In the 13th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells a parable that begins, “A sower went out to sow.” He goes on to talk about sowing seeds that fell on a hard-packed path and were eaten by birds, seeds that fell on rocky ground that sprang up quickly but burned up in the sun since they had no soil depth to protect and nurture roots, and seeds that were choked out by thorns and weeds. Finally, some seeds fell on good soil and brought forth all kinds of harvest.
Jesus uses the image of sowing seeds as a metaphor for sowing, sharing, planting, welcoming and understanding the word of God. When the word of God takes root and grows in our lives, the result is a harvest of kingdom fruit, a harvest of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22).
We are in that time of the year when we watch our crops and gardens and we have hope, hope for the coming harvest. Now, we all know what happens if crops and gardens don’t get tended. Fruits, flowers, vegetables and grains that aren’t watered wither and die, failing to produce a harvest. Weeds that are allowed to grow unchecked, at best, cause greatly reduced production and, at worst, choke out and kill other plants. That’s why we’re out in the heat and bugs and humidity checking rainfall, applying chemicals, wielding a hoe and wrangling garden hoses and watering cans. And it’s worth all the effort when we enjoy the fresh, juicy goodness of tomatoes and sweet corn or auger abundant bushels into the grain bin.
So why can it be so difficult to apply the same kind of understanding and effort to our spiritual lives? If we don’t tend our faith by attending worship and engaging in scripture study, prayer, service and generosity…how can we expect our faith to deepen and grow? How can our walk with God yield a harvest of fruitful faithfulness if we don’t make the effort and take the time to do those things that bring us into closer relationship with our Lord?
Most of us struggle with these questions. We come up with a myriad of excuses - we’re busy, we’re working, we’ve got activities, our loved ones have activities, we’re tired, we’re not good at reading, we’re bored… The list is as long and as personal as each of our lives. But rather than give us a way out, a way of excusing our lack of tending to our spiritual lives, our lists point us to roadblocks (thorns or weeds, if you will) that we need to remove or at least cut back in order to make room for our faith and devotion to God to grow.
Let this be your mid-summer challenge: what will you begin doing differently so you can intentionally tend to your spiritual life and nurture your relationship with God?
May grace, mercy and peace fill your heart and mind as we enjoy these mid-summer days and look forward to the harvest to come.