One of the things I loved the most growing up was spending time with my dad in the garden. We would go through nursery catalogs and go to garden centers to pick out flowers together and he would even let me help! My dad has an incredibly green thumb. We would spend hours together in the dirt pulling weeds, aerating, planting, fertilizing, watering, and waiting until our back yard exploded with color every summer. As an impatient child I didn’t understand why it took SO long to get the plants into the ground.
In our gospel reading this morning Jesus tells the story of an indiscriminate sower casting seed out into a field. While broadcast sowing seems incredibly inefficient by today’s horticultural standards it was actually the primary agricultural practice of the time, something that those gathered to hear Jesus teach from his socially distant place in a boat would’ve been familiar with. The sower casts seed heedless of where it might land. But what happens after that? After all, seeds that go untended are unlikely to yield much. That is where the gardener comes in, the person who tends to the soil that it can yield the fruit of the seeds planted within. Often in this parable we try so hard to figure out who or what is the path, the rock, and the thorn. I don’t know that that is for us to judge. I think the question far more worthy of our time and effort is how are we tending the soil once the seed is scattered. What are the things, even the uncomfortable ones, that we can do to make the soil as fertile as possible?
What I wasn’t thinking about as a child gardening with my dad was just how much factors into keeping plants healthy. Things like making sure the soil had enough oxygen, that it had the correct pH for the plants we were trying to grow. If the soil possessed enough nutrients to keep the plants healthy, whether or not plants were getting the appropriate amount of sunlight and shade they needed. If they were getting enough water to flourish. Gardening is a process and results don’t happen overnight.
When the seed, that is the word of God does not land where it is able to be received, the opportunity to hear that message of love is missed, but luckily that’s not where the story stops. Seeds aren’t sown just once, they’re sown again and again and again. The seed of good news never stops and there’s always more to go around when we’re ready to receive it. That’s grace. Everywhere the seed is scattered that isn’t the heart doesn’t have the same impact, but even when seed is sown on the path, that seed is still capable of nourishing creation.
Yet, when the seed does take root in the heart, it bears fruit. If one person in a congregation bears fruit, the whole congregation is changed. If a few people in a community are bearing fruit the whole community will be changed. After all, one person’s grace saved the entire world, and it is our job to till the garden in which the work of Jesus’ ministry is planted. As long as the garden is well tended, that impact leaves behind a legacy far beyond our own lifetime. The scope of that vision is laid out in a prayer attributed to Oscar Romero.
A Prayer of Oscar Romero
…Nothing we do is complete,
which is a way of saying that the Kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything,
and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well…
This is what the work of anti-racism and radical welcome of the LGBTQIA+ community looks like. Neither are problems that we created, yet it is our responsibility as people of faith to be part of the solution in order to interrupt the cycle that perpetuates violence against these communities. It is our responsibility to do the work, which is often uncomfortable and at times even pain filled, for all of us, but as a community we can work through difficult things if we do so together. It’s work that scares me to do too. It’s work that makes me uncomfortable to sit in, to think about ways in which I’ve even unintentionally perpetuated the sins of racism, homophobia, and transphobia. But the good news is, it doesn’t fall to each of us individually or even as a congregation to solve these problems completely. It is our responsibility, however to do our part to tend the seeds. Every little bit helps. Read a book, attend a training, write to legislators, support small businesses owned by people of color or members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Join our committee here at Holy Trinity to do more intentional work on anti-racism and radical inclusion of the LGBTQIA+ community. Every little bit helps and every little bit bears fruit.
Thanks be to God.