Matthew 13:3–9 (NIV)
Then he told them many things in parables, saying: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
I know. It seems like we are going the long way around the farm to get to the fruit. But isn’t that the point being made here? Fruit is the end of the process, not the beginning. Fruit is not instant. It takes time. Fruit is not “produced,” rather it is borne. And remember, we are not the fruit. The fruit is borne through our lives. Nor are we the seed. And we are certainly not the gardeners. We are the garden. We are the seedbed. I don’t want to overplay the analogy (because you know I believe it is far more than an analogy we are working with here), but I see the sower as Jesus, the Father as the gardener, the Word of God as the seed, and the Holy Spirit as the waterer and the water.
Here’s the overall process of how it works.
leaves and roots
flowers and fruits
and seeds . . .
Today I want us to talk about cultivation. Cultivation is the work of preparing and utilizing land for the growing of crops and the bearing of fruit. Growing up on the farm, I remember several implements used for cultivation. First was the subsoiler, which I have written about here before. It breaks fallow ground at its depths and turns the field upside down. Then there is the disc, which breaks up the slabs of packed soil into smaller clods. Next comes the field cultivator, (a kind of sophisticated harrow) which is made up of a combination of plows, tines, and smoothing wheels which breaks the soil into fine clods and dust making it ready for planting after a good rain. And we will save the rotary hoe for another day.
Soil must be cultivated to create a culture hospitable for the sowing of seeds and the growing of crops. It can sound like so much arduous work and on the farm of my youth it was. However, we must ever remind ourselves that we are not the field hands on the farm of God. We are not the workers, but rather the ones being worked on. The soil of our lives is cultivated by the Son of God. But how, you ask? It happens as we welcome him into the garden of our lives. It happens as we delight ourselves in his generous presence with us. In the morning and throughout the day I recall my attention to him with a very simple prayer: “Jesus, I belong to you.” I will say it five times, aloud, once for each word of the prayer, emphasizing the next word successively.
JESUS, I belong to you.
Jesus, I belong to you.
Jesus, I BELONG to you.
Jesus, I belong TO you.
Jesus, I belong to YOU.
Sometimes, depending on my level of distractedness, I will say it all again. I say it until I am actually conscious of the words I am saying, and then I will say it some more until I am conscious of actually saying it to Jesus. In other words, I say it until I pray it. I find this cultivates the soil of my inmost being, making me humble and receptive to his sowing.
Sometimes, when I am listening, I will hear him in my inmost being say something back to me. I’ll say it out loud so my ears can hear it. You know what it is?
“John David, I belong to you.”
And you know what? He is saying the same thing to you.
That’s a picture of cultivation.
Wake up, sleeper! Jesus stands at the gate to the garden of your life. He longs to be with you in this sacred place of your inmost self. He longs to cultivate the glorious soil of you.
Farmer Father God, thank you that the great sower, Jesus, carefully and gently cultivates the soil of our lives to prepare us for the seed of the Word. Thank you that he does not throw us a pack of seeds and tell us to get busy. Thank you that he doesn’t link us to a Youtube video telling us how to break up the fallow ground of our hearts. Thank you for the way he walks onto the seedbed, the garden plot of our deepest selves and welcomes us to participate in his working. Holy Spirit, lead us in this participation. Make us receptive and ready for Jesus. Praying in his name, amen.
Are you seeing the vision of this grace-filled farm, this demonstration plot of the kingdom of Jesus, this “possibility of a life whose terms are heaven’s and this earth’s?” How is your spirit responding?
For the Awakening,