The Deep Soil (Matthew 13:1-23)

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Before arriving at the famous Parable of the Sower — the Gospel reading for today — we are first given Isaiah 55:10-11 to contemplate. Though Isaiah’s words were written approximately 500 years before Jesus spoke the Parable of the Sower, his parable calls to mind Isaiah’s prophecy so beautifully that it isn’t hard to imagine he might have deliberately intended it that way. Isaiah writes:

Thus says the LORD: Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.

My word shall not return to me void, says the Lord through Isaiah. And so Jesus begins to tell the crowds what “the kingdom of God is like…” It turns out that the nature of this kingdom is best revealed through parables, and in one of them, a sower goes out to sow seeds. The sower can be God, and the seeds can be the seeds of his kingdom, the little seeds that God plants in our lives that we have to look for and really notice to find. They are always there; do we see them? Do we notice them? 

But Jesus says this is what the kingdom of God is like. It is like these small seeds. He tells the people that some of the seed fell on the byway, and the birds came and ate it. Some of the seed fell upon the rocks and sprouted immediately in the shallow soil there; but because the soil there was shallow, the sprout had no depth of root, and so it withered when the heat of the sun came. Some of the seed fell among the thorns and brambles, and these choked it after it sprouted and had grown a little bit. 

But — and here, here at last is the seed that will not return void to the Creator — some of the seed fell on good, deep, rich soil. And it formed deep, strong roots in that good, deep soil. And maybe it grew a little bit slower than the seed that had sprouted in the shallow soil. Maybe it was more deliberate and unhurried about it all, taking its time to grow toward the light. But as it took its time it grew steadily, and quietly, and became strong as it slowly but inexorably felt itself pulled toward that light. It knew it would get there in good time, because it knew where it belonged. It belonged in the light, but only after it had been able to form good, strong roots in that fertile soil. 

One day it arrives in the light, and it’s too firmly established for the birds to eat it, and it has deep enough roots to withstand all the heat, nourished by water and nutrients from the cool and stable earth that is the ground of its being. And it is too grounded in the soil and too drawn to the light to be choked off by any thorns. And this seed, Jesus tells the crowd, grows to maturity and bears its good fruit a hundred or sixty or thirty fold. My word shall not return to me void, says the Lord. 

Copyright © 2017 Elizabeth Keck 

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