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Becoming Good Soil by Tupper Garden

“Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundred fold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone who has ears, hear.” – Matthew 13: 8-9

I have a confession to make. These days, just now, really excite me. No, my anniversary was in June. Easter and Christmas are months away. My vacation is past. I am so excited, giddy even, because my tomatoes are finally “coming in.”  For a couple of months now I can exult in real tomatoes, freed from the curse of the store bought cardboard facsimiles that masquerade as my favorite food. My little garden patch has been watched, watered, fertilized, weeded, loved, lo these many weeks. I have obsessed over it.  And now, the tomatoes have arrived. Halleluiah! Bacon lettuce and tomato sandwiches; Fresh tomatoes and basil; Sliced, quartered, cubed, and sauced. As the old song goes,  “There’s only two things that money can’t buy; that’s true love and home grown tomatoes!”

I have a thing about gardens. I love to watch them grow. What a mystery it is to watch the miracle of growth and fruiting. One never knows if all the effort will be worth while, so many things can happen to spoil it: disease, insects, hail, too much and not enough rain, weeds that choke and birds and possums that seem to know just when the fruit is almost ripe, the day before I will come to pick it, and they will take it for themselves.

Thankfully only my taste buds are dependent upon my little garden. Harvest is not a matter of life and death for me as it was for the people who listened to Jesus tell his parable about seed and harvest. It is a confusing little parable for me, one I have struggled to understand for a long time … I wonder if I understand it now, if I have the ears to hear what our Lord would have me take deep inside.

But of course, Jesus is not speaking here about growing tomatoes, or even grain. He is talking about the fruit of lives. He is talking about the fruit of the message of the Gospel of God’s love, of forgiveness, of gracious acceptance and a call to new life in the lives of those who hear it. He is talking about the soil of our hearts, of our understanding, of our openness and willingness to embrace the message and grow in it and bear the fruit of it in the world about us.

The soil of our hearts becomes good, rich, deep soil because some of us are inclined that way. It is nurtured in us in a thousand ways, through study, and prayer and service, and principally through the love, encouragement and care of others. But finally, I believe that we choose. Dirt doesn’t choose anything, but we are not dirt! No, we are free moral agents before God.

The seed that is sown is the word of God, the word of God’s grace, love, and power in the world. At every moment-literally, at every moment- you and I choose to be receptive to that word, that loving, quiet, demanding, terrible, calling Presence, that calls us out of our little lives and into him. At any moment, we choose to be, or to become one of those soils of which Jesus spoke.

So it is with all relationships. That is the way God intended, for us to be real and to receive one another as we honestly are. And so it is with Christ. He is showering us every moment with the seeds of his love, in the everydayness of life, in the still voice that speaks a word of discomfort with the way things are, in the hunger for meaning, for God, for love to overtake our selfishness, in the vision of Christ giving himself for us that defies our wildest imagining.

Tupper Garden is the Senior Pastor at Raleigh Court Presbyterian Church. Visit them on the web at


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