- The Rev. Arianne Rice Weeks
Dig Deep. Then Dig Deeper
(Image from John The Baptist Artworks)
“Every act of communication is an act of tremendous courage in which we give ourselves over to two parallel possibilities: the possibility of planting into another mind a seed sprouted in ours and watching it blossom into a breathtaking flower of mutual understanding; and the possibility of being wholly misunderstood, reduced to a withering weed.
Candor and clarity go a long way in fertilizing the soil, but in the end, there is always a degree of unpredictability in the climate of communication — even the warmest intention can be met with frost. Yet something impels us to hold these possibilities in both hands and go on surrendering to the beauty and terror of conversation, that ancient and abiding human gift. And the most magical thing, the most sacred thing, is that whichever the outcome, we end up having transformed one another in this vulnerable-making process of speaking and listening.” - Brainpickings.org
I didn’t write that – Maria Popova did. She has a blog called brainpickings.org where she is in conversation with books of the past. Reading it this week knowing our gospel message was Jesus in conversation about seeds, soil and earth – it was too apropos not too share.
Who God is in Christ is known to us through Jesus’s conversations. Conversations with just one person – answering their questions or challenging their assumptions. Conversations with the disciples – answering their questions and finding himself challenged by their actions and assumptions. Conversations with groups of people like this morning – where he teaches using his most unique form of engagement – the parable.
That opening paragraph I shared comes from a post focused on an American author – Ursula K. Le Guin – who in her book “The Wave in the Mind” writes - “Words are events, they do things, change things. They transform both speaker and hearer; they feed energy back and forth and amplify it. They feed understanding or emotion back and forth and amplify it.”
Jesus knew this about words and that is a great description of a parable. A parable is a method of conversation intended to convey more than a straightforward moral lesson (i.e. do unto others). Parables paint pictures – they amplify the reality of God’s kingdom and the ways in which God’s kingdom on earth bothers us, upsets us, frustrates us and challenges us – because it doesn’t fit with the way we run things – or want to run things here on earth.
Parables instigate feelings, intentionally. Are you like me – do you get a little miffed when you hear that parable about the laborers? You know the one – the laborers who work all day are paid the same as the laborers who show up for the last hour or so. And when the Master (i.e. God) is met with the disgruntled “but that’s not fair” of the day-long laborers he says what boils down to – look, I’m the boss and grace isn’t fair - its an entirely a free gift – for ourselves and everyone else – especially the people we don’t think deserve it.
That parable makes me feel a bit angry, jealous. It tells me God’s kingdom is a place where the way I rank people – the way I judge myself and others – doesn’t apply. So if I want to find God’s kingdom on earth – if I really want to live the words I pray - I have to look in the mirror and dig deep – asking myself where do I thwart God’s reconciling grace – because I place my criteria and my judgement over and above God’s abundant gift? And this morning’s parable also challenges our control and criteria over God taking root in our lives.
First – the sower. Who do you think the sower represents? He certainly doesn’t represent good farming practices. It says he went out to sow – but seeds were falling all over the place. Is he running around willy nilly throwing seeds in the air and on the ground? Or is he focusing so much on one area of the earth – that he doesn’t see that his bag has a hole and he is losing half of his product? He doesn’t seem bothered or aware that he is wasting his time – his seeds – and his effort – because of his lack of planning and forethought.
So who is he? God? Jesus? Me and you? Yes - all of the above. As God/Jesus (let’s combine divinity for our efficiency) – as we heard from Isaiah – God’s word – God’s seed – will go out and accomplish that for which it is purposed – it will succeed in the way God intends. Might not be the way we intend. Might not be in the timeframe we want. Might take a whole lot of seeds falling all over the place until there’s growth.
If God has a patience broader than our narrow timeframes – how might that be good news for the good things we want to sprout forth in our lives, in ourselves? If God sows seeds in places where they will never take root – what might that say to us about our own efforts to sow seeds in places where we think we might fail – or are wasting our time? Some of the seeds don’t take root – but – they feed the birds. Isn’t that something? The sower – is not a micromanager – nor someone who anxiously frets over their part in the process. The sower is a piece of the process – but it is a process. Time, context and circumstance all play a role in the growth.
What about the seed? What does the seed represent? Jesus says the seed is the word of God. Great – next question – what is the word of God? Surely that is more than just the words in a bible. Plus the gospels refer to Jesus as The Word of God. Before this parable Jesus says anyone who does the will of God is his brother and sister and mother. Jesus expands the notion of family to include everyone. So, I would imagine when Jesus’ says “word of God” he is equally expansive. The seeds of God are far more than just words on a page – what are they to you, that is the question that matters.
As Le Guin said – words are events, they do things, change things. The seeds of God are words, actions, awareness – anything that connects with the reality of grace that is God’s kingdom. Like when we are seeing healing of some kind – and we don’t just say thank you – but are overcome by gratitude. When we are seeing an injustice – and we don’t ignore it – but are moved to speak, or act, in ways that bring God’s kingdom closer.
The parable implies that seeds are around us all the time. But so is distraction and apathy. So is our desire for quick-fixes that don’t take root. So is our desire for stuff – and security – and monetary success. There is a lot that gets in the way of our growth.
This morning – where are you being invited to dig deep? So that your words and actions amplify the reality of God’s kingdom – God’s garden in your life? Ask God for what you need to do that work. Those seeds will be shared with you in abundance – with faith in who God created you to be.
We don’t tend to think of everyday conversation as a courageous vulnerable-making act, do we? But the words we share – share the seeds of who we are and whose we are. And Jesus says that can be a courageous act of planting God’s kingdom deeper within us.
We know God’s purpose will be accomplished but we are needed in the process of our own growth, our own flourishing. Mark Twain said – a garden is the best place to find God, you can dig for God there. So – may we dig deep and tend to all the grounds of our being where God is faithfully trusting that just one life-giving seed will take root. Amen.