A Lenten meditation on Matt. 13:1-9, 18-23 & Ps. 37:3-4, 51:17
Horticulture is the scientific way to describe the nature of vegetable/fruit/flower gardening. I don’t think the basic concept of gardening/farming has changed much even thoughhydroponics and aquaponics are alternatives for planting and growing vegetation without using soil. Gardening, in principle, involves: seeds, dirt, water, and sunlight. Combining these variables will produce something tangible, even if only a plant. Of these four elements, seeds and dirt are the most vital ingredients for horticulture to move beyond scientific theory and into present reality.
Seeds need broken soil to grow to their full potential of the plant. Within horticulture, humans control the nature of the soil to produce the plant. In the wilderness, animals and weather orchestrate this element. For instance, humans control primary elements within a greenhouse to create optimal vegetation performance. Equally, we can modify and develop seeds to enhance the overall production of other vegetation. In the wilderness, squirrels will cultivate the ground to store their harvest, but the act in and of itself will potentially produce a plant. Either way, the soil must have a degree of brokenness for the seed to have a chance of growing into something. In due time, seeds, dirt, water, and sunlight will culminate into a plant.
In my daily Lenten reading from Psalm 37, the parable of the sower in Matthew 13 came to mind. While in recent years I’ve returned to Psalm 37, only in the last couple of weeks I have connected this Psalm with this parable. The essence of Psalm 37 is patient perseverance and faithful cultivation of life with the Lord and neighbour, resulting in the Lord giving us the desires of our hearts. The essence of Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23, the parable of the sower, is that God’s Word is best sown in a broken heart.
In Psalm 37:3, I think there are three essential commands: trust in the Lord, dwell in the land, and feed on God’s faithfulness. These three commands imply a sense of abiding in God’s presence. Life with God requires Lordship over its entirety, and that’s difficult, simply because we have a measurable quality of self-dependency. We want to control the outcomes of our lives. Yet, as a follower of Jesus, this relationship calls for self-denial and commands us to love our neighbour, and this life will inevitably bring pain. Our propensity to sin is challenged and even encouraged by living in a broken and fallen world that needs saving from our destruction. Psalm 37:3 invites us to consider the simple life, despite the challenges that will arise.
In my experience, living the simple Psalm 37 life is tough. This verse (Ps. 37:3) invites us to abide, slow down, and enjoy the Lord. But reality calls us to impatiently pursue other lands of interest to find peaceful bliss. The irony is that peaceful bliss – a life saved from our propensity and persistency to sin – is a life with Jesus, the world’s saviour and sinner’s friend. Somewhere in the middle of trusting Jesus, dwelling in the land, and feeding on his faithfulness, my impatience leads me to consider other sources of life. Much to my detriment, pain is usually the fruit of my curiosity, and much pain can break the heart into many pieces.
Here lies a connection to the parable of the sower in Matthew 13. A broken heart is like broken ground: the best place to sow seeds.
In the parable of the sower, Jesus says there are four types of landing places for this extravagant sower. First, the seeds fall out of the knapsack on the ground where the birds quickly devour them. Jesus likens this ground to one who hears God’s word [of the kingdom] yet does not understand it, and the wicked one snatches the word away.
Second, the seeds fall on stony ground, to which Jesus says is the person who hears God’s word with joy, yet due to lack of self-depth, tribulation, and/or persecutions, the seeds have no way of planting and rooting. It’s like hearing a sermon with great joy but instantly forgetting the message by the time you’re going home.
Third, Jesus says some seeds fall among thorns in which the quickly sprouted seeds are choked. Jesus compares the thorns as worldly cares, deceitfulness, and/or richness, which stifles the potential of God’s word in a person’s heart.
Finally, the seeds fall on good ground, which produces a bountiful crop.
Good and fertile ground is broken ground that allows the seed to germinate and root in a tomb with a promise of life. Broken ground allows rain and nutrients to nourish the vulnerable seed, much like Psalm 126:5 says: ‘Those who sow in tears will reap with songs/shouts of joy.’
Our hearts are broken because of impatience. We sin – that is,we trust in alternative sources of peace instead of Jesus – because our hearts’ desires are misaligned with the fields we’re called to plough and tend. I believe the Lord has been telling me, especially in this Lenten season, that my hearts’ desires come from my heart desiring Jesus.
Psalm 51:17 says that a broken spirit and a contrite heart are the sacrifices God will not despise. Jesus knows all too well the pain accompanying broken spirits and broken hearts. For this Holy Week is a reminder of that sentiment. Jesus knew His people would praise him one day and pursue him with vengeance the next. Jesus knew Judas would betray and that Peter would deny. Jesus knew the pain that awaited him with the crucifixion and humiliation.
Yet, when he died of a broken heart for the world he created and loved (and still loves), his mangled body and dripping blood – the very Word that spoke the world into existence – would be the seed planted in the tomb.
In case you don’t know, that tomb was carved and dug out from stone. That tomb was truly broken for Jesus’ broken and bleeding body to burst forth in victory over sin and death on Easter for our broken hearts. Jesus is what I [want to only] desire, but I know that’s not true.
Thank the Lord he’s patient with this broken heart.
Give the Lord your broken heart. Trust in him – knowing that he loves you. Dwell in the land – seeing that he cares for you. Feed on his faithfulness – counting the blessings of his provision for life for you.
And give him your broken heart. It’s really the best soil for a bountiful harvest.