Thursday, July 10, 2014

Good Soil

Late on Tuesday afternoon,  I  walked over to the large apartment complex adjacent to our church grounds, along with the other pastor, the children's ministry coordinator, a new mission developer.  It was a beautiful afternoon.  There was a pool, and some children were playing.  A few people sat at picnic tables in a grassy area.  We came bearing balloons to blow up, as well as flyers inviting people to our Wednesday program for children, new this year.

Some people expressed reservations about our plan.  This large apartment complex is known for being a volatile place sometimes.  Some people are afraid to go there.  It is also home to some of our new immigrants, from many places.

The others had all been over to the apartment complex the week before; I asked if I could go along this week.  Just going out in the neighborhood, talking to people -- it's something I believe I is important, but I'll confess, it scares an introvert like me.  I haven't done it since I headed up an inner city summer program, back in seminary.  It was time to face the fears and go out again.  After all, we had the balloons and the flyers.

There were not that many people out and about this week, the others told me.  At least, not compared to the week before.  We had a short conversation with a woman who did not speak much English.  She was just getting ready to go into the pool area, and she asked us where she could find ESL programs.    We told he we would look into it and gave her a flyer.

We had brief conversations with a couple of men sitting at picnic tables, and gave them flyers.  Then the children's ministry coordinator and I went over to a picnic table with an older woman and two young children.  We struck up a conversation with the two children, Arthur and Maria, who were about five and six years old, and were adamant that they were not related.  Just friends, they said.  We told them about our program and gave them flyers.  The children's ministry coordinator blew up a couple of balloons for them, one green and one blue.  They asked us some questions and played with the balloons.  One of them popped, and we blew up another one.

The older woman did not speak any English.  She was a grandma to one of the children.  We got her name and gave her a flyer too.

On the way back to the church, we talked to one other woman, blew up balloons for her children, and invited them to our Wednesday program.  She asked if we knew any good day care centers near us.  We said we would look into it for her.

On Wednesday morning, I studied the Sunday gospel readings with a few other pastors.  It is summer, so there were only a handful of us, not the impressive crowds that meet sometimes in the weeks before Easter.  But we got together and read Matthew 13:1-9, the parable about the sower and the seeds.  We even read the interpretation, even though the interpretation made some of us grumble.

We like the parable, most of us thought, but we don't like the interpretation.  It takes all the mystery out of it.  And it doesn't sound like Jesus.  We like the parable, with the crazy farmer, and the crazy yields.  Mostly.

But then there's all of the places the seeds fell, the rocky soil, the path, among the weeds, and the good soil.  Some of us said, "what's so bad about seeds getting eaten by birds?  Birds need to eat too?"  Others thought the rocky soil got a bad rap; there are hardy plants that grow in rocky soil, after all.  Not according to this parable, though.


So there are places that the seed, for some reason or another, does not take root and grow.  And there are descriptions about why that might be the case.  But it occurs to me that the good soil only qualifies for one reason, really:  something grows there.  We only know the soil is good because of the yield.


Picnic church
On Wednesday afternoon at about 4:00 p.m., a car drove into the church parking lot.  It was Arthur and Maria, with Arthur's mom.  She had the flyer in her hand.  Arthur was concerned about possibly getting another balloon.  I had to tell her that the children were already gone.  I told them they could come back for "Picnic Church" if they wanted to eat hot dogs and hamburgers right over on the church lawn.  Arthur said he would like to see what the inside of the church looked like.

So I took them inside and showed them the entry and the sanctuary.  Arthur asked about the bell, and I let him try to ring it once.  He asked about Jesus.  "Did't he die?" he asked.  "Yes, but he rose again," I answered.

His mom said that Arthur used to go to church with a friend of his.  She usually works on weekends.  She does nails.  "Like this?"  I pointed to my pink toenails.

I invited them to come back for supper, once again, and said I hoped to see them again sometime at the apartments.

And I meant it.  I hope I see them again, when I am out with my flyers and balloons.  I hope I see them again, when I am out scattering seeds all over the place, like a crazy farmer.

It all looks like good soil to me.

1 comment:

Bill said...

I think you're right about the interpretation. No one who's ever sown seeds expects 100% germination. It's perfectly natural and expected that much of the seed won't germinate, or if it does that the plants won't flourish.

But we scatter seeds anyway.

Here's to crazy farmers. :)