July 16

 

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

 

Gardening is a challenge, a never-ending battle against pests and diseases, weather conditions, weeds, soil fertility, scrub turkeys, bandicoots and other invading animals. Maybe that’s why the Bible likes the image of God as the gardener with humanity being the garden. God’s great challenge is to get a humanity that is flourishing with all the qualities that he desires. Getting the desired crop off this garden, however, is a huge challenge. As Jesus specifically indicated in the parable of Matthew 13:1-9: the message about God’s reign meets hard and stony hearts, or it withers under the hot sun of criticism, or it gets crowded out by preoccupations with money, pleasure, success and influence.  However sometimes the gospel does fall on receptive soil and it then produces the desired results – lives filled with love, loyalty, praise and thanksgiving, obedience and faithfulness to God as revealed in Jesus and with love, respect, compassion, acceptance of other people as lived out by Jesus. And in a world where the gospel message has many competitors we might well take on board another saying of Jesus, “You will know them by their fruits.” The fruits of the Spirit are, as Paul said, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Belonging to the right church or religion is irrelevant, as we see in Matthew 21:43, the kingdom of God is given to those who produce the fruits of the kingdom, not to those who claim to belong to the right group. The way to bearing good fruit is to be rooted firmly in Christ: “Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit.”(John 15:5) But those who do not produce good fruit are a waste of time. No room for them in God’s realm of goodness and peace. God’s humanity garden is not a neat and tidy place, but thanks be to God, there are the flowers that bloom and the fruits that are produced.

 

  • If humanity is God’s garden, you might like to think about what plant best represents you? Flower, fruit or vegetable?
  • What does it mean to be rooted in Christ Jesus?
  • What does the parable of the Sower say to you about the church’s witness in the world?
  • What can you do to make the soil of your life a more fertile place for the word of God to grow in?