Service on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/seeyouonsunday/videos/1607298913137187
Parables can be hard. Sometimes we read and interpret them like they have only one meaning, only one way of understanding or thinking about it. They are more like a prism, that every way you turn it, the light shines through differently. Or like a room you enter, the longer you spend time in the room you begin to see more details, patterns, flaws. It stops just being a purple wall and you realize it’s two different colors, three years later.
Parables are meant to be stories accessing the knowledge and the world around those who are hearing it. There are some who wonder if the reason our gospel writer explains this Parable to everyone in the writing is because he was writing for an urban community about rural living.
My grandparents on my mother’s side were farmers in Iowa. And my dad’s mom would talk about growing and pulling potatoes in the up. I, despite my best efforts, have kept both this cactus alive, and the aloe plant at home.
Our first story is the sower, the one who works on someone else’s land to plant the crops that will be harvested later. He had what was to plant in a way that some portion would go back to the landowner and he could keep some to eat for his own family.
This person, the sower, is clearly terrible at his job. If he was good at his job, he would have worked the soil and put the seeds in the exact place they needed to be so they would grow properly and then, he would care for them.
Instead, what he does is throw the seeds them everywhere anywhere carelessly, as if he has unlimited seeds to spread around on the ground instead of just the ones he saved from the year before.
And what happens is exactly what you would expect if you just threw seeds in any random place, 3/4 of them fail; landing on environments that are inhospitable to growth.
Our second sower plants the seeds and then lets them be, having he has no concept of how they grow, of what happens next. He hasn’t seen to know what happens about the Earth nourishing the seed or the seed putting down roots and sprouting and reaching for the Sun. But the sower knows when it’s time to harvest. The sower is an integral part of this system in which the sun and the rain and the soil and the seed all have a role to play. They all need each other and they need the sower and everything works together.
Sometimes when we read this parable we judge the soil. We see ourselves as the soil and wonder why we’re not growing. Or we see someone else as the soil and assume they’re shallow soil. But the soil has no autonomy over itself. The path is there for a reason. we wouldn’t tear it up just to plant seeds there. What we consider weeds might be there and be useful for medicine, for teas, for ground coverage to prevent erosion. Not every spot is suitable for farming. And perhaps we ought not judge the soil for that.
But I wonder if maybe instead of seeing ourselves as the soil we ought to think of ourselves as the sower. What if we are the farmers and the planters what if we are the carriers and the bearers of the seeds.
And it’s confusing because in a very practical sense, the sower, at the beginning of the story, is very bad at his job. And yet, he is held up as the exemplar. It’s in his frivolous and non-discriminating tossing of seeds in which the harvest is 30 or 60 or 100 times more. A good harvest in those days one seed would give you 4 to 10 times fruit or stocks of wheat for each successful seed. And extremely good harvest might give you as much as 15 to 1 of growth from seed. So 30 times 60 times 100 times is unheard of it is abundance in a way that doesn’t actually exist. And his indiscriminate tossing of seeds the harvest was far beyond what anyone could have expected.
Our interpretation from Jesus or the author tells us the seeds are the word. At the time it would be the Torah. At the time not everyone was going to be a teacher of the Torah. It was only the best of the best that would get to through all the memorization and all of the interpretations to study to understand to ask the right questions and to be able to teach it to the next generation. The leaders, the teachers of the Torah would not want to waste their time trying to teach those who were never going to get it in the first place. The Torah was sacred; it wasn’t for those who couldn’t hold it in the same reverence they did. I’m not judging them. There is much in the Christian tradition that are similar; there are centuries of church history in which scripture wasn’t given to the people. There are many for whom communion is held back until confirmation, just in case because they might not understand it before then.
The seed that is the word that is the Torah. We would call it the gospel; the Gospel of John tells us the word became flesh and lived among us; so the word is also Jesus and Jesus came to the world to teach us how to live and to love in it so the word is also love.
So perhaps Jesus is saying that the word, the gospel, the love is sacred in a different way. Not in a way that we have to handle it with so much care that it is withheld from some, not in a way we have to live as if there’s not enough to go around, not as if it only will work if it we have carefully thought through every step, as if we can only do it if we know it will grow properly. Perhaps Jesus is saying we don’t have to be so careful, with the word, with the gospel, with the love; that it is not a finite resource like a seed but it is abundant and infinite.
And I think it speaks for how we live, and how we love, and how we participate in acts of kindness and generosity in the world, of how we share, why this story of Jesus is important. And it’s about how this community together offers love and kindness and support. And how to live into this being a place to be fully human and fully in community; to be loved and accepted, wholly as each person is. It’s about trying and sharing love and reaching out and being present.
And you know what? 3/4 of the time it may not work. Maybe it’ll be planting a seed of love and we will never know how it grows. Maybe you’ll never see the weed that grows up in the path or the tree that grows out the side of a cliff or the bird that drops the seed miles away. Maybe that seed will grow into something amazing, something you didn’t expect. Maybe it’ll grow into the largest and most amazing shrub. Maybe what you thought was just for a spice or for pretty, becomes a safe place and a home for something else. Maybe it grows beyond what you could have expected.
Friends, these can be uncertain times and they can be scary times. As individuals and as a community we can wait and make all of our plans for what is the right thing to do until we know what the outcome is going to be or we know it’s going to work. Friends, we will never know how the future will turn out.
Or we could do nothing and hold on to our seeds, hold onto the word, horde the love for fear that one day they will run out. But the tighter we cling, the more it will slip away.
You and me we’re only on this Earth for a short time, so it doesn’t matter if we fail, it matters if we love. If we try. If we learn and try and love again.
Whether it is a mission we try and support in large ways or small, whether it is a community outreach we put some effort into, whether it is learning and growing together that we try, whether it is art or music or a new song, whether it is a gift of a meal to the community of fellowship, whether it is learning how else we can use our space or our gifts our voices, even if we fail 3/4 of the time, which we ought to assume we will, wherever there is community, connection, grace, forgiveness, wherever there is love, it is not in vain. There is more than enough love.