St. Jacob's (Spaders), Trinity; July 9, 2017
Rev. Kirk Shipley, Interim Pastor
Jesus has a number of titles. We probably utilize Lord or Savior the most. Jesus disciples addressed him most often as Rabbi or Teacher. Many people when they think of Jesus' teachings start with the Sermon on the Mount or his parables. I find it interesting that the only person who teaches in parables in the New Testament is Jesus. This morning's Gospel features one of the most popular parables, the parable of the Sower. Probably the only two that are more well known are the parables of the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan. There are a few reasons this parable stands out.
Correctly or incorrectly, anthropologists and biblical historians have seen a hint about farming practices in ancient Palestine. We cannot really be sure. Unlike the ancient Egyptians the Jewish people did not do paintings or right about farming methods. If seed was scattered first and then plowed into the soil, it would stand to reason some seed would fall in essentially un-tillable soil.
More clearly the parable as explained by Jesus is in part about us. The recipients are the soil. In his description of the types of soil the seed encounters we can see Jesus knows people. There are people who are indifferent to God and the Word does not penetrate. There are those who hear with some interest but do not quite get it and either let it go or hang around without seeking clarification and it makes little difference in life or they utilize it wrongly. Our world has had all sorts of nominally Christian organizations who do obviously un-Christ like deeds. Most recently the Ku Klux Klan was in Charlottesville presenting such a case. There are peoples who get all excited and lose interest when it becomes obvious this following Jesus requires a more serious commitment or something more exciting comes along.
In more recent years I have been drawn to the Sower. When in seminary at the teaching parish, Pastor Scott Dunfee shared an observation that the parable of the Prodigal Son should be called the parable of the Crazy Father. Similarly I think this parable could be name the Crazy Sower. It does not sound like a farmer, who would know where the better soil was and a few handfuls would find themselves in shallow, rocky, or weed infested ground, even if he tossed seed on unprepared earth. Wise people are more like George Washington. You have friends see if there is interest in you from the things you have accomplished. If so give them permission to put your name out and see what happens. This indiscriminate sower is not engaged in any kind of sound farming practice.
This indiscriminate Sower presents a good picture of how God operates. The Word is tossed indiscriminately in a multitude of ways, in all kinds settings, to all kinds of people with different receptivity at different times in their lives. The written Word, the Holy Bible is a concentrated example in and of itself. There are narrative accounts, teaching stories, commands, advice, epic poetry and short poetry. The different types speak to certain persons with greater regularity. In college I enjoyed the theological discourses found in the epistles. Then I preferred historical narratives. I've gone from snippets to looking at sections as a whole. It is one reason I often read the verses the lectionary excludes. For many the written Word remains a "Huh?"
Think of the variety of ways God presents the divine in multiple form and media. Here we have visuals in the stained glass and music in Preludes every Sunday.
God's presentation goes well beyond that. God still tosses seed in areas we would rightfully see as rocky soil, with a small chance of being grasped by the human audience. When I was in the Navy I was stationed in Long Beach. Many of the bars regularly had live entertainment, especially on weekends. Some let heavy metal Christian rock bands play in the last few hours before closing. Having a personal bias against that type of music cynically I would think, “What's the point? By midnight most people are in no condition to take in anything anyway." One afternoon a dedicated Christian sailor shared what drew him to Jesus. When he was stationed in Long Beach he initially felt very alone being away from family and friends. On weekend nights he would go to a couple of bars and sit and nurse drinks after most people had left. He began to pay attention to the bands. It was listening to a Christian heavy metal rock band that he first heard about Christ in a way that made him want to know more. It hit me in their way those bands were like the early Salvation Army going into the city red light districts to minister to the tavern rough, prostitutes, and forgotten working poor. They and the band were in the soil that looked quite rocky to most people. While most probably ignored the band, the Word took root like a weed in a hard ground field for that sailor.
There we have Crazy God presenting His grace in with seed scattered almost everywhere for everyone. God is like a child who has to share the cool stuff they have received at Christmas with everyone in their neighborhood. God's neighborhood is all of Creation.
God's incredible openness is such a contrast to much human practice. There is something in some us that love being part of secret groups with special rites that only the initiated know the significance. More people enjoy being on the 'inside' scoop be it trading stocks, military maneuvers, or local gossip. Even more people see the humor when they know the punch line before the joke occurs as when the locals put the stranger on the un-ride able horse.
Not only is God that open but for where the seed takes root in the soil the return is incredible. Fruit is produced 30, 60, even 100 fold. It shows in lives like Joni Mitchell and Dave Dravecky who lost physical function to accidents and cancer respectively. It shows itself in the Roman Catholic and Protestant mothers who said "enough of the violence" in Northern Ireland and helped a generation to tell the IRA and Orangemen "no more." It occurs with people we only get brief glimpses of in the few paragraph stories in the devotionals or the checkout clerk who says have a blessed day.
I should shift from the “Crazy Sower” to the “Amazing Sower.” That is who God is, spreading the Word into all types of human soil, letting a bit catch here and there until we are ready to have it take root and begin the inner crop that becomes the bumper crop of a life grounded in God's grace. Praise God for being such a sower. Amen.