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Let anyone with ears listen!

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…

There are numerous ways into the parables. There are perhaps as many ways in as there are people. As many ways in as there are stories. As many ways in as there are experiences of the world.

As you listen, I wonder what it is that you hear…

I wonder where you find yourself in this parable…

Can you imagine times that you have felt any or all of these responses to God’s word?…

“Parable” comes from the Greek, meaning, amongst other things, “to throw alongside.” And in this parable, Jesus seeds our imaginations by telling a story about a sower of God’s words, as he himself sows God’s words, and seeds God’s imagination amongst his hearers.

In Jesus’ approach, and in Jesus’ story, we encounter a sower who, like Jesus, sows God’s good news story with wild abandon. The sower tells one story, and then another, and then another. Perhaps it doesn’t matter how many people get it. Perhaps what matters is the sower’s wild, gracious, generous abandon. But in so many sermons I’ve ever heard on the subject, the punchline goes a little something like this:

Which kind of soil are you?

Maybe it’s me, but that’s when I’m hit with the nagging sensation that I’m not the right kind of soil. I meet and live amongst and serve alongside people who constantly blow me away with their depth of faithfulness, and I wonder, what kind of soil am I?

This last week I read a short update from Canon Andrew White – the Vicar of Baghdad – talking about the situation for Christians in Iraq – a situation that is getting worse by the day.

“ISIS,” he writes “have told the Christians they have a choice: They convert to Islam…or have their heads chopped off. Today in Church the people said that they will never leave their Yeshua (Aramaic for Jesus). They said, “When you have lost everything, Jesus is all you have left, and he is everything.” So this is the situation we are in, and we have no idea what will happen tomorrow but we know that our Lord will be with us.”

How would I respond in the face of such persecution, I wonder. And how has such deep & profound faithfulness been cultivated in these hearts?

What kind of soil am I? It can be a helpful question. But if self-reflection is stopped in self-destructive judgment; if it ignores the larger community of Creation, and the Creator who makes all things and calls them (with the utmost joy and the deepest glee) very very good, we’re in trouble.

I’m convinced that this good news is far more than the pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps self-help nonsense that dominates the airwaves. It is helpful to remember that we are dust, and to dust we will return. And yet, dust and dirt are the building blocks of creation. Our most primordial stories tell us that we are dirt infused with the Spirit’s breath. We are not alone. It’s not just on us.

Remember that the master storyteller is the very one who Mary recognizes as the gardener. This gardener has been the gardener from the time before time began. This gardener is the one who plants and tills and tends and fertilizes and waters, and animates dirt, even rocky, dusty, weedy, scorched dirt, with life, and goodness and breath.

A sower went out to sow.

Let anyone with ears listen!