It is a fitting time to hear the parable of the sower this Sunday in our gospel reading from Matthew 13. Down here in Oklahoma, the wind that comes sweeping down the plains helps to blow off the day’s heat and marauding mosquitos, and early morning or late evening are prime times to sit outdoors and enjoy the lingering warmth, the air carrying a tang of tomato plants, basil, mint, and roses from my mother’s garden containers scattered around the driveway and yard. It is the time of sweet corn, green tomatoes, and farmers’ markets. It is the time of Porter peaches, a local delicacy of which people outside of Oklahoma may not have heard—simply because the locals often eat up the entire harvest before they can be sent out of state.
When I was a kid, this was the time of year my mom would load us up along with some of the neighborhood kids in a rattling old station wagon and we would head south to the neighboring town of Bixby, where a place called Conrad Farms allowed us to go out into the fields to pick our own fruits and vegetables—green beans, zucchini, strawberries, watermelons, and especially their locally-famous corn. Even though we were suburban kids, we gained an appreciation for the work and resources that went into the food you could find in the supermarket. Walking out into the fields, we knelt down in the loamy soil and knew we were literally reaping the benefits of someone else’s sowing, weeding, watering, and tending throughout the previous months—and the flavor that burst from these fruits and vegetables when we would eat them was like biting into the accumulated sunshine of spring and summer. It starts with fertile soil, though.
Not all of us find it easy at times to be fertile soil to receive the gospel that Jesus is sowing. We go awry if we seek God only for our own benefit, however. Just as the abundance of the fields comes about only through a partnership with soil, climate, sower, and reaper, the beauty of the gospel of Christ becomes visible in our world through our own discipleship and willingness to align our lives with the beauty of Christ and his gospel. If we practice self-reflection and cultivate self-awareness, we can work on the places in our hearts where the soil is hard or rocky. We can do this vital work of growing in discipleship, knowing that we are not alone in our endeavors, but that God is always by our sides as we seek to grow deeper and more fertile in faith, in hope, in love—things our world right now is starving for. When we invite love into our lives, we invite God to plant the seeds of mercy and grace within our own hearts, so that we ourselves become abundant fields of grace and mercy in the lives of those around us. We just need to soften our hearts to be the good soil to nurture and share the seeds of God’s love, mercy, and grace.
You call us to wakefulness, O God,
our Ground and Stronghold:
may we follow your ways,
rejoicing in your mercy.
May we open the eyes of our hearts
to see that we dwell in the presence of the sacred,
for the living Earth sings your praise!
Sow within our hearts, Lord Christ,
the seeds of tranquility and holy action,
grounded in justice and loving-kindness.
Turn the desert places in our hearts
to springs of clear, cool water, O Holy One,
that your mercy may flourish within us.
Let us seek understanding among us;
may our companionship be steadfast and true,
guided by God's grace and love.
Grant, O Lord, your aid to those who call upon You,
and bless those for whom we pray.
This was first published on Episcopal Cafe's Speaking to the Soul on July 9, 2020.