So, this farmer went out with a bunch of seeds. And he scattered them far and wide. Some fell on the road, so the Emus ate them. Some fell on the red rock; those seeds sprouted quickly, but their roots didn’t go very deep. They withered and died in the blazing sun, and the remains were trampled by foxes. Some fell in the dry and thorny weeds; those seeds never had a chance. And some of those seeds fell on rich, fertile soil and grew forth abundant harvest.
That farmer must have lived in Victorian Desert. Many of us learned some version of this story when we were very small. As one of the Elders said, “It’s so rich and visual, you can just see the flannel board.” Even if you didn’t grow up in a faith community, you’ve probably heard a secular translation. These images can be easily applied to academics, business, family life, investment— any of which a preacher could incorporate for a particular context.
But for you Christians now, go back in time for a minute. You’re five years old, and your Sunday school teacher says, “Now, children, which kind of soil do you want to be?” The answer is clear . . . the good soil. (“Jesus” might also be a correct answer, as Jesus is the appropriate answer to any question asked in a children’s sermon). Yes, we want to be the good soil. Now go back and sit quietly with your parents and listen— be good soil— and God will grow something beautiful in your heart.
Hey, don’t pull your sister’s hair in church. And that twenty cents I just gave you is for the collection plate.
Anyway . . . it is a true and important message, that we need spiritual practices to make us “fertile soil” for God’s word and God’s will in our lives. Prayer. Scripture. Kindness and generosity. These things will make us the kind of ground where good things happen. If you wish to live a Christian life and follow Jesus’ way of life then compassion, love, forgiveness, generosity, friendship are all things that are to be strived to live by in our journey of faith.
But maybe now, as grownups, we need to think also about what kind of farmers we want to be.
The right answer, of course from my point of view, is the New Zealand kind (because of the climate). You want to farm in New Zealand where the “corn tops ripe and the meadows in the bloom,” and the wheat grains are plump and ripe, and the tomatoes are really tomatoes, and the strawberries are crayon-red, and a five-minute run to the garden is all the dinner prep you need. That’s what kind of farmer you want to be.
But the facts of life are, most of us are farming in the Desert. Metaphorically speaking, of course. In the desert, you have to scatter your seeds— the gospel potential life and growth— far and wide.
Because in reality, much of what you have is going to land in a barren place. It might look green enough right now . . . but wait till January and see where the sun hits. See what other-terrestrial bugs and reptiles and rodents come crawling out at night to graze. See what a few months of no rain does to that promising corner of the garden.
But there . . . just over there, that spot so utterly desolate and dry? There, exactly, is where the wildflowers come up singing. Where the winter grass pops up in June after just one hard rain. Where the cactus has been storing water, all year long, for just such a time as this.
You don’t know where your stuff is going to land. In ministry, in relationships, in business, in art. The landscape of our every day is broad and varied. If you want life to emerge from what you have in your hand, you’ve got to toss it far and wide and generously, and trust God for the growth. This applies to all of the society, to anyone who would explore and live the faith journey our God calls us to.
That’s what kind of farmers we want to be, if we are people of faith. We’ve got to sow generously, knowing that we are letting go of much more than what we hold in our hand. In good faith, we let go of our possessions, our agenda, and all expectations of “where the good soil is.” We let go, and watch in awe, as God takes our small seeds of faith and transforms them . . . ten, twenty, one hundred times over.