Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
The vegetable garden at Emery House is flourishing as we partner with Nourishing the North Shore. With our land and water, they labor to grow, harvest, and distribute vegetables, mostly to neighbors in need. They carefully prepared the soil, made plans, and planted precise rows with irrigation. One section has cover crops in order to replenish the soil. It’s all planned and orderly. As in your yard or inside with containers, gardeners plan and prepare.
Today’s parable gets our attention. The sower casts seed recklessly such that seeds fell on the path where birds ate them, on rocky ground where shoots sprang up but quickly withered, amid thorns which grew alongside and chocked them, as well as on good soil which bore fruit. No one sows like this, wildly sending seed with little chance of survival. No one is so reckless.
In parables and actions, Jesus catches attention to tease out wisdom, to show truth upside down. God is no ordinary gardener. God is reckless with generosity, sowing love everywhere, not limited by investing only for the best results. Radically open, loving even in the face of rejection and impossibility, this is God’s way.
My guess is you, too, have loved like this. There are times you continued to show up, listen, and provide even when the beloved wouldn’t turn toward you or did so only briefly before turning away. Have you done this with children, family, friends or even strangers?
Remember, too, being on the receiving end. Remember when you were loved by friend, teacher or parent, yet soon turned away perhaps from hurt, self-focused or distraction. Sometimes we receive love and let it grow, and other times we are too limited, without enough depth and courage to withstand wounds. We’re seared like the sun, burned by criticism or fear. We have loved like this reckless gardener, and we have rejected such love.
We can see this in Jacob. In the lesson from Genesis, we hear of Abraham’s grandchildren. Jacob wrestles from birth, gripping his brother’s ankle. Jacob shrewdly swaps Esau soup for the birthright by a sworn oath. One may doubt investing in such a self-centered youth. Who is he to inherit and live into God’s promise to Abraham?
Jacob belongs to Abraham and so do we. The story of Abraham, like Jacob and others after, shows God’s distinctive choice to create, bless, and use human relationships to save the world. Humans with all our limitations. We change slowly, often over a long time.
Genesis records God visiting Abraham seven times. First only God speaks. Then Abraham slowly speaks his fear and anger, later growing to engage as a friend and partner. God keeps coming to Abraham over and over sowing seeds of divine love. Over multiple episodes, Abraham receives only in part and God returns, inviting, sowing again and again. There is gradual conversion, and eventual fruitfulness.
In today’s parable, we are not just one soil. We experience them all. God gives us freedom to keep choosing. God neither makes us receptive nor rejects us when we aren’t. Like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we often are not receptive to God’s love. To them and us, God recklessly keeps coming, sowing seed, that loving Word in us. Gradually we become more receptive; we become more loving. We too are blessed slowly becoming a blessing for the whole world.
If you or your neighbor or the world seems stuck like Jacob today, hard set in self-promotion, scorched by violence, or choked by wealth, hear the good news. We have hope. As to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and on through scripture, God comes to us recklessly the sowing the Word even when we have hard hearts. God keeps inviting for fruitfulness in the long-view. With wild love, God is persistently generous in order to save us all.
Let anyone with ears listen!