A basic assumption of faith – my faith – is that there is ONE TRUTH! Spun through all of reality – despite how difficult and broken we are with all our failures and foibles – is this in-Christ-truth – reflecting something sacred and holy, and infinitely bigger than Christendom or any other human construct! One Truth! One Love! I believe that this one truth is in us as well as over us as well as all around us. This isn’t some PANTHEISM that I’m referring to – God in everything – as PANENTHEISM, which literally means how we believe everything is in God! …where shall I go to be away from your presence? (Ps.139)
And so, as we come to today’s reading, please know that I’m making that most basic assumption, assuming we agree on the awesome blessing of that most ultimate reality! In our reading today Jesus reveals something of our role in manifesting that reality. He did so by using a metaphor very familiar to his hearers – we can imagine him wanting to make his point and so, seeing a farmer working his field seeding a field, that’s where he goes…
Typically, the sower is understood as God. The Gospel is understood as the seed with us as the various types of earth on which that seed lands. The seed is always good. It’s the quality of the soil where it falls that decides its productivity. The rocky earth describes us as we remain hard and unreceptive to the enlivening effects of the Gospel’s loving purposes – like those Pharisees: while there was the possibility of such beauty in them, they had only an outside chance of ever realizing it as they’d become so utterly unreceptive, virtually incapable of knowing it. The weed-choked soil describes us as we allow our lives to become so filled with distraction that any meaningful growth of Gospel is throttled – like those crowds gathered with their many & various self-serving agendas. The good soil – soft, open, receptive soil… like those Disciples, represents us at our best.
This traditional way of interpreting the parable naturally urges us to question our own responsiveness to a fresh appreciation of Gospel truth ;…just how impressionable are we?
…how curious? How open to challenge and growth, fresh insight? …to what extent are we available actually to being impacted…?
That’s essentially how Matthew describes Jesus explaining this parable to us. But I do wonder if there are other, perhaps less obvious – but as valid – ways of applying this to our lives? Remember, this is a parable which means that just as we think we’ve got all of it, so there’s almost always something more – other ways of embracing its truth!
The seed is us?
While that seed being sown is understood as Christ’s gospel truth, …what if the sower is meant to be understood not as God so much as us?, and with those various earth types describing people with all their different levels of receptivity…?
An interpretation like that would urge us to examine not just our own spiritual identity, but also our efficacy in directly/indirectly/perhaps even unintentionally sowing into the lives of those around us.
Are we the earth?
A third, similar yet alternative, interpretation may still see God as the sower and our complicated contexts as the earth in which seed is being sown, but with us as the seed which God is sowing! Is it possible that as we are ‘in Christ’, so we become increasingly sensitized to & aligned with God’s plan and purposes in the world – and so useful for God to use in order to seed whatever God would have grow? Isn’t that just so deeply intriguing?
Practice or faith?
John Burton invited me this week to be part of an online gathering, where the speakers [i] were stressing how the early church moved in the first centuries from the practical, pragmatic, practice-base with which they began to a belief basis of existence. It used to be all about what we as Christ followers were and did! Later, probably sometime around the Council of Nicaea [ii], it seemed to shift, becoming much more about what we said we believed. It was once much more important that the church be the church, be present in the world, while doing certain Christ-centered things, as opposed just to be about making the correct doctrinal belief-statements. It seems that we are now increasingly returning to a pre-belief, practice-basis of existence. Covid-19 hasn’t caused that move – it’s been coming, they say, for some 60 or more years – but it is certainly exacerbating it!
A belief-base church community – the thing we’ve become so used to being – focuses on trying to convince others regarding the truth that we believe we know and that they don’t!
In fact, it’s not only necessary in a community like that to have exactly the same belief in order to be together, it’s essential. Unless you believe exactly what I do – you’re out! Or else I’m out!
A practice-base community focuses primarily on its Christian practice as opposed trying to force our beliefs on others so much as on simply being with others – PRESENT – right there where we know God already is! It learns how to show up, be present, listen, BE there…
People are far less interested in what we believe as in who and what our beliefs say we are and lead us to do! Put another way: The world needs less to know what we believe, and more to feel the difference of what our beliefs demonstrate!
As so much flung seed, we are simply to be Christ’s blessing wherever we may land. We do that by being alongside others, regardless of how rocky or weedy or fertile they are. Our job is to be hearing and caring with all the love, justice, compassion & mercy we’ve been given in Christ to share! How we actually do that, I think, is for us as the church to work out in every age in which we may find ourselves!
In the webinar I mentioned earlier they spoke about the need for us simply to become better listeners, to look for opportunities to eat and drink together, to become Christ’s Eucharistic presence, a ‘thankful for God’s-gifts-where-we-are’ presence – I like that.
Remember, I began by emphasizing how my opening assumption is faith that there truly is one wholly and holy truth within which all of creation exists. I believe that THAT ‘truth’ is supremely revealed in Jesus Christ, so much more than any institutional or doctrinal construct. It’s for us to come to know that truth and then for our lives to witness to it as we earn the right to be alongside others…
Where does this parable of the Sower, the Seed and the Soil leave you? To what extent are you the SOWER? How aware are you of your role as conduit, a channel, a distributer of God’s goodness & grace? To what extent do you identify with those VARIOUS SOIL TYPES? How stubbornly unreceptive/ closed off/ impervious are you, or how openly receptive to fresh insight, allowing new growth from within your spirituality? Or is it as the FLUNG SEED – Christ longing to use you simply to BE the difference he intends you to be in others’ lives wherever you may land
How aware are you of the influence your life is having there where you are? What is that influence? Is it what you want it to be?
Dear God, thank you for believing in us – taking us seriously, even when we don’t!
Thank you for the gift of Christ – and for how you use us as your sowers sowing the seeds of Christ’s presence. Thank you for understanding our various abilities – like each of those soil types – to respond to what you are constantly promising & doing in our lives. Thank you for the Gospel-Truth of your unfailing love – your justice and compassion and mercy – and for how you choose to use even us as your Gospel seed, agents of your grace in a world that SO needs to know you…
Help us to be more faithful as your church O God,
…more effective sowers of your Gospel
…more effective as receivers of your Truth
…more faithful as the seed that you would use
to grow your kingdom on earth as in heaven
May it be so, in Jesus’ Name
Rev. Robin Jacobson reserves all rights © 2020.
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[i] The webinar was an initiative of Mission Commons with presentations by both Alan Roxburgh and David Fitch