Monday, June 4, 2012

Weeds, Flowers, and Other Plants

Years ago, way back in the 1970s, there was a song popular on Christian radio, which I actually listened to in those days, about weeds.  I cannot remember the singer but I remember most of the words of the song.  The refrain said, "Weeds, we are born weeds, full of sinful nature and strife, weeds, just ugly weeds, planted in the garden of life."  The idea behind the song is that all humans are like weeds, not too pretty to look at, and not really worth growing, but we are planted in this life so we have to keep living and growing and maybe we can be transformed into a "pretty flower" someday.  "You can be a flower, if you let the Lord be yours, and you won't be a weed anymore."

Jesus told a parable about seeds and how they are planted here and there.  The method of planting seeds in the ancient world was by broadcast planting, where the one planting simply threw a handful of seeds and the seed would land here and there with the hopes that some seed would grow a good and useful plant.  Some seeds fell on the path--not a good place as they became lunch for hungry birds.  Some seeds fell on rocky ground, again not a good place because due to the lack of the proper amount of soil they would grow fast and wither fast, scorched by the hot Mediterranean sun.  Some seeds fell among thorns that choked them to death.  Finally, some fell on good soil with just the right growing conditions and those seeds brought about a harvest of abundance.

Jesus' listeners would have been very familiar with what he was describing.  Most of them had done broadcast planting because that was the method of planting common to them.  They had known all of those conditions that had stopped their plants from growing.  Now and then, however, everything worked out okay and they reaped a bumper crop of what they wanted to grow, enough to supply them and their neighbors with grain or vegetables.

Jesus used this illustration to explain why life works the way it does.  Why do some people respond to God's love so quickly and grow up into a lively, strong plant?  Why do some people turn away from God's Word and fail to connect, lacking the roots needed to understand and grow?  Why do some people simply reject God and the love God has shown to them, wanting to live without God at all in their lives, withering and dying spiritually?

Parables were used to describe the Kingdom of God by Jesus.  The parable of the sower is one of the few that Jesus actually interpreted for his listeners.  Jesus said that the different types of soil represent the different kinds of people and the seed is the word of God that is planted in their lives.  People allow the cares of life or the desire for wealth or power to get in the way and they do not internalize God's Word when they hear it.  Some people hear the Word but lose track of it when things happen to them that they cannot understand and they "fall away."  Some hear the word and understand it and their lives bear much fruit.  This is Jesus' own interpretation of the parable.

I love to try to grow plants.  You understand the word "try" because sometimes despite my best efforts, the plants either never materialize or they grow and seem to be doing well and then suddenly take a nose dive.  Maybe I did not enrich the soil before I planted them.  Maybe I gave them too little or too much water.  Maybe I did not consider that our hot Texas climate is not the proper one for plants such as them and they died quickly.  The plants represented promise and hope, that they would bring about something good that I would enjoy.  The planter did not know what was best for them at times and their fate came about due to my ignorance.  Regardless of my best intentions, the end result is not always fruitful.

Jesus' lesson in the parable has to do with life and faith and understanding.  We may plant and someone else may water but it is God who brings about the final result.  In our own lives also, we do our best to live good lives but sometimes we must trust God to bring about the best for our lives and for the lives of others we love.  Life is complex at times but simple trust in God helps us to know that God will guide us as we live so that our lives will be fruitful and abundant for God's Kingdom.  

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