September 04, 2020


Mark 4:1-20

“Others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life . . . choke the word. . . .”

—  Mark 4:18-19

When we bought our current home, we started a garden in the backyard. We cut some grass out of the lawn, added fertilizer and other nutrients, turned over the soil, and planted seeds. Though we had done some gardening before, this garden performed terribly.

We tried again the next year, but it didn’t do any better. One day a horticulturalist friend came to visit, and he observed, “You have a walnut grove behind your home. I bet nothing grows in your garden.” So we learned a difficult lesson: walnut trees inject a chemical called juglone into the soil, and that kills the growth of many other plants, including vegetables. Determined to keep trying with our garden, though, we eventually discovered that a raised bed high off the ground works well in our yard.

Juglone helps me understand Jesus’ parable of the four soils. Our hearts are like gardens that need tending, but the soil of our hearts can be hardened or filled with thorns, rocks, and even toxins like juglone. We all have toxins in our lives that can prevent spiritual fruit from growing. Wounds from an old conflict or the effects of a bad decision can run deep, and difficult relationships can seem impossible to sort out.

Jesus doesn’t wave a magic wand and clear away all the struggles we have in life. But his grace is enough to help us heal and grow. He says, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Lord, tend the soils of my heart so that I can bear fruit that shares the beauty of your heart. Amen.

About the author — Syd Hielema

Syd Hielema serves the Christian Reformed Church in North America as director of a ministry project called Connections II. He has also served with Faith Formation Ministries, as a professor of theology and youth ministry at Dordt University in Sioux Center, Iowa, and as a chaplain and professor at Redeemer University in Ancaster, Ontario. Syd has been married to Evelyn for 43 years, and they enjoy bird watching near their home in Ancaster.

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