A few years ago I set out on a mission to grow some grass in an area of the lawn that’s always dead. Like, the entire lawn could be 100% lime green, but that one 3 foot by 3 foot patch would always look like that darkened land on the Lion King where Simba is told to never, ever go.
Anyways, so I set out to grow some fresh grass.
What you need to know is that when I set out to do something in my lawn, I get slightly obsessive with it.
I buy stuff.
I block off hours a time.
And so this is what I did with my 3 foot by 3 foot space of land. I researched what kind of seed to buy for a semi-shady place. I looked up best practices for growing thick grass in slightly rocky soil. I wanted to know how often to water, what kind of vitamins I should put in the grass. And then I went out there and watered every morning at 8am - LIKE CLOCKWORK. I would get up, do some school work, pour a cup of coffee, and fire up the hose.
AND THEN, low and behold - GRASS. It started to grow, I was amazed! And it came in bright green, super thick, and it looked AMAZING.
But I noticed something odd - a TON of seed was wasted. Like, even though a good amount of seeds took root and started to grow, a bunch didn’t take root and didn’t grow - it just laid there on the dirt as if it had thrown in the towel and given up.
Which brings me to the Gospel of Mark, chapter 4.
In Mark 4 Jesus told the parable of the The Sower where He says that a farmer went out to sow some seed.
Some of that seed fell along the path and birds at it.
Some of it fell on rocky places where it didn’t have much soil and so it sprang up quickly, but then got scorched by the sun.
Some fell among thorns, which grew up and chocked the plants.
And some fell on good soil where it grew and produced a crop for the farmer.
Then in Mark 4:14 Jesus explains to His (always) confused disciples that the seed is “the word”.
But, I don’t think He’s talking about the Word of God, the Bible.
And so I don’t think He’s talking about the pastor’s sermon from Sunday,
Or the really good podcast episode you just heard where some big name preacher gave a ridiculously great explanation of a Bible story.
I don’t think those are the things He’s referring to when He talks about the seeds being “the word”.
Remember when John said that Jesus is “the Word”? (John 1:1) And how Matthew showed us that the word Jesus came to bring was a word of love for God and everybody else? (Matthew 22)
The seed is “the word.”
Jesus is “the word.”
And He came to bring “the word” of love - love for God and love for others.
Follow me here.
With Jesus, we’re talking about a guy who arrived on the scene of a church that was a complete disaster and the complete opposite of everything that God had called His people to stand for.
They took advantage of the poor.
They labeled people as sinners and then used that label as a license to push them to the outskirts of the church and of society.
They put unfair burdens on people’s shoulders and then told them that they had to carry the weight in order to gain God’s approval.
They let the poor get poorer.
They let the sick get sicker.
They let widows suffer.
The leaders formed their own little country club of exclusivity.
... All the while they got richer and richer and richer and made their tight knit club tighter and tighter and tighter.
And so Jesus came along with “a word” and His word was that the church was doing it wrong and that He came to model something entirely different.
Instead of pushing people away, He brought them closer.
Instead of casting out, He invited in.
Instead of bringing a message of exclusion, He brought a message of inclusion.
Instead of outcasting the poor, He told stories about the Kingdom of God being a gigantic banquet where the poor and sick and widows took center stage - think the story of Jesus eating with the tax collectors and sinners or Jesus and Zaccheus or Jesus and the prostitutes or the story of the Good Samaritan or Jesus and the Canaanite Woman.
THIS is the seed that Jesus came to scatter - a word of love and grace and inclusion that He sowed with every word He spoke and every move He made, and ...
Some of those seeds fell on the hard path.
Others on the rocks.
Others on the thorns.
Some (only SOME) on good dirt.
And so 3/4 of the seeds, you could say, ended up a lot like the seed in my 3 foot by 3 foot space of grass a couple of years ago - it was wasted.
Much like the seed that just laid on the dirt and all but gave up, a lot of the words that Jesus threw into the universe for people to hear fell on deaf ears and never made it past the rocky, thorny, hard wax inside of their ear canals.
(Gross, I know.)
Instead of taking root in their mind, it fell off to the side.
Instead of producing a crop in their lives, it got swept away by the problems of life.
Instead of making its way to the heart, it fell to the ground and was trampled.
It happened then and it’s still happening today. We live in a world where the church might not outcast tax collectors and Samaritans and Canaanites and prostitutes, but it certainly (in many cases) ...
Makes the LGBTQ community feel excluded.
Forms a club where members have to believe a certain way, act a certain way, live a certain way, think a certain way, etc.
... I’m not railing on the church, here. I love the church. What I’m saying, though, is that we live in a time where exclusivity is still a problem, where club membership is still steep, where strings are still tightly attached to invitations given for people to come in and experience God’s love, and I think those are the very things that Jesus came to put an end to, the very things that the seeds He scattered where intended to outgrow and replace.
And so the challenge for us isn’t to ask ourselves what kind of soil we are or how we can tend to the soil of our hearts so that we can be more prepared for the seeds that God will drop on us next Sunday in church.
The challenge, RATHER, is to make sure that 1/4 of the seeds that hit us on the days that the dirt of our lives is open and good and welcoming are taking root and growing.
Water the opportunities you have to love your neighbor.
Talk to the girl at the checkout register who’s wearing the pride band on her arm.
Bring your atheist neighbor a plate of Christmas cookies this holiday season.
Drop off some winter coats to the single mom down the street who has 3 kids.
Look, we’re not going to nail it every time. 3/4 of the seeds that Jesus has thrown out at us are likely going to bounce off our sometimes hard hearts and get lost in the thorns and rocks and problems and burdens and worries of life.
It’s those other 1/4 of seeds that are going to take root and make for a beautiful patch of grass - IF you’ll get up faithfully and do the watering.
Grace and peace.