Some seed fell into rich soil and produced its crop. (Matthew 13:8)
Jesus often uses illustrations from nature in his teaching. We call them ‘parables’ because they draw a comparison, or a parallel from life itself.
In fact, Jesus seems to prefer parables to what we would think of as more direct teaching. We do occasionally read of him explaining his words, but most of the time he expects his listeners to work out the meaning for themselves: Listen, anyone who has ears! He shouts at the crowd - almost as if to say “Isn’t it obvious?”.
Of course, we are likely to say that Jesus draws his parables from nature because that is what his hearers were familiar with. They had seen the sower sow. They had watched the wheat grow with the tares. They had spied the shepherd search for the lost sheep.
But there is more to this teaching. Jesus does not teach from nature simply because he and his listeners lived in an agricultural society. Nature provides more than a convenient example. Nature itself bears the imprint of God, its creator - and salvation is not just our salvation, but the completion of all of God’s wonderful work.
And so the glory of nature is a reflection, a glimpse, of the eternal glory of heaven. As the psalms make so clear: The hills are girded with joy, the valleys sing God’s praise. As St Paul says, the whole creation is waiting - groaning - for its salvation.
The parables are much more than an example, they are a window into the greatness of God. We are his seed, nurtured by the living water which he gives us. We grow surrounded by thorns and threats and dangers, scorched by ridicule or complacency, choked by a society which understands little and lives even less of the faith we foster and struggle to spread.
But he who created the seed, and the soil, and the sower is also the One who keeps us safe, and leads us to salvation.