There’s two very personal feelings about this parable that have to do with time. First, give it enough time and any soil can become “good” soil. When I read the parable of the sower, I can’t take my mind off of the first three soils: hard, rocky, and thorny. No gardener or farmer would just leave soil in that condition. Any gardener or farmer worth her salt knows techniques and methods to soften soil, to remove rocks, and to withstand weeds and thorns and other pests. It just takes time. Second, I empathize with the sower. Her success rate with growing would not land her in the batting order for the Durham Bulls. She’s hitting about .250, which saying that’s not very good is an understatement. But I empathize with her because I see the comparison in her work of sowing seed and my work as a pastor. It often feels like a lot of sowing and not much reaping, but the sower just keeps on sowing seed. She knows that given enough time there will be a harvest. She has to work the soil. She’s not a farmer of seed but of soil. She listens to the soil, she sees what it needs, and she feels how it’s damaged. Give it enough time, and that soil will become good. She has her work cut out for her, though.
I think time and perseverance are the keys. Soil won’t become good overnight. You can’t make compost overnight. If the farming metaphor isn’t working for you, then think about diet and exercise. You can’t lose weight or gain muscle overnight. It takes time and perseverance.
You can’t become antiracist overnight, either. Like I said in last week’s blog: I’ve been on this journey for 7 years, and sometimes I feel like I’ve just begun. It takes time and perseverance. Since Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd, we have gathered as a community for a prayer vigil, the Christian Education Committee has discussed how to educate the congregation on race and racism, the Session has discussed our congregational response, Lisa preached a five-part sermon series on race and racism from the personal to the systemic, we participated in a 21-Day Race Equity Challenge, I’ve preached and blogged about race and racism from the personal to the systemic, we’ve focused on race and racism in the Summer Sunday School videos, in Sharing God’s Story @ Home, and a couple of times in the children’s sermons.
That’s a lot, but it has only been 6 weeks. We are just beginning, and we have only scratched the surface. This is where time and perseverance enter again. The de-formation and deconstruction process we are in takes time. We are like hard, rocky, thorny soil that needs the time to become good soil. We are like the farmer who needs the time to work the soil, to sow seed, to try again, to work some more, to sow some more. There are plenty of reasons to disengage with the work we have done for six weeks. We can harden our hearts, revert to cynicism, become angry, and the seeds of justice will sit on the surface as the birds snatch them up. We can grow tired and fragile of the challenges and pain of learning about our own complicity in systems of injustice. We can get stuck in guilt, and the seeds of justice that have begun to sprout in our hearts will wither away. We can retreat into our silos, hold tight to our possessions, and be paralyzed by the anxiety of interrogating where we live, our money, and our wealth, and the seeds of justice will be choked out.
Talking about this farmer and her sowing reminds me of another parable Jesus told about a tree that would not bear fruit. This tree lasted for several seasons but never once produced anything. The farmer tried all the tricks he knew, but the tree would not bear anything. Finally the owner came to the farmer and said, “Cut this tree down.” The farmer, full of hope and knowing that time and perseverance can do a lot, asked the owner, “Give me one more shot. Let me put manure around the tree. Let me try one more time. If it doesn’t work this time, I’ll cut it down myself.”
There is still time. There is time to work, to persevere, to learn, to have conversations and ask questions, to become soft, absorbent, malleable, to remove the rocks, and to hold back the thorns.
I hope we persevere because we have the gift of time. I want this blog to encourage you to keep going and to persevere in this work. We may not see a harvest for a while and for a time it might seem like we’re not getting anywhere, but let’s hold on to the hope the farmer has. It’s a hope in God’s promise that there will be a harvest. It might be thirtyfold, sixtyfold, maybe even a hundredfold, but there will be a harvest.