A reflection on Matthew 13:18-23 for Proper 10A
I use to hate weeding. It was one of those nasty projects that I tolerated, and rushed to complete because I found it so tedious and boring. Recently I was unable to tend to the weeding in my plot for more than a week, I found that I had a jungle of weeds. It was overwhelming. One day I went out with the intention of weeding the entire thing, but after an hour I had one small section done, was over heated, and out of time. So the next day I went out again for about an hour. Then each day I went out for about an hour and did what I could do. Eventually I eased into a comfortable rhythm of weeding, the hour time frame fit into my schedule, I was slowly making progress with the jungle, and I discovered that weeding had become a calming discipline – weeding slowed me down, and invited me to just appreciate the act of tending to the garden.
I remember other occasions when I have weeded gardens that I did not plant. Then, looking at some mysterious plant or flower I’d wonder, is this a weed or something that is intended to be here?
Unlike my garden, where I planted everything and can tell a weed from the crops, some flower beds require a more discerning approach, and a certain amount of wait and see.
Our reading this morning from Matthew sounds as if it is about gardening. The parable of the sower is found in three Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke, indicating that it is primary to the teachings of Jesus. In Matthew it is the first of many parables about weeds and wheat and mustard seeds, treasures and pearls, and fishing nets.
A parable is a story with many layers of meaning, like an onion, one can peel back each layer to find yet another. Jesus spoke in parable for just that reason, so that people would wrestle with the meaning and move into an ever deeper understanding of their faith and their relationship with God.
For this parable we might wonder: Who is the sower? Who is the seed? Who is the soil? And who or what grows from the seed?
Any thoughts? On the one hand its a parable so there are no “correct” answers. But on the other hand there are some answers that are more likely than others. So, who do you say is the sower….the seed…the soil….the crop that grows….
A typical understanding of the parable is this:
God is the sower, Jesus is the seed – God throws the seed, the word of God, the love of God, known to us as Jesus, – God scatters the word, love, Jesus, broadly across all the world.
We are the soil. Sometimes we are rocky or thorny soil unable to hear the word, receive the love, or welcome Jesus into our lives – in such a manner as to enable that word, that love, Jesus to fully take root and grow inside of us, in such a manner as to become transformative.
But sometimes we are like good soil and God’s word, God’s love, Jesus can take root inside of us, transforming us into our best possible selves – people who reflect God’s love, God’s word, the face and hands and heart of Jesus, back into the world – by loving others as God loves. Often, the word of God, the love of God does not look like much, it’s like a plain tiny seed. Birds eat seeds that are scattered on the ground, just ask anyone who has planted grass seed….but in the parable, when the birds eat the seed they might represent the distractions and troubles that crop up in life, trying to pull us away from God. But like the birds, who usually redeposit the seed elsewhere, which explains why some plants grow in random places, the Word of God, the Love of God is tenacious and adaptable.
So – regardless of the distractions, or our ability to receive the word or the love – God crops up in our lives over and over, waiting for us to receive God’s love into our lives where it can grow – beautiful and hearty, fruitful, and productive – God’s grace growing in and through us, creating a community garden of love.