Wednesday, July 6, 2011

What...or, rather, this all about?

Our lectionary texts this week are Genesis 25:19-34, Romans 8:1-11, and Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23, which can be read as always here.

As I will be traveling to a writing conference in Minnesota on Sunday, our good friend Stephen Price will be sharing with us in worship at Broadneck this week, and he has a very interesting batch of scriptures to work with! It's a week I'm sad to be gone, both because I am eager to hear Stephen's insights into these passages and because the Parable of the Sower has long been one of the teachings of Jesus that fascinates me most.

Here's what fascinates me about it: so often in this parable, we focus on the different types of soil--rocky, thorny, shallow, dry, gravel. I have no idea how many times in my life I have heard the question posed, "Which kind of soil are you?" with the central point of the parable being to find ourselves in it. I've also spent a great deal of time thinking about and listening to sermons that focus on the seeds in this parable and their harvest--"Are you bearing fruit? Is the word of God growing in you?"

These are all valid questions--and the seed and the soil are crucial to the parable. But I have become convicted that the most important verse in the parable (if we can call one verse more important--maybe, I should say rather, the key to the parable?) might be one of its shortest, and one that mentions neither seed nor soil: perhaps it is verse 18, where Jesus says, "Hear then the parable of the sower" (emphasis added). Though Jesus nowhere here goes into great detail about the sower in the way he did with the soil and the seeds, it is the sower he wants his hearers to pay attention to, to focus in on in this story.

So this is the question that confronts me every time I sit with this parable: what kind of Sower is this? What kind of crazy farmer throws seeds on rocks, weeds, thorns, and paths, wasting time planting in regions that are obviously not ripe for growth? This is obviously not the brightest Sower on the farm...why be so wasteful? Why so nondiscriminatory in sowing in places seeds have little chance to grow? Is what we're reading here a parable of immense grace--is this a picture of God along the line of the parable of the Prodigal Son, another example of the extravagance and almost recklessness of God's love?

What kind of Sower is this? What--or rather, who--is this parable really talking about?

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