This Sunday we had another opportunity to revisit a familiar story to see if there is anything there for us to find. I have spoken frequently about how helpful it can be to revisit what we already know, what what we “know” but what we actually have knowledge of. Needless to say it is helpful to dispense with knowledge that has scare quotes around it but this is different.
The parable of the sower is familiar to almost everyone who has spent any time in the church. It is a striking story for at least a couple of reasons. First, it is very visual. Even someone who is as visually challenged as me can see the sower out there somewhere casting the seeds; see where the different seeds land; look into the future to see some choked by weeds and some flourishing. Second, it is one of the times Jesus explains exactly what he means in his story.*
I grew up with this story being a story about evangelism. This was Jesus explaining how when people are introduced to God they either accept him or they don’t. Full stop. To the younger version of me it seemed like a quarter of people who heard about Jesus would actually become Christians and the rest were doomed, I won’t go so far as to say the church I grew up in was big on doom but I won’t not say it either. The story made me worried and uncomfortable so I did my best not to think about it at all. As I grew older, attended Bible college and seminary I didn’t think of the story much at all. As I began to be a preaching person it seemed a settled story that I might not like particularly but was addressed to people outside of the community of faith so there was virtually no point in preaching about it. This time was different.
The turning point for me was to actually consider the only actor in the story, the sower. I’m not a farmer, I’m not even a gardener, but I know farmers and my mother was a devoted gardener as is my mother-in-law. It was when I thought of the sower as a person, someone interested in growing things, that it struck me that I don’t know any farmers or gardeners who sow or plant a field or a garden once. They put in a crop this year and next year they put in a crop and they year after and so on. So, I thought, what if the sower as God sows more than once too? Who is that directed to? Is it simply another opportunity for people to hear and respond to God’s call? I’m sure that is true but I’m also sure that this parable covers much more than that.
All of us who have been in a relationship with God through Jesus empowered by the Holy Spirit for some time have something in our past that we needed to hear more than once to figure out. Maybe even many times. So, what if the parable is also for me? What if this parable teaches that God sows every year, every season, like every other farmer and gardener? It means that I don’t have to learn everything I need to learn the first time I hear it, which is pretty good news for me.
Knox Presbyterian Sowing and planting (to download, right click and select “Save Link As . . .”)
St. Mark’s Presbyterian Sowing and planting (to download, right click and select “Save Link As . . .”)
*I have had people in all seriousness suggest that the interpretation makes this something other than a parable, not sure I’m on board with that, nor do I think it matters but there you are.