Matthew 13:1-9; 18-23
Click here for mp3 of "Are Dirty Enough?"
The sower is looking for good soil. A place to put the seed but what is in fact, good soil? I've walked on soil, dug up soil and face planted enough of it in my lifetime you'd think I'd know something about soil. So when I read this parable, I realized I probably talk to someone who knows more. Thankfully, we've got a great couple here at Cumming FUMC who are Master Gardners. Now, they said I couldn't say there names and that is kind of hard but after eating their tomatoes and cucumbers, I think I'll keep it a secret anyway!
I learned a great deal but of most importance was this...WITHOUT SOIL THERE IS NO LIFE. To be healthy, our master gardener noted, healthy soil must be able to breath and water needs to be able to move through it. The process of decomposing materials creates the very spaces soil needs to breath. In other words, it is death that promotes life.
Still, we must recognize the importance of the word pictures Jesus is painting. Nothing about gardening is measured in hours or even days...think weeks, months, seasons and years. We've ignored the structures God Remember, of all the animal kingdom, while humans are at the top of the food chain, our children are dependent on the care of others for an inordinate amount of time. Today we call it college.
Considering how often Jesus talks about soil and growth it needs to be noted and not ignored the importance of dirt. Are you dirty enough for Jesus? It isn't like he was out picking out the most educated or most religious folks to follow him, nor does the Bible describe in the history of faith, God looking for success.
The Apostle Paul failed; Peter failed; every one of the twelve apostles failed.
David, Israel's greatest king, "a man after God's own heart," failed.
Moses, deliverer of his people and deliverer of the law, failed.
Jacob, father of Israel, failed; Isaac, son of promise, failed.
Abraham, father of the Hebrew people, failed.
Those who want to gain their lives, must lose them Jesus said. Henry Ford forgot to put a reverse gear in his first car. Albert Einstein failed his university entrance exams at his first attempt. Thomas Edison spent $2,000,000 on an invention which proved to be of little value. Very little comes out right the first time. Bill Gates and Steve Jobs in our own time no the value of the death of a dream. Babe Ruth missed more than he hit and it is still true today for Albert Puljos and Brian McCann! Abraham Lincoln's life demonstratea that the only time you do not fail is the last time you try something and it works.
Who has not face planted? Who hasn't known some element of suffering? No matter how big or small the fall, when we hit the ground, we get dirty. I know this is an idea that runs contrary to our winner take all society. The idea that the one who dies with the most toys wins is nothing more than cotton candy – it is sugar with no substance.
It seems to me that Jesus doesn't even give an indication that the harvest is of greatest importance – it just comes. After all, this is what the Apostle Paul says, one plants, one waters, but God provides the growth. What matters, ultimately, is to consider, what kind of soil we have become or are becoming? Good dirt, the best soil has to have some suffering and death mixed in.
Talk to any athlete. Whether you're playing t-ball or major leagues, or any other sport, to get stronger we have to push to get stronger. Ask anyone with a degree or who does research, one has to study. Talk to any musician about the sacrifice needed in practice. Ask anybody who has started a new business, it is going to take some pain to get the the promised land. Talk to any who has faced cancer or disease, there is suffering that takes place to get there.
In January of 2000, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Following that surgery and radiation, I faced clinical depression. To get back to health sometimes means we lose the idea of wholeness. For cancer and other diseases and illnesses, we sometimes have to step beyond this world's ideals. We must learn to trust the wounds to experience the wonder of life.
Jesus was looking for imperfect people not the ideal people. Jesus attracted salt of the earth people. In Luke's gospel he compared God to a man who had a feast. The ideal people, the perfect people, the rocky soil and shallow soil, all made excuses. Luke tells us...
"And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, 'Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.' "And the slave said, 'Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.' "And the master said to the slave, 'Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled. 'For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.'" (Luke 14:21-24 NASB)
Jesus isn't interested in the pristine, pristine doesn't make good soil. It applies to children, teens and adults, it crosses gender and race. We are the ones who have come up with the question "Am I clean enough for church and God?" But thank God it is Jesus who asks the question of grace: "Are you dirty ENOUGH?" Thank God almighty, we are! Hear that GOOD NEWS!