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Pentecost 6: July 15/16 Matthew 13.1-9 and Isaiah 55.10-13
Most members of St. Paul’s know that I am a serious gardener, that I grew up on a farm and took a serious part in the planting, nurturing and harvesting of the many crops on our farm as I grew up, so this parable is one that fits me. It fit the people of Galilee where Jesus told it. Galilee is one farm build upon the next one, with no space left wasted. And if anything has changed since the time of Jesus, it is only in the amount of the waters of the Jordan that Israel diverts into Galilee to grow more crops than in the time of Jesus. It is green from one corner to the other. But for all the new diversity of crops and greenery, it still begins this way,
“A farmer went out to plant. He scattered seed on the diverse soils on his farm.”
Now it would be wonderful if every farmer owned land that was all “good soil,” because that would make his living easier, and this parable end with a more bountiful harvest. But Jesus picked a typical farmer from the average village, many of which still exist in Israel today, especially the Palestinian Christian farmers who have mostly been pushed off better lands on to poor lands across the years of the occupation. So as he planted,
“some seeds fell along the path, and the birds devoured them.”
Now the farmer never intended to waste seed on the path (it could also be trampled by human walkers, not just gobbled up by the birds) but he is just a human planter, and when he casts the seed, not all of it goes only on the good ground. He lacks the precision of our modern day machines.
Let me stop there, ignoring the parable’s interpretation which Matthew includes in just a few verses after he ends Jesus’ parable – you can read it on your own - instead let me pose for you the more obvious point to this parable – that the sower is like our most merciful Father, Who offers entrance into His Kingdom to everyone. So generous is He, that He casts the seeds of grace and mercy everywhere, even where they are less likely to sprout and grow, in hope that they might just sprout and grow. In His casting of seed, our sower shows us what God is like, what the Kingdom of God is like, and in very short order, shows us what we, who have answered God’s call, when the seed sprouted and grew within us, what we too are called to be like – a generous and merciful people, who seek even the possibility that the hard hearted people along the path might turn and change and come into the Kingdom of the all merciful Father. That is the first and most important point of this parable.
As a farmer/gardener, I have never been as merciful as my Father God is. I have been known to put up nets to keep the birds away. People all over St. Paul’s know about the fences I have built to keep the deer and and the rabbits away from my lush green things. I will not share my growing green cabbage with the slugs that want to demolish them. In so many ways I do not garden like our heavenly Father. So my garden is not a good example of the Kingdom of God, and my tactics are more earthy and sinful than they are heavenly and Christ-like. For our Father scatters seed everywhere, that is the chief point of this little parable, now I have said it twice – no matter what the interpretation that was probably added 50 years later by St. Matthew, says otherwise.
To be sure, there is an Evil One Who is at work around all of the steps of faith of those who follow towards the harvest. And without doubt there are troubles which crop up that tempt us to doubt the promises of our Master and doubt the kindness with which He has blessed and nurtured us. And there are those around us who choose other ways and by their choosing, tempt us to choose their ways as better, almost like Satan in the Garden tempted Eve. Through all the days of our earthly pilgrimage we walk by humble trust in the simple and strong mercies of our Father, and live by tasting His mercy day after day. There is danger around us, but the One we serve is greater than every danger.
Remember the crowd that chased Jesus into the wilderness because they had heard his words, and they stayed long to hear more of His words? Remember that it was getting late and the disciples wanted Jesus to send them away so they could buy food for themselves in the nearest villages? At that point Jesus told the disciples, “You give them something to eat!!” To which they replied that they had almost no money, the nearest shop was a long way, and all their money wouldn’t buy enough for everyone to have even a bite. The disciples -that is the Church present with Jesus in the wilderness, did not want to accept the mission, “You give them something to eat.” They could not imagine the wide open generosity that is always the way of the Father.
You know how the story turned out. A little boy gave up his lunch – a couple of little loaves of bread and a few fish, and with that gift, Jesus commanded the disciples to seat the people, and He blessed the bread as the Son of the Father. Everyone ate their fill. And though that was most clearly a miracle, it remains so much a miracle too, that our Father blesses these seeds, which look and seem as dead as rocks, and from them He gives us crops in abundance with which we can feed crowd upon crowd, replicating our Father’s mercies. But it really does begin with,
A Farmer went out to plant. He scattered seed on the diverse soils of His farm.
You and I have been raised up in mercy as children of this Father by the growth of the Father’s miraculous seed. Pray for the planters, pray for those who water, and pray for a bountiful harvest. For the Father yearns that all would come into His harvest. And share in the banquet which He has prepared for all the nations.
“God Notices the Hungry” by Pastor W. Lehrer
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