Ms. Good Soil

Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 – The 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time – for Sunday, July 13, 2014

“Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty…” (Matthew 13:8)

20110724Hear one of Jesus’ parables!

Is it for me?

Just for you. Are you listening?

I’m listening. (Mostly.)

A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

*      *      *

Early in seminary, I learned that Biblical scholars had long disagreed, and continued to disagree, about which parables were Jesus’ “real” words. It was possible the writer of a Gospel, not Jesus, created a particular story. It was possible some familiar stories, already shared and known in the first-century world, were incorporated into the Gospels. In either case, the maybe-not-by-Jesus stories were tweaked to bolster the message of Jesus’ ministry. Think of it as pre-modern copying and pasting. Or harmless proto-plagiarism.

If you take the Bible literally, you’ve probably already shaken your fist at me and left the room. (Hey, Larry, you dolt, if a Gospel said this is what Jesus said, then that is that.)

The so-called “parable of the sower” is one of those debated texts. What if Jesus didn’t say it? What if an author in one of the early Christian communities (likely the fellow who penned Mark) composed a new story or revised an old story to challenge lukewarm followers who didn’t embrace Jesus’ message?

Jesus, of course, represented the sower, desiring to plant God’s abundant seeds of love, hope, charity, mercy, forgiveness, and eternal life into everyone. But, alas, the “special seeds” spread before Mr. Worn Down, Dr. Rocky Ground and Rev. Choking Thorn never had a chance to sprout and grow. Holy nurturing met human arrogance or laziness.

Only seeds with Ms. Good Soil flourished. In other words, some got it, but many didn’t. And so there were . . .

Outsiders. Insiders.

Fakers. Believers.

Losers. Winners.

Them. Us.

You. Me.*

*      *      *

Hear one of Jesus’ parables!

Is it for me?

Just for you. Are you listening?

*      *      *

Since I often feel more similar to Worn Down, Rocky Ground and Choking Thorn than Good Soil, I enthusiastically agree with my murky seminary memories about this parable not!-not!-not! originating from Jesus. He was inclusive, right? He was compassionate for all, right? He was a lover, not a judger, right? The figure-of-speech seeds scattered across the lousy landscape was a spiteful story told by small-minded hypocrites, right? The writers of Matthew, Mark, and Luke (who all used a version of this parable) twisted Jesus’ message!

In Monty Python’s uneven and (wonderfully) irreverent The Life of Brian, the filmmakers mocked how we misinterpret and muddle Jesus’ message. For example, take Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount.” In the film there was something completely different from what Jesus proclaimed and what the distant crowd heard. As Jesus spoke, way, way, way in the back, a voice asked: What did Jesus just say?

I think it was, “Blessed are the cheesemakers.”

Aha, what’s so special about the cheesemakers?

Well, obviously it’s not meant to be taken literally; it refers to any manufacturers of dairy products.

Cheesemakers! Peacemakers!

I laugh. I cry. I loudly rationalize Jesus never spoke words as harsh and divisive as the “parable of the sower.” But does it matter who first told the story? Does it matter who tweaked or twisted it? Does it matter if it’s literal or metaphoric?

Who among us isn’t like Mr. Worn Down, Dr. Rocky Ground and Rev. Choking Thorns? And yet I am also, I believe, like Ms. Good Soil.

The seeds of faith are still being released, still being boldly cast in my path. Will I shut my ears and expectations and only recall the places where I have failed? However the parable came to us, the parable continues to be told for us and through us.

The sower continues working. The seeds continue to be spread.

Am I listening?

 

*Or do you think that’s the other way around?

(Image of sower from here; quotes from “Monty Python” from here.)

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4 Comments

  1. Larry, I love that scene from Monty Python – it’s so funny. Thanks too for the wisdom of these words – “However the parable came to us, the parable continues to be told for us and through us.” Food for thought. All blessings, Marc

    1. And blessings to you, Marc!

      While the entire “Life of Brian” disappointed me the first time I saw it (especially compared to MP’s “Holy Grail”), I enjoy–am reverently offended by!–many of its parts. No matter how many times I see it, I roll my eyes (in a complimentary way) at happy-are-the-cheesemakers!

  2. I have always thought that the parable was more about God’s gracious wide extravagant love that insists on sowing the seed everywhere even and especially in places we would never EVER think to do it. But not God! God spreads God’s love and grace everywhere. Thank God!

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