Today, and for the next two weeks – we will be reading from Chapter 13 of St. Matthew’s Gospel. In this chapter Jesus tells seven parables – or stories -- about the kingdom of heaven. . .
Next week we will hear how the kingdom of heaven is like weeds an enemy sows in their neighbor’s wheat field.
The week after that we hear how the Kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field or like a merchant’s search for fine pearls.
If the crowds gathering to hear Jesus have come expecting academic lectures on the kingdom– then they are disappointed for what they get are more like dreams or poems –
in which images of God’s kingdom are given to them – as familiar as crops in their own fields and pearls in a market place. And Jesus is saying these very ordinary things have something to tell us about God’s purpose for us. . .
So today – it is the parable of the sower --- that is what we call it right? “A sower goes out to sow.”
If this is the parable of the SOWER – why do we always seem to have the same response ---- we start to worry about what kind of ground we are on with God.
We start worrying about how many birds are in our field, how many rocks, how many thorns.
We almost immediately and consistently turn it into a parable about how we can clean the messes of our lives up – how we can turn ourselves into the well-tilled, well-weeded, well-fertilized field for the sowing of God’s word.
We start worrying about how the odds are three to one against us – those are the odds in the parable after all --- and we begin to think about how we can beat the odds, or at least improve on them – by cleaning up our act. . .
Isn’t that our usual response to this parable? We hear it as a challenge to be different, as a call to improve our lives, so that if the same parable were ever told about us – it would have a happier ending – with all the seeds falling on rich, fertile soil.
But today, I want to suggest there is something wrong with that reading of the parable. . . because if improving the soil of our lives is what this parable is all about – then it should be called the parable of the different kinds of ground. . .
Instead, it has been known for centuries as the parable of the SOWER – which means there is a chance, just a chance, that we have got it all backwards.
We hear the story and think it is a story about us – but what if we were wrong? What if it is not about us at all ---- but about the sower? What if it is not about our own successes and failures and birds and rocks and thorns --- but about the extravagance of a sower who does not seem to be fazed by such mundane concerns as rocks and birds --- who flings seed everywhere – wastes it with holy abandon – who feeds the birds – whistles at the rocks – picks his way through the thorns (maybe looking for a few blackberries along the way) – who shouts hallelujah at the good soil and just keeps on sowing – confident that there is enough seed to go around, that there is plenty --- and that when the harvest comes at last – the grain will fill every barn in the neighborhood to the rafters????
If this really is the parable of the SOWER and NOT the parable of the different kinds of soil --- then it begins to sound quite different.
The focus is not on us and our shortfalls and our rocky and thorny hearts --- but on the generosity of GOD – the prolific sower who does not obsess about the conditions of our fields – who is not stingy with the seed --- but who casts it everywhere, on good soil and bad --- who is not cautious or judgmental or even very practical ---- but who seems willing to keep reaching into the seed bag for all eternity –
covering all of creation with the fertile seed of God’s word – the values of the kingdom – like the dewfall, falling on the good and bad alike. . .
Being the cautious, thrifty people we are --- we certainly wouldn’t do it that way of course.
If we were in charge, we would devise a more efficient operation: a neater, cleaner, and certainly a more productive one that did not waste seed on birds and rocks and thorns – but concentrated only on the good soil and what we could make it do.
But if this is the parable of the SOWER, then Jesus seems to be suggesting that there is another way to go about things, a way that is less concerned with productivity and plenitude:
The kingdom of God is like a sower who went out to sow. . . God’s way – which must become our way --- is to throw the seeds of truth, kindness, forgiveness, compassion, understanding, acceptance, encouragement, and joy as lavishly and recklessly as we can – out of a sense of abundance, not scarcity – with the hope – the deep, profound, faith-filled hope of the kingdom – that some of the Gospel and its values -- will take root in the people and situations of our lives --- in order to make the kingdom of God present – that is, to make the world a better place because of us – we sowers of God’s word – who have passed through these times and places. . .
A sower went out to sow. . .
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