Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost--Matthew 13.1-9, 18-23

The parable of the sower and the seed is among the most well-known, well-loved parables not only because of its sharp picture imagery, but also because Matthew’s Jesus elaborately interprets the meaning of the story. In that interpretation, Jesus describes the various fates of the seed…

Consider then, for a change, the source rather than the seed, the sower rather than the place where the seed falls. Consider the grace-full handful of seed that the sower showers upon the earth. Where in your own life, or in the life of your community, do you encounter that source of the seed being sown? Where in your own experience is Isaiah’s image of the rain and snow from heaven grace-fully falling to nurture the sown seed?

One summer years ago, our then three-year-old daughter helped us plant a small garden. Together we carefully prepared the soil with shovel and hoe. A shallow trench was fashioned for a row of carrots. Gently I poured the tiny seeds into her small hand and asked her to carefully spread the seed into the trench. The first handful of seed went in just fine—a little heavy in places, but okay. With the second handful, however, it all changed. Nearing the end of the carefully prepared row she opened up her hand and with a puff of breath blew the remaining seed off her hand and all over the place. She laughed with delight. God is just such a farmer.

The parable of the sower images God as a prodigal farmer. The sower sows the seed not in carefully dug burrows. God is like a child who gleefully scatters tiny seeds upon the wind. The grace-full handful of seed is thrown wide, to fall not only on the good soil, but to land upon the rocks, among the thistles. The grace-full handful of seed is sown to all…

…baptism is one of the places from which the Sower…throws the grace-full handful of seed into our lives. The nurturing growth of our baptismal identity is described in Jesus’ interpretation of how the seed is received, for there are times in each of our lives when we are receptive to the seed, or stonily resistant in our rejection, or shallow in our accommodation of the seed into our heart and life. Let baptism remind us of the perpetual and daily need of its gracious waters to shower upon us with forgiveness and nurture.

Then come to the altar. Listen with care…when at the breaking of the bread, a prayer will be spoken invoking imagery of scattered seed being gathered into symbolic unity in the one loaf: “Just as the bread broken was first scattered on the hills, then was gathered and became one, so let your Church be gathered from the ends of the earth into your kingdom.” Let the eucharistic feast this day remind us of another way in which the Sower throws a grace-full handful of seed into our lives. [From Stephen M. Larson, "Serving the Word," Homily Service 38.8 (July 2005): 20-22.]

Stephen M. Larson holds the DMin and DD from St. Stephen's College in Canada. He has served ecumenical appointments in Geneva, Switzerland, is former pastor of St. Luke's Lutheran Church (ELCA) in Park Ridge, IL, and currently living in Switzerland.

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