Playing in the Dirt

This week was Scout Sunday, so we talked about playing in the dirt!  Read on 🙂

Matthew 13:1-9

13 That day Jesus went out of the house and sat down beside the lake.Such large crowds gathered around him that he climbed into a boat and sat down. The whole crowd was standing on the shore.

He said many things to them in parables: “A farmer went out to scatter seed.  As he was scattering seed, some fell on the path, and birds came and ate it.  Other seed fell on rocky ground where the soil was shallow. They sprouted immediately because the soil wasn’t deep.  But when the sun came up, it scorched the plants, and they dried up because they had no roots. Other seed fell among thorny plants. The thorny plants grew and choked them.  Other seed fell on good soil and bore fruit, in one case a yield of one hundred to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of thirty to one.  Everyone who has ears should pay attention.”

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Who in here has or had messy kids?  Especially when it comes to playing outside, we know that kids can get really messy and dirty. But here is some good news for the parents on there- many studies show that it’s good to let your kids get dirty and to let them play in the dirt. In our world that is so often germophobic, where you can’t go anywhere without hand sanitizer or wet wipes, we need to let our kids, and perhaps all of us, get a little dirty every now and then. Research has shown that dirt is actually good for your brain! Apparently there are types of bacteria that are naturally found in soil that activate neurons and produce serotonin, which are key chemicals in bodily functions, and actually make you feel happy! No wonder I’ve never met an unhappy person who likes to garden. Dirt is also good for your immune system. Early exposure to naturally occurring microbes in dirt helps build stronger and more disease-resistant kids.

And in today’s world where so many of us are stuck inside with our computers, TVs, or buried on our smart phones, being outside is so important for our health and well-being. Bottom line- go play in the dirt every now and then. It’s good for you! Today’s parable is about just that- playing in the dirt- and not just any dirt, but a particular kind of dirt. Jesus tells a story about a farmer that scatters seeds that land in various places. Some land on the path, some on the rocky ground, some on thorny plants, and finally, some land in good soil. Each scattering of seeds and where they land represents how people receive and understand the teachings of Jesus.

Now, since I am not a farmer or a gardener, I certainly don’t know much about what makes for good soil. Anyone want to tell us what makes soil right for growing things? It sounds like the environment has to be just right for seeds to take root and to grow.

The first seeds land on the path and birds eat it up. The path was perhaps cold and hard and the seeds had no chance of taking root. Jesus words fall on deaf ears. Jesus also says here that some of his words are heard and taken in right away without much thought or challenge. While it’s good that we might hear his words right away, we also need to take the time to really wrestle with what is being said to us. Especially today when we hear something that is being taught to us, we really need to think about what it means for ourselves and educate ourselves on what it means. If we take everything at face value without question, then we will never learn and grow as human beings. So we don’t want to be like the birds who eat up the seeds right away. We need to let the words we hear grow and have meaning, and to wrestle with what we are being told.

The second set of seeds land on the rocky ground where the dirt was shallow, and plants sprang up immediately because the soil was shallow. The plants didn’t have time to put down any roots. When the sun came out, they were burned up and they died. Sometimes we hear something and get really excited about it and dive in without really committing to the long term mission and vision. Sometimes we get ahead of ourselves without knowing where we have come from or where we are going. But most importantly, we forget that in order to flourish and be better people, we have to have roots- roots are just as crucial to human beings as they are to plants. Even in this restless culture where we are pulled in moved around in so many directions, we still develop a sense of who we are based on where we come from and where we feel secure.

Other seeds fell on thorny plants, where they were choked out and did not thrive. This says a lot about who we surround ourselves with. If we surround ourselves with people who bring us down, who are unkind, who are disrespectful, who are harmful to others, then we don’t stand much of a chance of growing and being the people that God calls us to be. Have you ever heard it said that you are only as good as the company you keep? The soil around these thorny plants was good soil, but it was what surrounded it that kept the plants from growing. So be mindful of who is around you and make sure that they are not keeping you from growing or being able to use your own voice to make a difference in the world.

And finally, there were seeds that landed in good soil, and they grew and were able to produce good fruit. This means that this soil nurtured good roots, had the right amount of light, and a healthy environment in which to grow. These seeds were the lucky ones, the persistent ones, the faithful ones. These seeds grew because they landed in good soil. In this, Jesus tells us that we are to be the good soil. We are to be the ones that hear the good news of God’s love and grace, and to take root in that. We are then to root ourselves in this message so that we can bring this good news to others. That is how we bear fruit.

But Jesus is not cautious about where he preaches and on whom he invests his time. He simply keeps sowing the word of the kingdom of God even though it might fall on deaf ears, even if we may not understand it, even if we may not be ready to see it take root and to grow.

This story teaches us that Jesus will keep throwing good seed everywhere, knowing that a lot of it may be destroyed. So it is up to us to keep on throwing the seed, to keep on loving as Christ loves, to keep on showing the world the love, patience, forgiveness, and grace of God. We have to be people who are willing to play in the dirt and prepare ourselves to be the good soil. We have to be people who are willing to scatter seeds of grace and kindness, trusting that God will work in them to take root and grow. Let’s take a look at how this young man decided to try to put down some roots.

You never know what will happen when you decide to live your life in a way that treats others with kindness and respect. You may witness a life made more beautiful. You may have a life more rooted in the God who first shows love to us. When you decide to scatter seeds of kindness…when you decide to play in the dirt and become good soil, those seeds might just take root and grow into something strong, good, and fruitful. Even if they don’t that’s ok. And even if you never know what happens, that’s ok. The point is that you made the decision to scatter those seeds in the first place. After all, that’s what Jesus teaches us to do. He wasn’t worried about where he preached or who he healed or making sure the message he had impacted every single person he met. He came to preach the good news to anyone who would hear, to show grace and tolerance to anyone who would accept it, and to love each one of us, regardless of whether or not we wanted to love him back. May you accept Jesus’ invitation today to scatter seeds of love and kindness. May you be confident in knowing that no matter where they land, you have done something wonderful and good. And may you go and play in the dirt and let God be the root of your life. Amen.

 

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