This was a “wow” week at church, for a few different reasons. I’ll go with only one of them, centering on the readings.
At first we heard Isaiah 55: God sends out His word, and it doesn’t come back until it’s fulfilled its mission. That’s kind of hopeful for a writer like me, because quite frequently I do send out my words and they come right back at me with a “this doesn’t suit our purposes” letter. (I did a devotional on that once, actually. And that one did get accepted: go figure. Come to think of it, I did a series of rejection letters to the Holy Spirit when He submitted the Bible, and the Door published those. It’s better to laugh at rejection than to weep, but I digress.)
The Gospel was Matthew 13, the parable of the sower. For my non-Christian readers, Jesus tells the story of a farmer who scattered his seed, and it landed in a bunch of places: rocky ground, shallow soil, deep soil, thickets, and so on. The one that lands on rocks gets eaten by birds. Only the one planted on deep soil yields a good harvest. Jesus later explains that the seed is the word of God.
Sounds good, right?
Earlier in the day, we’d been driving home from vacation in the mountains. We passed a tremendous rock jutting from the side of a mountain, a mile up. It stood in stark contrast to the thick trees all over the rest of the mountain, and the rock looked to be one solid piece…
…except for several trees standing in the middle of the rock. Somehow, they’d found purchase in bare rock and managed to sprout and grow to maturity.
Now, you’d think that in the battle between a seed and a boulder, the boulder would win. Rocks don’t split easily, after all. But the relentless pressure of life, of a living thing attempting to remain alive, had defeated the rock.
More than just remaining alive, this tree had grown. When I saw it, I immediately thought I should write a weblog entry about this stubborn tree that had cracked open the side of a mountain.
But then that reading at church coalesced in my mind with the tree in the rock, because I realized that although maybe the birds carried off the seeds scattered on the footpath, they might have missed one or two. And something alive will try to keep going; I can only imagine that applies to the word of God even moreso.
At times in my life, I’ve identified with all the places Jesus scattered seeds: the footpath, the rocky ground, the thickets, and the fertile soil. My thought is that grace can land home in our hearts no matter what, no matter how hardened our hearts have become (and all of us get hard inside sometimes.) And given time, a growing thing will grow and keep pushing until it’s thriving, and the hard thing splits, and life has a chance there again.
It’s redemption in the most basic of forms: life and love hanging on because that’s what life does; that’s what love does, even when the world seems bare and unable to sustain us.