GUEST POST FROM THE REV. MICHAEL MERRIMAN
On Sunday we will read one of Jesus’ more well know parables, the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23). It’s the one in which the farmer casts his seeds willy-nilly, letting them fall on rocky ground, on the footpath, among the weeds, and also some on good soil. So much of the time we preachers make this parable about us. What kind of soil are you? Thorns, rocks, hard concrete, or good soil – and what are you doing to make yourself better soil?
I’ve been led by some thoughts engendered by my own reflections but (reassuringly) confirmed by the reflections of others that this parable is above all about God. It is, after all, God who is represented by the sower who is sowing God’s word to the human race. One of those whose reflections I read this week is Brian Volke, a pediatrician and amateur theologian. I was struck by this:
“It’s said that JBS Haldane, the endlessly witty twentieth century evolutionary geneticist, quasi-mystic, and prophet of the post-human, was once asked what aspect of the Creator might be learned from the study of nature, to which he supposedly replied, “An inordinate fondness for beetles.” Though the story is most likely apocryphal, Haldane – or his publicist – made a rather perceptive theological point for an atheist: if God intended humanity to stand at Creation’s pinnacle, an awful lot of time was wasted on insects.
“But that’s the way of God’s love: love is patient, love wastes time.
“God tosses great handfuls of seed and then waits, as a farmer must for the rains to come, for the seeds to sprout, for the crop to return seed to the sower and bread to the eater. There’s a lot of work in between, those steps: cultivating, manuring, pruning, and keeping away pests who, after all, are hungry, too.”
So God is like a wasteful, even prodigal, farmer who sows his word, his presence, his grace, his love without regard for where it falls.
Good. That lets us off the hook, right. Well maybe not. The first half of Sunday’s reading reproduces Jesus’ parable itself, the second half of the reading is Matthew’s explanation of what he thought it meant, which leads to the question of “What kind of soil are you?” Now Dr. Volke and I have assured you and me that it’s not about us but about God. How might we interpret the parable?
If we put it in the context of Matthew’s Gospel over all, this is still in the portion in which Jesus’ teaching is directed to the role of his disciples (us included) as God’s agents in the world. As “co-seed sowers,” we might say. Where do you and I spread God’s Word, grace, love, forgiveness? Do we look out for some good soil so it will grow quickly? Or do we purposely let it fall in all kinds of places, to all sorts of people?
Is God’s Word, which we have received, only for our well-prepared portion of God’s world? Or is it instead especially for those places in which people live being choked by cares and suffering, where people’s preparation for the Good News is shallow, for people whose hearts have been hardened by doubt and cynicism? What kind of seed sowers are we? And where and to whom do we sow?
-Fr. Michael Merriman