THE GOOD NEWS: Is your soil ready to accept Christ's seed?
Jesus told a parable about a sower who sowed seed in an array of different soils with an array of different results – on roadway to become bird pecked; on rocky ground to become scorched and withered; among thorns to become choked out; on good soil to become fruitful. (Matthew 13)
In explaining his parable, Jesus made plain the seed represented the Word of God. That is, God sows his Word into an array of different hearts – hardened hearts robbed of the Word by the devil; fickle hearts susceptible to uprooted Word by "affliction and persecution," divided hearts choked of the Word by "worries and wealth," and good hearts enriched by the Word to bear the fruit of faith.
The natural presumption is by this parable we would examine ourselves. “Which soil am I – hard, shallow, thorny, or good?” That is, is my heart hardened with resistance to receive the Word of God? Is my heart fickle with emotion to believe the Word of God? Is my heart divided with allegiances to trust the Word of God? Or is my heart good to understand the Word of God and bear fruit by the Word of God?
While helpful to expose heart sin, that examination is a bit beside the point.
No matter how soil looks or performs, soil is dirt. And no matter its condition, dirt is unfruitful without seed.
Likewise, no matter its condition, the heart is by nature sinful. “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick;” (Jeremiah 17:9)
Therefore, the natural heart is uninterested in the Word of God and defenseless against the devil snatching it away. The natural heart is given to riding emotional highs associated with the Word of God but when lows come it is more given to seeking out the emotional highs than the Word of God. The natural heart inclines itself toward worry and wealth and will divide itself at the expense of relying on the Word of God.
The natural heart is in no way good. It is dirt. Dirt is inert. More fit for fertilizer than for seed, from dirt the heart has come. To dirt it shall return.
To be fruitful, dirt needs seed. And seed comes from the sower.
Look at the sower! He is no frugal farmer. In fact, he is downright reckless. The way he planted his field was more dumping than planting. Indiscriminately tossing seed here. Haphazardly scattering seed there. He spilled seed onto the path, slopped seed into the rocks, slung seed among the weeds.
The natural heart does not marvel at this reckless sower. But faith does. For faith sees the manner of the sower is the manner of God. Reckless to sow precious seed into worthless dirt illustrates that God is reckless to sow His precious Word into worthless people. No more plainly than in Jesus Christ, Himself the precious Word of God who became flesh.
God became dirt. True God always, Jesus Christ became a human being also. Though Satan schemed to snatch it away, his heart kept the Word of God. Though afflicted and persecuted, his heart did not fall away. Though tempted with worry and wealth, his heart remained undivided. His heart was good.
Yet, he offered his good heart for our sinful hearts. He threw himself literally to the dirt for us (Mark 14:35) praying in the Garden to his Father "not my will but yours be done." And so it was. He was punished with our threshing. He watered the dirt with his blood. He died our death. He was planted in our tomb.
This is the nature of God’s grace. It is reckless, that is, audacious, unblushing, shameless. God so loved the dirt that he gave his only-begotten Son. Reckless.
Faith knows the Word of God for our hearing is like the sower’s seed for the soil. It must be given. It must be dumped. Our ears do not listen up for the Gospel any more than soil reaches up for seed. Our attention spans are hear, there, and everywhere. Our ears are inert. And so God sloshes the seed of his Word all over the place. He gives it. Prints it. Proclaims it. Preaches it. Teaches it. Washes with it. Feeds with it. And makes our hearts good through the forgiveness of sins.
This is the Good News.
The story goes that John Newton, author of the hymn "Amazing Grace," said toward the end of his life: “My memory is nearly gone, but I remember two things: That I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior.”
By the image of the parable of the sower, may you and I ever remember two things: That we are worthless dirt. And that, by his precious Word, Jesus Christ is our reckless Sower. He makes our sinful hearts good – both now and forever.
Kevin Wendt is pastor of Grace Lutheran Church in Destin.