An angel carved of stone. Meditation benches. A stone altar. Lush greenery — trees, shrubbery, flowers. Friends and family nestled in sacred soil. A carved St. Francis of Assisi. Quietude permeating the air. The Memorial Garden gracing the back yard of St. David’s Episcopal Church in Roswell, Georgia.
And Jesus said: “Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
A familiar parable: The sower spreads seeds on good soil, and the plants flourish. But as we reflect more deeply on this passage, it becomes mysterious – worrisome, confusing, even menacing.
Seeds fell on a path and birds ate them up.
Seeds fell on rocky ground; they sprang up quickly, and the sun scorched them.
Seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns choked them.
And we understandably ask: Why would Jesus imply that any of us have no soil enriching our inner selves, our spiritual selves, only a path where seeds are vulnerable to birds; rocky ground subject to the sun’s scorching heat; choking thorns?
An expert on eclipses said recently during an interview on National Public Radio that he doesn’t consider himself to be religious. But, he continued to say that during full solar eclipses when he witnesses the sun’s corona – its upper atmosphere, pouring out into space — he experiences a phenomenon greater than himself, and it also helps him to feel important, like he matters. I do not intend to describe him as religious if he doesn’t feel that he is, but that certainly sounds like spirituality to me. Rich soil.
As we wonder at the mysterious aspects of what Jesus says in this parable, it brings us back to the gift of free will. If we don’t have rich soil within us – only rocky paths and thorns – it’s not because God wants it that way. It’s only if that’s what we choose, if we choose not to allow God’s love to enter us and enrich our inner landscape. If we choose not to have a relationship with God or to nourish the one we have. The good news is that it is up to us; we can carve a path in our souls open to birds, strewn with rocky soil and choked with thorns, or we can open ourselves up to God and allow God to fashion within us a deep bed of life giving soil.
A family friend, Chris, recently suffered serious injuries after being hit by a tree limb. His wife, Katie, amazes us all with her ebullient spirit, her ever watchful eye on Chris’ progress, her clarity in what she needs to know and what she doesn’t need to know, and her precision in figuring out what she needs to ask the medical team. She has signed up with a website that allows her to update all of us at the same time on a regular basis and through which we can schedule meals and visits to the hospital. She shares her joys, her puzzlements, her sorrows with us, takes us with her through her days and nights. Katie has opened herself up to her friends and family, and through her humility and willingness to be vulnerable and open, is allowing us to show our love for her and Chris by being part of the process toward healing and recovery. She asks for our thoughts on how to handle her young son during this difficult time and what we know about various facilities in the area that she’s considering for Chris once he’s able to move from the hospital and onto the next phase of his rehabilitation. Because she is humble, vulnerable, open, she lets us in, and the community is flourishing around this little family.
And that can be the way it works for us, too. As we open ourselves up more and more to each other and to God, a garden will grow up within us, and all manner of marvels will appear: carved angels and saints; meditation benches; lush greenery; and our friends and family nestled in the sacred soil beneath our feet.