Proper 10 – Ordinary/Lectionary 15 – Pentecost + 6
16 July 2017
Psalm 119:105-112 pg 875
Divine Sower, you scatter your seed generously: may we be rich soil and receive your gift so freely given, so that we may revel in love’s abundant, reckless growth; through Jesus Christ, the grain of life. Amen.
Looking at the gospel, for today, and realizing that we’ve heard this parable many, many times before, and perhaps we need to see it from the perspective of the seed, rather than the perspective of the soil.
The passage begins, today: “13 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake. 2 Such large crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat in it, while all the people stood on the shore.3 Then he told them many things in parables.” (Mt 13:1-3a)
So, we can see that there are a great many people all yearning to hear what Jesus has to say for their lives, for their faith, for their belief in God. There is the full spectrum present, today. There are some who are truly going under in their need for God in their lives, and at the other end of the spectrum, others want to see how they can commodify God to better sell to those who cannot tell the difference.
So, Jesus talks of the sowing of seeds.
Now, we’re familiar with the parable of the sower and the seed sown. Many of you could probably tell it to me better than I can to you. It’s one of those stories we hear every summer, that we acknowledge is a great parable, that we puzzle out how to understand this for our own life.
We often look at this and wonder what kind of soil we are, in our lives. Yet, today, looking at Jesus parable from a different perspective, why don’t we see what kind of seeds we are, instead.
We know that the aim of the parable is to be the ground, and the seeds that yield “a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (Mt 13:8b)
In fact, we want to be those seeds that fall on good soil. We want to be the ones that inspire others to grow up, from our planting, to be the best that they can be in and for their lives as well.
And we see this in the seeds themselves. We all, as seeds, have the same potential. We are all able to, with the best of conditions to produce discernable results from what is planted.
But the parable tells us, today, that this doesn’t always happen.
The gospel tells us “As [the farmer] was scattering the seed, some fell along the path… 5 Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. … Other seed fell among thorns.”
And this is a farmer who is scattering the seed. You’d think that if he wanted just the good yield, he’d focus on sowing only where the is good soil.
Yet, here we see that the seed has also landed on the path, on the rocky places, and amongst the thorns.
Looking at the life of the church, we know that when a new pastor walks through the door, as much as we’d really like our numbers to increase to what is described as an ideal yield. We’d really like to see these same adjustments made to our parish demographics and our reach within the communities that we live in and that we’ve made our homes.
Yet, the soil may be a challenge to that perception, to that growth, to that spread of the word of God in and for our lives, and the lives of those around us.
So, if we are the seed, then how do we do amongst paths, stones, and thorny places?
As much as we all want to be surrounded by the good soil as much as we want to be planted there and grow with spectacular results, we often find some challenges in our way. At the same time, the seed all sprouts, albeit with differing results.
Jesus tells us: “A farmer went out to sow his seed. 4 As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up.” (Mt 13:3b-4)
Well, we’re all familiar with living our lives, living the examples of our faith and nothing is shown for it, in the end.
Does this mean we didn’t succeed? I’d like to think that we did, in some way. Although the seed isn’t able to dig its little seed shells into the tough ground of the path, to put down roots, and to grow into plants that may or may not have had the opportunity to sprout up and make the pathway more beautiful, still we see something happening with these seeds.
What we see is that birds came along and ate them up. Is the seed dead? Does it make no difference to the world around it because it’s been eaten by a bird?
Once again, we can see great potential in that seed, in that situation. It’s been proven that seeds ingested by wildlife have travelled many miles, and have had the opportunity to spring up and grow in environments that even the farmer in today’s parable can’t imagine as he casts his seed in every direction.
So, while nourishing the birds, we see that these seeds aren’t at an end, and that their eventual ending may be something that is so unexpected that we cannot imagine its magnificence.
We grow rosemary, here. It’s a great herb for cooking, for its aroma. In Canada, this herb is lucky to grow about 18”-2’ in height. In Peru, however, the same herb, in the different circumstances and different climate can grow to be 5-6’ in height.
We are the seed. Christ is the sower.
“5 Some [seeds] fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. 6 But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.” (Mt 13:5-6)
So, we cast ourselves, our seeds out into the world, and we see that they find rocky soil. We see that they fall into the crevasses and into the cracks of the rocks, and, this is like our lives as Christians.
It’s so much like the advice we want to share with others because we can see where they’re headed in their lives, and we wish to impart wisdom that we’ve gained in our lives, in our walks with God, with Jesus that will make someone else’s journey easier.
My mother tells me that the most difficult thing she does, in life, is not give me advice. I know that we have to make our own mistakes, we have to spread our own wings and to feel the air lift us and guide us, and carry us, sometimes, far from where we’ve begun our lives.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean that the seed has no effect on their lives. Perhaps it lies dormant until there is enough dust, soil, lichen around to make a difference.
There are evergreens, cedars, and other such trees that are known to make their homes in crevasses, in the soil created from their fallen needles, from soil that has blown in on the breeze, that has been carried on the winter snows. Some of these trees look like they’re clinging to nothing, yet they’ve been clinging there for many years, growing, and blossoming by the grace of God.
We are the seed. Christ is the sower.
“7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants.” (Mt 13:7)
I think thorns is possibly the most difficult image with which to work. Yet, our seed has fallen amongst thistles. It has the challenge of dealing with these difficult, stubborn, and thorny plants that wish only to thrive, as does our seed. It has the challenge for our lives to help us to see the world around us.
How often do we strive to grow only to have other influences crop up, cut us off from the growth we desire and at the same time, strive to influence our lives in ways that only thorns can do?
Yet not all thorn plants are detrimental. On Vancouver Island, blackberry bushes grow wild across the island, and their fruit grows as large as grapes. Likewise, gooseberries, and raspberries equally grow on thorny plants. In these cases, the fruit is sweet, and often a little tart, yet at the same time so fragile that we cannot believe it comes from a plant with thorns. I knew a parish, there, who would make jam from the blackberries and offer it as a welcome gift to visitors to the parish.
We are the seed. Christ is the sower.
This week, as I wrote, the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun” played in the background; and like most romantic comedies, we discover that it’s only when we take our attention off of ourselves, off of our circumstances, off of our problems that we find the solutions, that we find the happiness, the fulfillment, the solutions we are seeking.
We have been sown, thrown from the hand of the sower to land on any number of different surfaces.
Are we going to look at our lives, at our growth, at our influence in the actions of creation all around us only from the perspective of the farmer? Will we look only from the perspective of the one who is looking for yields of “a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown’? (Mt 13:8b)
An old Asian philosophy encourages us, as a meditative exercise, to look for the perfect cherry blossom. To look for the most perfect of blossoms amongst an entire tree in bloom. Some tell us that the later blossoms are the most precious. Some tell us that the early blossoms are the most beautiful.
At the same time, no matter where that seed falls, the blossom will follow. It may take time, it may look differently than we’ve ever imagined, yet, we will yield the fruit of the gospel when we allow the gospel to grow in our lives, our hearts, our actions and our words.
So many people come to Jesus to hear his parables, to find that seed for their lives, for their hearts, and still he knows that the true yield of seed will be different in each of our hearts.
This doesn’t mean that it won’t be a good thing, rather it is something that changes our lives forever, if we allow that seed to land, to grow, to change us as it changes our lives, all because a sower cast that seed in our direction.
We are our soil, at the same time, we are also the seed. We each contain God’s perfect seed in our lives, in our hearts, in our words and in our deeds. What is our seed? What is our fruit? How will we spread our branches and be all that God has envisioned for our lives? as Jesus says: “9 Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (Mt 13:9)