July 16, Sower

Today’s Gospel Story is the Parable of the Sower, the Seed, and the Soil. It’s worth remembering that Jesus used parables to startle the people out of their complacency and move them to think in a new direction, especially the people who felt they had all the answers. When I hear or read the parables, am I willing to let them affect me in the same way, to perhaps startle me in my own way of living, or will I keep them at a distance as just nice stories that don’t do anything for me? I have a lot of power here. Am I willing to let go of it, admit I don’t know, and open myself to being led by the seeds of Jesus’ word in my everyday life? Jesus’ kingdom is about people, everyone here and now, and how I interact.

There are a number of ways to look at this Parable. One is Jesus sowing the seeds of his kingdom among his followers. In this case, I might be the soil. I have a choice as to how I receive Jesus’ word. In the Parable there are a number of soils that react to the word in different ways. Which soil do I choose to be? In other words, how open am I to hearing Jesus’ word being spoken to me in the particular circumstances of my everyday life? Am I willing to learn, perhaps to see things a different way from how I usually react? Can I let myself be open to people as they are, instead of judging them by whether or not they agree with me or if I like how they live? Am I focused on distractions to the point where I give the word only lip service, saying all the right things but not doing anything different? Are there things about myself that I don’t want to face or deal with that keep me from becoming ever more open to the word of Jesus in my life? Am I willing to help make the kingdom happen, or am I focused on my own comfort and convenience? Am I willing to be led, to grow, in ways that I don’t know or understand, or do I feel the need to maintain some sense of control and safety? Am I willing to be led to a place where I can freely say yes to whatever, and really mean it? Can I believe that God creates and loves me as I am, where I am on my journey, and is more patient and accepting with me than I am with others?

There is a sense of safety and power in knowing what to believe, how to believe, what words to use, how other people are supposed to live, and so on. There is no sense of safety and power in letting the words of Jesus take root in me and lead me to grow. There is quite a bit of doubt, questioning, and uncertainty, and especially wondering, maybe even weakness.. So much of the kingdom does not fit the value systems of today’s society. If I really try to be open to Jesus’ words as I hear them, there is no doubt that other folks and interests are not going to like what I say or do, and this can become quite unpleasant, even violent. History is filled with instances of this. It has happened before, and it is happening now, especially with all the other commotions in both civil and religious society. Am I really willing to live like that? Is my belief about Jesus or in Jesus? Can I live with doubt and uncertainty, not to mention contradiction? Have I been maintaining an image of Jesus and the reign of God in my life that says more about me than about Jesus? Can I accept that hatred allegedly in the name of God is still hatred?

There is a saying in theology that God’s Kingdom is “already, but not yet”. It is “already” because Jesus has come and called his followers to live like him a life of reaching out, accompanying, and being there for others, and many folks are truly living this way. The Kingdom is “not yet”, because there are still many people suffering due to systematic abuses, discrimination, corruption in many levels of society and church, vindictive judging of others simply because of how they live or think, immigrants looking for a better life, homeless persons, and so on. When I limit the kingdom to “pleasing (my version of) God” and make it a matter of personal sin, forgiveness, and salvation, I can overlook the systematic abuses that are causing such pain and suffering for so many people, and that I am a part of. If I see problems I can simply point fingers and blame someone else, and feel I have done my part. And life goes on.

When I let the Word really penetrate my protective shields I find it speaks to me about how I am called to live, not how I am to demand others live.It is easier to blame others than to look at myself. If I am serious about following Jesus and living as he lived I have to look at myself. Jesus words of his Kingdom, or the realm of God, tells me how I am created to live. I don’t live in a vacuum. I live in a series of relationships, each of which offers me a glimpse of who I am, each of which is necessary for me to live role in the reign of God. Some of them are enjoyable, others less so. Jesus’ words speak to me in all of them, if I am willing to listen and learn.

It is worth remembering that my life is a journey, and I am always growing and changing in some ways. My awareness of, and interest in, Jesus and the Kingdom is also a matter of growing — or not. The growing part is pretty much up to me, and sometimes it is lonely, even frightening.  Grace is real.    Just sayin  .  .  .