“As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.””
(Matthew 13:23 ESV)
This parable is about the word of the sower, a word so beautiful and healing that you want to bury it deep, you need to get it away from trampling feet and choking thorns and thistles, you need to get it buried beyond the rocky soil, deeper than the questions we ask about ourselves in dark nights of the soul, when the fires of racial tension, when people are running for their lives, when people are reaching for guns, when people are one hair-trigger away from tragedy. We are so frail. The word of God must be planted deep. Not just because it is sentimental and important, not just because you don’t want to lose it, wilted to sun or choked away or snatched up. No, it must be planted deep because my God when it takes root it’s a game-changer. An absolute game-changer.
John Lewis, the Civil Rights champion, famously said that when we pray our feet move - religious devotion shapes us for religious action. Right faith makes for right living. Fruitfulness, the result of the deep-rooted Word of God, is not just an issue for Christians but it's an issue for skeptics, not just personal ethics but civic faith. The world around us rightly wants to see if there's anything to our gospel. They want to see if there are deeds attached to words. So fruitfulness is a global concern, because on the list of things the world needs, Christians pursuing the work of Jesus is number one.
What exactly is the “word?” It is God’s promise to fix a broken world. It is the promise that you are God’s son, you are God’s daughter. The word is that God himself takes your sin upon his shoulders and you can trust him to forgive and to restore. The word is that right now, at this moment, there is nothing at all shaky or tenuous about your future for those who have placed their faith in Jesus, no matter how shaky and tenuous the streets may be, no matter how loud the voices of violence. The Word of God stubbornly says that darkness may be the next to last word, but it isn’t the final word.
Do you think that word might matter today? Do you think in a culture where tragedy is meted out by hair-trigger, where our story of race and injustice and law and order is so complicated that we cannot trust each other on the basis of the color of our skin, do you think that word might do some good? Do you think it might be healthy for our world to know that there is a God who loves you to death, who was hated because he loves you, because he loves your skin, because he loves your soul, the things of your deeper soil. A God who hated the violence so much that he exhausted violence on the Cross so that he could deal a mortal blow to that terrible enemy. A God whose word is this: that earth has no sorrow heaven cannot heal. And heaven is coming.
In the world of accomplishing difficult things there are Teslas and there are Marconis, one of them invented radio though you’ll get a real disagreement if you look it up. Tesla was the genius, Marconi was irrepressible. Tesla had the brains, but Marconi had the heart. We are Marconi; we don’t know just yet how we are going to become the church that heals our little corner of the world. But every week we have our eyes on the prize, that we might be able to become that which we were always meant to be, an orchard in a barren land, one tree among many many others. Every week we do the hard work of praying together and hearing the word together, laughing and crying together, finding deeper soil in which to plant the word because this is one thing I know - a world of starving people need food to eat, and we have the food. A world of frightened people need a strong place to seek shelter and we’ve got the strongest. May we feed the world, may we heal it.