Today’s Gospel is one of Jesus’ most famous stories. It is the parable of the Sower. Many of us have heard this passage so many times. The sower sows seeds all over the place and we get to figure out what happened to each bunch of seeds and why. In order to get much out of this parable, we probably ought to take a look at it — even though Jesus ostensibly explained it to the Disciples on the day that He told it.
When you think of someone sowing seeds, what picture do you get in your mind? In today’s America, it would be a huge machine that precisely places in seeds, equidistance apart, each in its separate hole. Or, if you go back a hundred and fifty years or so, you might see someone poking holes in the ground with a tool and placing seeds that way, or dropping seeds carefully into mule-plowed furrows. But what Jesus was talking about was none of that. He was talking about the kind where a guy with a bag full of seeds walks around taking great handfuls of seeds and throwing them everywhere, willy nilly — as if he just didn’t care where they landed. Like the legend of Johnny Appleseed, who supposedly sowed apple seeds everywhere, just hoping that apple trees would grow all over the American countryside. [That’s not how John Chapman really did it, but for us, the legend works.]
So Jesus tells us that the seed is the Word of God. That would lead us to think that Jesus was the sower. Not so fast! Jesus IS the Word of God — as we know Him to be from John’s Gospel (you know, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.) So, if Jesus is the seed in this parable — who is the sower? Who are we in this parable? Or is it an allegory? Either way, we are the soil — or are we the sowers, who sow the seed (the Word of God) around to others? You can see the problem when we begin to dig deeply into Jesus’ parabolic or allegorical telling of this story.
But for today, please set all of that aside for a few minutes. Here is what I would like for you to take from this parable today. God is the sower and God sows abundantly! Forget everything else. God sows abundantly. And not just abundantly, but extravagantly, recklessly, and even improvidently. You see, this parable is not just about the Word of God being given out to everyone, it is about how God loves us in the same way.
Let’s face it, we are all of the different kinds of soil — as Jesus explained the parable. And we are all of them interchangeably. But we are not just those types of soil when it comes to hearing the Word. We are also those different types of soil when God casts the great, overflowing handfuls of love onto us.
Sometimes, when God throws a heaping handful of love on us, we are like the path. Our hearts have been so trampled down and hardened by everything else life has thrown at us, that we forget how to accept love — human or God-given — so the love just runs off of us, like so much excess rain water. If life has been hard enough, if we have suffered enough at the hands of humans, we can not allow the love to enter in. We cannot allow ourselves to be that vulnerable. And we miss the restorative blessing of God’s abundant love.
In other situations, God’s love just pours over us and we are like the rocky ground. The love hits, but it has no way to sink in deeply. We instantly feel the love, but because we are “rocky,” we cannot really trust that it is love that is meant for us. Instead, we believe that we are not “worthy” of the love. We cannot really believe that God could ever love us, in our broken and sinful state. So we figure that there must be a “catch,” that when we reach for the love, God will just snatch it away and laugh at us for thinking it was ours. And we turn away from the love, leaving it behind.
Many times in our lives, we are like the soil with the thorns. God gives us so much more than simply abundant love. Instead, God showers us with torrential love, and it really sinks in. We stop slumping over, head bowed, fear in our hearts when we are present to God. We truly let God’s love into our hearts and we begin to transform into something more closely resembling what God wants us to be. But the world creeps back in. We get busy with work, or kids, or we become disillusioned with our particular house of worship, and we turn our backs on God — no longer accepting the ever-flowing Godly love. Instead, we spend our days worrying about things we cannot change, and being miserable, because nothing in our lives works the way think it should. And we slowly forget the love that started to change our lives.
But, if we will just be open to it ….
We have the capacity to become fertile soil for God’s profligate sowing of love in the world. If we are the fertile soil, we will receive God’s love and dedicate our lives to reflecting — and returning — that love into the world, by following Jesus Christ into the places where there are thorns and rocky ground and hardened paths. When we truly open ourselves to the abundant gift of God’s love, our lives actually change. The good things get better, because we appreciate where they came from and we give hearty thanks. The bad times even get better, because we are secure in our knowledge of God’s love. So we never doubt for minute that, no matter how things turn out, everything will be good, because the one who loves us perfectly will always be right beside us, showing us that love in myriad ways. And when we can accept God’s love deeply — all the way into the marrow of our bones — the that love will multiply 100 fold, so that WE never run out, no matter how much we give out to those with whom we interact. If we allow it, we can actually become almost as prodigal with our sowing of love as is the God who literally IS love.
I recently read a poem that was attributed to someone about whom I could find no information. So if you know anything about the origins of this poem, please share them with me. The poem is by Kashi Rahman, and it goes like this:
Scatter love as you scatter seeds––
Your store stays undiminished.
For love makes love as seeds makes seeds
In a harvest never finished;
Nor look to see how your gift fares––
It is enough to plant it;
Just sow love with a lavish hand
And take (the) harvest for granted.
Today I would like for you to take this thought with you when you leave. No matter who you are, or where you came from; no matter what you have done, or left undone in your life; whether you have always seen yourself as a good person, or your life has been so far off the straight and narrow that you cannot stand to look in the mirror; no matter how much love you have refused to give or receive up to now; God loves YOU — abundantly, extravagantly, recklessly, and even improvidently. God loves you as if you were the only person in the world. God knows everything you have ever done — and loves you, not in spite of those things, but because those things make you, you. God loves you the most, when you are completely unloveable.
So try to start living like that is true. Grow in God’s love. Drink it in. Luxuriate in it. And then get up and go out into the world — trying your absolute best to sow that same love wherever you look — on the path, on the rocks, in the thorns, or in the lush meadow.
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.