Ashes 11: Harvest...

Bad soil bears bad fruit...

Mark 4:1-20 1 Again he began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 "Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold." 9 And he said, "Let anyone with ears to hear listen!"

10 When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, "To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; 12 in order that 'they may indeed look, but not perceive, and may indeed listen, but not understand; so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.'"

13 And he said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 These are the ones on the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. 16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. 17 But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. 18 And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing. 20 And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold."

...Good soil yields plenty

One of the major components of CPE, Clinical Pastoral Education (the type of internship I'm in right now) is the development of self-awareness. When providing care for people, spiritual and emotional care in particular, one must be aware of oneself in order to best tend to the needs of the other. When I encounter a patient with major depression, I have to be cognizant of my emotional state in the moment so that I can care for my patient's needs without being overwhelmed by my own. When I hear of another person's experience of abuse, I cannot assume that they felt what I felt, that they endured what I endured. Before I can help them tend to their soil, I have to know what shape mine is in first.

This is another one of those parables that seems to find its way into the lectionary in some form nearly every cycle. Most of have heard it. Many of us know it by heart. Some seeds get eaten by the birds. Some get scorched by their having fallen on rocky ground. Some get choked by the thorns and weeds around them. Some fall on good soil and bear good fruit. Yet in every case, the Sower keeps throwing the seeds in hopes that they will fall on good soil and the harvest will be abundant.

“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” — Gloria Steinem

I would imagine that we each fall into one of these categories. Rather than explicitly assume that the seeds are the "Word of God," let's operate under the idea that the seeds are the Truths we hear — that we need to hear — about ourselves. We're beautiful. We're intelligent. We're caring or compassionate. We're stubborn. We're unyielding. We're manipulative. For as many lies as we have thrown at us on a daily basis, there is also Truth. But in order to truly hear that truth and have it take root, we have to tend to our own soil. We have to be self-aware and in a constant state of nurture and growth.

Having good soil and tending to it mindfully also means being aware of what's being thrown onto it and recognizing its source. There are those around us who love us and who are invested in seeing us grow and experience abundance. There are also those who, having not nurtured themselves, have the capacity to toss out bad seeds — false truths — probably truths they have come to believe personally, truths that have caused them pain and suffering. In order to be healthy, we must develop the skill of telling the good truth from the bad, the nurturing from the infectious. When we do this, we grow into the kinds of people who know how to love more deeply, to accept others openly, and who can look in the mirror and see ourselves for who we truly are: people who are loved, valuable, and worthy.

Tend to your soil. Take care of yourself. Discover who you are, and learn to thrive in that truth. This is my hope for you.