Sower or Seed?

Good soil

Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 97; 145, Leviticus 25:35-55, Colossians 1:9-14, Matthew 13:1-16


In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus tells the story of a man who spread seeds on the ground. Some fell on the path, and the birds ate it. Some fell on rocky ground and sprouted, but withered in the heat and blew away with the wind because its roots had nowhere to cling. Some fell among thorns which choked it out. Some fell on good soil and yielded an abundant harvest. The seed is the message of Christ, and the different circumstances represent how well his message is received. Where do you see yourself in this parable?

Are you the earth? If that is the role you identify with, what are you doing (or have you done) to prepare yourself for the message? What are you doing to ensure the message can take root in you and produce abundance? We are each responsible for preparing the soil of our hearts.

Are you the seed? If so, do you feel like you have any control over where you land? When you find yourself in an environment which is inhospitable for your growth, can you go somewhere more suitable? Jesus follows up the parable with an explanation of what circumstances each type of soil represents, so we would do well to avoid them.

Are you the sower? If you are, why do you think you are so indiscriminate  – careless even – about where you sow your seeds? Why aren’t you concentrating on only the best soil so that the harvest is maximized? The sower is not unconcerned with the results (otherwise why sow at all?), but he does not feel responsible for the fate of every handful he scatters.

The beauty of parables is that they really can be all things to all people. At different stages of our lives – maybe even different hours of the day – we could be earth, seed, or sower. Who is to say we might not even be one of the birds snatching the seed up before it takes root? Let us prepare our hearts well, place ourselves wisely, and share the Word with wild, faithful abandon.

Comfort: Wherever you are in life, Christ has a word for you.

Challenge: Resolve to “bloom where you are planted.”

Prayer: Loving God, you spread seeds of faith throughout the world. May they take firm root in us, that we may in turn share spread that faith to others. Amen.

Discussion: With what element(s) of today’s parable do you most identify? What does it feel like to place yourself in the different roles?

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Whether to Wither

vinebranches

Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 99; 147:1-11, Exodus 15:22-16:10, 1 Peter 2:1-10, John 15:1-11


A friend who is a lifelong gardener once said she was amused when people found peace in parables about sowing, tending and harvesting. Gardening, she said, is brutal. One is continually ripping living things from the ground to make room for other, more desirable living things. Foundering plants are removed to prevent the spread of rot and disease. As in today’s parable about the vine and branches, a gardener prunes away unproductive branches so they don’t drain resources from or contribute to the demise of healthy ones.

Sometimes parables like the vine are used to paint a picture of a God who’s waiting to damn us. It’s not difficult to take a story with actual burning in it as proof God is eagerly stoking the fires of hell for us right now. Preaching and teaching which use this fear of punishment to motivate us produce obedience that more resembles a hostage situation than worship. When Jesus says unfruitful branches will be trimmed and thrown into the fire, is he being a ruthless gardener and threatening us with eternal suffering?

Not quite. The difference between us and a withered branch on a grapevine is that we have a choice in whether we wither. Jesus knows the world is a hard place, a wild place overgrown with corruption and danger. He is not resigning us to the inferno, but extending an offer to shelter in his love, where our spirits can grow fruitful. Without the love of God, we are subject to everything that tries to choke out and nibble away at our spirits. Christ’s message about unhealthy branches is more lifeline than threat. He concludes by saying: “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”

God’s hope for us – and therefore Christ’s hope for us – is that we will know and flourish in his love. He wants us to know the natural consequences of ignoring or rejecting that love is a withering of the soul. Christ does not threaten us with death. He invites us to life.

Comfort: Christ provides nurturing shelter in a world overgrown with disorder.

Challenge: If you are a gardener, allow a small section of your garden to grow untended. If you are not a gardener, cultivate a small bed of flowers or herbs. What do you think you will learn?

Prayer: God of Life, thank you for tending my soul. I will seek shelter in your love. Amen.

Discussion: Do you relate to the images of a vine and branches? Why or why not?

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