Parable of the Sower: A Sower Goes Out To Sow
A sower goes out to sow. Apparently agricultural techniques have changed a little over 2,000 years. In Jesus’ day and region, lightweight plows pulled by ox or ass were skillfully navigated through the earth.
As the soil was broken, another farmer went behind with a hoe breaking up the clods of earth. Then the sower went sowing.
No harrowing followed the indiscriminate casting of seeds. Appar- ently the Israelites did not adopt the irrigation methods of Egypt and Mesopotamia but became so skillful at learning how to grow through rainy and dry seasons that they became very successful in growing fruit, melons, figs, dates, grapes and olives.
Last Tuesday I took a motorcycle trip up to Collingwood to visit my son, David. My son is the lead maintenance person for a corporate apple farm. Now, allow for a moment a father’s pride to swell. As I was leaving the hotel the next morning, I know it will be hard for you to imagine, but I got into a discussion with the person at the desk. She noticed my hel- met and made a passing comment about just up for the ride. I said I had come to visit my son. “Oh,” she said, obviously being a local, “where does you son work?” I told her and she said, “My husband does some work up there from time to time.” Then she looked at my last name.
She said, “Is your son’s name David.” When I affirmed that she said, “No way. Your son is like a legend up there. He’s like the MacGyver of the farming community. Give him a pocket knife and he can fix anything.” It probably took me to Stayner on my bike before I could do up my jacket over my swelled chest.
Okay, now back to our regularly scheduled programming. *****
At dinner the night before, I was amazed at how much David had learned about horticulture. This farm he works at actually consists of five farms each growing its own brand of apples. They have planted lit- erally millions of trees. I asked him about how they monitor the water- ing of all these trees. Apparently, each tree has it own drip line. Now get this. The orchards are covered with sensor equipment which relays soil conditions back to a central monitoring system. If a certain area needs water or fertilizing, fertilizer is added to the water and sent out auto- matically from the pumping station.
Oh, … and this is not all. Before they plant an orchard they bring in what are called ‘air experts’. These experts discern the air flow in the orchard and design the landscape such that when there is a cold air
mass coming in, it flows to a low spot in the orchard where it is then sealed off by barriers to lessen the threat of frost. The travelling cold air apparently drags behind it warmer air which is circulated through the orchard with fans. And in Jesus’ day a farmer threw the seeds about and said, “Good luck!”
Seed planting in the church has become just as advanced in the last 2,000 years. In my office is a whole shelf supporting books like:
Growing Spiritual Redwoods, Replanting the Church, Autopsy of a Deceased Church,
I Hear a Seed Growing, How your Church Works, and Never Call Them Jerks
(oh, sorry, that one’s for ministers experiencing burnout.) Anyway, the fact remains that we have analyzed, scrutinized, discerned, critiqued, written books and held conferences until we are blue in the face about the place the church finds itself in today. We have used all the modern tools of an enlightened age trying to get yields of 30, 60 or even 100 fold. How’s that going for us?
Jesus says, “let those who have ears let them hear.” One might notice that Jesus spoke these words to the disciples in the boat with him, not to the learned standing safely on shore because they have never been in a boat in their lives. Jesus was not interested in getting into a debate around the word of God, or defending it, being apologetic for it, or entering into theological reflection around it. Jesus wanted the seed not to land on the rocky ground of the head but in the good soil of the heart. He wanted people to hear spiritually. Spiritual listening is re- lated to the concept of deep – deep listening, of absorption.
If the Word of God is to grow, if it is to lead to grace, compassion and love, then it must emerge from the soil of the soul. These are more than just ideas, words. These are living entities that grow, that reach for the light of God, while still rooted in the soil of God’s creation.
To hear spiritually is to invite growth within yourself so that we might grow as Jesus did in this world, participating in the manifestation of God’s Kingdom here on earth. But often we are seeds that might sprout up quickly full of hope and expectation, and Jesus reminds us that there will come times when the rain does not fall and the sun burns down upon us and so that all the seed we try and sow does not all grow-
maybe only 30% will take root, maybe 60% and, if you get lucky, 100%. We know this well in our church.
Over and over again we sow the seeds of God’s word, weekly. Over and over again we create sacred spaces for worship and
Over and over again we welcome and then say good-bye. Over and over again we present our offerings of stewardship,
and wonder in the age of white noise multimedia Are any seeds really taking hold? Anyone really hearing? *****
I will share with you one more parental story. Not one of mine but of a colleague. She named her son Sig. Don’t go there. I don’t know why either. At the time, the latest parental fad was teaching your infant sign language so your child can communicate with you before they have the ability to speak. Wanting to give her son all of the advantages of life so that later on Harvard might come knocking on her door, she proceeded at meal time to teach him sign language. Two weeks, nothing. A month, nothing. So she stopped. She would seek other avenues for his entrance into the Ivy leagues.
Then, three months later Sig simply made a sign saying he wanted more food. She said she almost dropped the bowl. But even in light of this, she didn’t go digging out her sign language books to teach him more. However, it did reinforce to her that when it comes to life, even when it comes to ministry, our efforts, our sowing, will more often than not have delayed effects. Plants do no grow and blossom in a day.
Sometimes, as we get old, this wisdom is hard to accept because the limitations of time mean you might never see the fruits of your la- bour.
Sig has apparently just finished high school. No one from Harvard is standing on his doorstep at least not yet. But that’s okay, my col- league says, because this summer, while she takes holidays, she gets to spend a whole month with him, trusting that with ears to hear and eyes to see she might catch a glimpse of something she has done, a seed that was planted, will reveal itself into what has made him the man he is to- day.
On father’s day, Tracey, my son’s partner of 10 years, texted me and said, “Thank you for being the kind of father who raised such a thoughtful, loving, compassionate, man as your son.” A seed I was glad I
lived long enough to see.
The older I get and the more I understand, the more I allow myself
to settle into the grace, love and mercy of God around which the world moves. God’s story needs to be told over and over again regardless of where the seeds fall. Our persistence, our extravagance of throwing these seeds everywhere, shall not have empty returns. They will accom- plish the things God wishes them to accomplish. They will succeed in the things God has designed for them.
After all, the teachings of Jesus continue to provoke us to belief and action thousands of years later.