Being Good Dirt

Friday, October 10, 2014 – Proper 22, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office

Psalms 140, 142 (morning) // 141, 143:1-11(12) (evening)

Micah 3:9-4:5

Acts 24:24-25:12

Luke 8:1-15

For many Christians, reading and knowing the Bible is essential to growing in faith. However, today’s gospel challenges that spiritual priority. As Jesus’ parable shows us, reading and hearing the word of God means nothing at all if we’re not the kind of people who can handle it.

The parable describes a sower who scatters seed indiscriminately. Some lands on a path and is trampled by people or consumed by birds; other seed lands on a rock and can’t put down roots for water; still other seed lands among thorns that choke it. But some falls on good soil. That seed grows over time and ends up producing fruit.

As usual, the disciples have no idea what Jesus is getting at, so he gives them the key to understanding the parable: “The seed is the word of God.” For Jesus’ disciples, the “word of God” didn’t mean the Bible itself, since it hadn’t been compiled yet. For us, though, the “word of God” could mean any of God’s many efforts to communicate with us, including the Scriptures or, more specifically, the proclamation of God’s kingdom of justice, peace, and inclusion.

In the logic of today’s parable, it is much more important that we make ourselves into good soil rather than that we merely know the content of God’s word. No matter where the seed landed, it’s genetic code was the same. However, it could only survive, and be nourished, and bear fruit if it landed in the right dirt.

In the same way, God’s word means nothing if it does not lodge in the right hearts. These hearts are soft and malleable, not compacted by habit into inflexible paths. These hearts are deep and grounded, not shallow and hardened like rocky terrain. These hearts are open and free, not “choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life,” like thorny shrubs.

Unless the word of God finds these hearts, it cannot thrive.

This parable helps me to make sense of the most unsettling part of Christian history: the ways that the Bible has been used to oppress and exclude others. How different Christian history might be if we first sought to make our hearts into good soil, and only then sat down to hear God’s word.

So, if we don’t get a chance to read the assigned Scriptures for today, let’s at least try to become the kind of people who would be good at reading them if we had the time! That effort alone may very well be enough for us to live as God’s kingdom.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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