Scripture: Mark 4:1-20
Key verse: (9) “And he said, ‘Let anyone with ears to hear listen.’”
Reflection: The parable of the sower has always been incredibly frustrating for me. The sower seems so foolish; casting valuable seed in such a haphazard way, scattering it on the path and in the rocks and amidst the thorns and in shallow soil. By dumb luck, thankfully some lands in good soil and brings a harvest. Why waste so much seed? Why throw seed on the path in the first place? Who does that? Why not do some weeding before you plant, pull out those thorns and thistles and till the soil. Why not break up that rocky ground and add some fertilizer and top soil and prepare the dirt before you start casting valuable seeds to the wind. What a waste. For the love of God, give the seed a chance! This makes no sense.
In a world where too many people are starving, how can the sower be so careless with such valuable resources? In a world of scarce supply and unlimited demand, where the gap between limited resources and insatiable need causes acute pain, the parable of the sower makes no sense. This is not the way people with any sense sow seeds. In this world seeds must be sown very carefully. In this world, scarce resources must be wisely employed, not cast to the winds. That’s the way things work in this world.
But Jesus is not talking about this world, is he? He is not teaching the crowds gathered beside the sea about the harsh realities of market driven economies. He is not talking about the persistent gap between limited supply and insatiable demand. He is not talking about the pain caused by the ways of this world. He is talking about the Kingdom of God; a place not defined by limited supply and unending demand; a place where the supply of seeds is never ending so the Sower need not worry because there is plenty of seed to go around. And the seed that lands in good soil, well it yields 30 and 60 and 100 fold. That floods the wheat market, so wheat seed becomes dirt cheap! According to Jesus, the kingdom of God is like that.
It starts with a seed. That seed is the Word of God, the Gospel of God’s love for all people made known in Jesus, embodied in his life and witness. There is no limit to this love. There is not scarcity when it comes to this love. So God need not conduct a soil test to consider whether the soil is worthy of being sown, worthy of receiving this love—which is a good thing! Because God knows I’ve got some rocky patches in the fields of my soul, maybe you do too. There are some thorns and some briars and a few places that are a bit shallow—Lord, have mercy. But if the seed of God’s love finds that place within us that is good dirt, then by the power of the Holy Spirit, sprouting under the surface at first, starting as small as a mustard seed, by God’s grace something good can spring forth, yielding a harvest beyond anything we could ever imagine. According to Jesus, that’s the way the kingdom of God works.
As his disciples, we are called to sow these seeds of love in our world, in the same manner as the Sower. It is difficult to sow seeds this way. It’s hard not to conduct soil tests to determine if the soil is promising or not; to not simply seek out good soil to sow seeds so that a rich harvest is guaranteed. It’s hard to realize the germination of that seed is not within our power to control, that we simply sow the seed and God alone gives the growth. And it can be incredibly painful to sow seeds of love and watch them sprout only to whither, or watch as the thorns of the world choke away life, or see that seed snatched up before it ever had a chance to grow. But that’s what happens when you’re sowing the seeds of the kingdom in the midst of this harsh world.
So we keep sowing seeds knowing that the majority may not yield fruit, refusing to give into the despair when they are snatched away or choked by the thorns or whither under the scorching sun because they lack depth. We keep sowing seeds of faith and hope and love trusting in God’s time a harvest of righteousness will spring forth. We keep sowing seeds even as we pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Prayer: “May the seed of your love take root in my heart this day, O God. May it find good soil, that my life might yield abundantly for your beloved community. Amen.”
Author: Joe Clifford
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].