September 15, 2014
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from Mark 4:3–9.
“Hear this! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Other seed fell on rocky ground where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep. And when the sun rose, it was scorched and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it and it produced no grain. And some seed fell on rich soil and produced fruit. It came up and grew and yielded thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” He added, “Whoever has ears to hear ought to hear.”
This parable was apparently very important to the gospel writers. Mark, Matthew and Luke all include it and present it as the first of their collections of parables. They also give it more space that they do to most of the other parables.
I usually think of this parable in terms of me, the receiver of God’s word. Richard Rohr’s meditation this morning reminds me, ” Life is not about you; you are about life.” He goes on, ” All I have to do is participate! My holiness is first of all and really only God’s, and that’s why it is certain and secure—and always holy. It is a participation, a mutual indwelling, not an achievement or performance on my part.” My life is not about me. How can that be?! I have a really hard time accepting that God’s spirit dwells within me and all I have to do is put my ego aside and let Him use me as He will. It’s not about my trying to do anything on my own.
So, the New Jerome Biblical Commentary causes me to think about his parable differently, “The parable illustrates God’s lavish offer of the kingdom.” I am programmed, it seems, to want to earn God’s abundant gifts by good behavior, by prayer, by positive thoughts. Automatically, that means that I am comparing myself to others and judging them. Am I a better disciple? Am I envious of another’s seeming holiness or spiritual peacefulness? But this parable is not about God’s gifts to me or others. It’s about His lavish offer of the kingdom that I can participate in regardless of the response of others. He is equally generous to us all. Will I allow His seed to germinate within me, to grow and flourish, to produce an abundance that all can share in? It’s not about me; it’s about participating with Him in His plan to bring about the kingdom on earth. As Episcopal priest Robert Farrar Capon in The Parables of the Kingdom writes, “The whole purpose of the coming of the Word into the world is to produce people in whom the power of the kingdom is to bear fruit.”
Capon explains, “True enough, and fittingly enough, the most obvious point in the whole parable is that the fullest enjoyment of the fruitfulness of the Word is available only to those who interfere with it least….However much we might be tempted to drag human contributions into our interpretation of the parable, therefore, the story as told rests squarely on the sole agency of both the seed and the Word.” For the purpose of bearing fruit — producing the kingdom of God.
Capon goes on, “The idea of the catholicity of the kingdom — the insistence that it is at work everywhere, always, and for all, rather than in some places, at some times, and for some people — is an integral part of Jesus’ teaching from start to finish.” Capon also writes that how the seed takes root and grows is a mystery, “His entire work proceeds as does the work of a seed: it takes place in a mystery, in secret — in a way that, as Luther said, can neither be known nor felt, but only believed, trusted.” For me, it always comes back to trust. Do I really trust that God is always with me and in me? Do I trust that He loves me as if I am the only one to love? Do I trust Him enough to give up my insecurities and fears?
I am heartened by Capon’s statement, “Nobody, in other words — not the devil, not the world, not the flesh, not even ourselves — can take us away from the Love that will not let us go.” God will not let me go no matter what! Every time I am reminded of that I am astonished. I simply need to abide in God’s love and not be an obstacle to letting His seed, HIs word, produce a hundredfold. As Capon says, “He wills us whole and happy, you see; and the parable of the Sower says he will unfailingly have us so, if only we don’t get in the way.” Amen.