Image: Rocky outcrops in Trapper’s Lake
Much of our diocese lies on the exposed Precambrian rock of the Canadian Shield. Past glaciation has left behind only a small amount of soil, so agriculture of any type is virtually impossible on a commercial scale. Whatever vegetation there is, struggles to get a foothold on the ancient rock and the trees of our forests are forever stunted in their growth. Looking around, it is easy to understand the analogy that Jesus uses as he explains the parable of the sower to his disciples.
Jesus describes four types of ground on which the word of God falls and how the nature of that ground affects the ability of God’s word to take root and grow.
The first type of ground is the path, an area of earth far too traveled by foot and wheel to be conducive to any growth at all. A pathway is an efficient way to get from point A to point B but it is no place to plant a flower. The next type of ground is the rocky soil which allows a seed to take root but the roots only go so deep. The slightest drought means death for the new growth. Then there are the thorns, the brambles that choke and overwhelm anything that tries to sprout. Finally, there is the good soil, the fertile bed that allows a seed to reach its full potential and to bear fruit.
If we examine the terrain of our hearts we will find a mixture of all these features. At times we are too busy to give attention, we are like a traveler on the pathway in too much of hurry to slow down and take in what God is trying to do in our life. We care more about getting things done than about what and why we are doing them. At other times we exhibit a calloused heart, we are like the rocky ground, too hard and stubborn to want to change our ways or to allow new ideas to take root. We can be abrasive and unyielding to those who pass by our way. Sometimes we have a prickly attitude that is selfish and only cares about what we want, and does not take into concern the needs of others. Be warned anyone that tries to ask our help or they will feel the effect of our thorns.
These landscapes are natural and are all part of our human nature. They are what becomes of us when we let nature take its course. Yet, the truth of the matter is, that without our even trying, God’s word does grow in us even when the ground is less than perfect. In the same way that a tree will split a rock with its roots and a flower will grow through a crack in the pavement, God does find His way into our heart. But the parable of the sower invites us to live a different kind of life. Not one where the word of God is struggling to have an effect but a life where God’s word can thrive and bear fruit in abundance.
We need to pick the rocks and cut back the brambles. We need to take time to cultivate and till the soil so that God’s word can truly take root and grow. The seed has already been planted, now it is up to us as to what kind of a garden we want to live in, one that is dried up, dusty, and devoid of growth, or one that is lush, bountiful and full of life.