Horticulturally Challenged

July 16, 2017

I am a big fan of coupons. I am an even bigger fan of new experiences. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to buy a discount date night for my husband and me to learn how to plant succulents. My husband was cautiously enthusiastic, knowing my track record for keeping plants alive. Nonetheless, we squeezed into the back of a restaurant not quite big enough for the 16 of us hopeful horticultural connoisseurs. The directions seemed simple enough—place rocks at the bottom of an overpriced glass jar, put fancy dirt on top of the rocks, and plant the exotic succulents. The instructor assured us that with minimal watering our terrariums would thrive. As my husband and I potted our four plants and decorated our creations, we both were feeling rather confident that we would be successful terrarium owners.

Fast forward a few months… we each have one surviving plant. Who knew hearty plants could die so fast? Needless to say, today’s Parable of the Sower, found in the Gospel of Matthew, has me a bit outside of my area of expertise.

A sower indiscriminately sows seeds, and those crops yield different results depending on where they land. In the Matthew account, Jesus is found explaining this parable, line by line, which is rare in his teaching. Clearly, I am not the only horticulturally challenged disciple.

Jesus tells the Parable of the Sower while he is on the sea—rocking back and forth on fluid, moving waters. The crowds are on the beach—full of rocks, sand, earth, and soil.

Jesus, the ever brilliant teacher, is physically showing the disciples, and us, that we are the ones on the ground. The Great Sower will never stop sowing, everywhere. God throws abundant love and blessings universally with the desire to form deep roots. Seeds will keep being scattered in less than ideal places. Danger and risk of death are ever present. It is our role to tend the soil and to increase the “good” soil here on earth.

Based on my sad succulents, I need detail. How do I faithfully prepare “good” soil for The Great Sower?

I can acknowledge and engage with predators. Just as birds swoop to eat the seeds, so too do we hoard resource. Through policies and practices, we often sit idly by as we watch resources and blessings be snatched up by the few. Let us create more good soil by “shooing” away the birds in our community.

I can admit to rocky ground. There are places and people I avoid because they are different from me, and I fear them. I assume because they have some, I don’t need to get involved. Yet, those seeds on rocky ground get scorched by the sun. Living into a Christian life means walking through the rocks, through the scary and hurtful places in our world. Let us create more good soil by caring for those hurting seeds.

I can prune. Weeds and thorns choked the life out of the seeds. Just like I crowded four plants in my tiny expensive glass jar and one survived, we have to prune. We have to scale back. We can’t do everything. We can’t single-handedly prepare enough good soil. Let us focus on where our gifts, skills, and passion can help, one patchy spot at a time.

These are not easy tasks: to look in the eyes of those who hoard resources, to walk in difficult spaces, and to focus our attention is a daily struggle. But, we are not alone. Let us let The Great Sower continue to help us, the horticulturally challenged believers.

About the Author
  • Rev. Sandra Summers, M.Ed., currently serves as Associate Minister of Lindenwood Christian Church in Memphis, TN. Sandra is a lover of learning, and advocate for children and youth within the Church. Sandra, and her husband Sam, can often be found perusing their board game closest, exploring anything related to food, and spending time with their rescue dog, Tommy.

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