6 Pentecost, Proper 10 – July 12, 2020
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
The story line in our gospel today seems simple enough. A sower goes out to sow, and casts seed extravagantly, abundantly, so that they land in four kinds of places, with four different results. The seed that lands on the hard path is eaten up by birds. The seed that lands in rocky soil grows up only to wither. The seed that lands among thorns grows up, but is choked by the thorns. And then some seed ends up in good soil, and brings forth abundant grain.
The story may be simple, but the disciples of Jesus have trouble understanding it, and ask for an explanation. And ever since, the Christian community has struggled with just what this story means.
Jesus, in his explanation compares the hearing of the word of the kingdom of God to how the seeds come to life based on the kind of soil on which they landed. God’s kingdom works in mysterious ways.
You know, we often want God to come in big ways. We want him to come with Fourth of July fireworks. We want God to be obvious, unmistakable, punishing bad people and rewarding or at least rescuing good people (ourselves included). We want God to behave like any comic book superhero. It’s why we love superheros. But the way of God’s working to which Jesus is pointing is different from that.
The sower sows the seed. And do you know what? That seed disappears. It literally goes underground where nobody can see it. To all appearances dead and buried, it sprouts, and becomes what its original size and shape would never suggest.
It’s strange. We want the kingdom to come in a way that’s noisy and noticeable, and what do we get? Jesus talks to us about seed. Then he becomes one. Into the earth he disappears. He’s dead and buried. Then he comes to life unexpectedly as the bumper crop’s first installment.
Whatever happens to a particular seed, it is still good seed. Its operative power remains unimpaired, like those seeds that sprout after spending thousands of years inside an Egyptian tomb. If there’s a problem, it’s not with the seed. The power of life is present there all along.
Jesus remains Jesus through his passion, death, and resurrection. The seed never becomes less than itself. The word is not unspoken. Our salvation is something actual.
The kingdom is hidden, yet everywhere. It is not a possibility, but a reality. It is not something we earn, but something we welcome.
So perhaps the question of the day is – what kind of soil are you? I think we are, at different points in our lives, all of these different types of soil. We can hear God and not understand, we can hear God and then lose sight of God when the going gets tough, we can hear God and then become consumed with worldly things, money, power; and then we can hear God and understand and bear fruit and yield abundantly. So, we might then ask of ourselves:
How can I be more than a hard-beaten path?
What are the stones in my soul that prevent me from having depth?
Where are the weeds in my life that threaten to choke whatever grows?
What kind of soil are you? Sometimes we are rich soil that brings forth bountiful grain. And when this happens, then my attention can move from the soil to the seed.
That seed which sprouts may come to me through the glory of the rising sun or the multitude and silence of the stars. The seed which sprouts may come to me through other people who show through their example of how to live an abundant life. The seed which sprouts may come to me through the community of faith, in scripture and worship. The seed which sprouts comes to me always through the mercy and action of God, but most readily when I open myself to God’s perfect gift in Jesus Christ.
So, this story of the sower – and by extension God – who scatters seed on all kinds of soil means a great deal. It means that God does not hold back. God is not worried about whether there will be enough seed or grace or love. God may want our hearts to be good soil but nevertheless hurls a ridiculous amount of seed even on dry, thorny, or beaten soil. We get the feeling that this God would probably scatter seed – love, mercy, and grace – on a parking lot! Why, because there is enough! And, ultimately, because God believes we are enough. Enough to save ourselves? No. Enough to deserve love, dignity and respect? Absolutely.
God loves us just as we are and so regards us as worthy of being showered with grace. Loving us as we are is not, of course, the same as being content with where we are. In fact, precisely because God loves us, God wants us to discover the abundant life of trust in God and love of and service to our neighbor. Precisely because God loves us, God wants us to stand against the fear and scarcity that drive prejudice, racism, greed, and violence. Precisely because God loves us, God wants us to strive for the equality and dignity of all people. Precisely because God loves us, God wants us to share what we have, generously, so all will have enough food and shelter. Precisely because God loves us, God wants us to grow into the people God knows we can be.
But the fundamental and unifying element in all of God’s hopes for us is that they spring from God’s unconditional, even reckless, love for and acceptance of us right here, right now, just as we are. There is enough. You are enough. God will never give up on us. God’s love is unending. Anyone with ears listen! (the Rev. David Lose from his blog)
God scatters the seeds of love, mercy and grace recklessly and extravagantly. So go forth and “Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the light that is you.” (L.R. Knost)