to stop ourselves seeing that false self. That is where busyness or whatever our addictions area come into play.
We need to do the work to allow ourselves to be cultivated by God so that we can produce good seed, good fruit. It may be painful. As a gardener I know that the classic way to improve sold is double digging and this is very hard work but there are many ways to garden and many ways to pray. Many ways to allow God to work in and through us.
All gardeners know that you do just have to start and it takes time.
So as you think about yourself – what sort of soil are you? What is fruitful in your life? What is there that still needs turning over and work in the garden of your heart?