The Word of Truth, generously
The Word of Life, graciously
Defend us from the Evil One
Who seeks to snatch us away
Fortify us for hard times and the costly discipleship
That we may endure
Deliver us from distraction
From worldly desires and
All that would lure us and choke us with false promises
Enrich us with every blessing of your Spirit
That we may become the good soil
Forever faithful and fruitful for you
Amen. (© 2017 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia)
“Listen carefully my child to the master's instruction and attend to them with the ear of your heart.”
These words were written by St. Benedict 1500 years ago to guide the monks of his monastery. Since then, his rule has been adopted and used by countless monks and nuns and other Christians to help guide their Christian lives. His feast day, the day we remember him, was this past week.
I have always been struck by the opening sentence of his prologue: “Listen carefully … attend to them with the ear of your heart.” In the rush of our days, even in summer, we need to stop and listen, really listen, to the words that will guide our lives, attend to them with ear of our hearts. Listen to the masters instructions.
And what does Jesus say to the crowd that comes to hear him speak, “Listen.” And he tells them a parable. Now remember that a parable is not like an Aesop Fable with a moral at the end, it is not like the stories we so often hear.
“In the Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke) Jesus teaches predominately in parables. Teaching in parables was characteristic of Jesus’ style, especially his proclamations concerning the Kingdom of God. Though Jesus’ teaching style used storytelling conventions that were common in that time period, what he taught was novel. Jesus taught with newness and purpose, offering people a fresh perspective about God and the Kingdom of God. The novel twists in what Jesus taught in his parables made his audiences take notice, then and today; they captivate the imagination. A given parable’s significance appears when the realism or surface meaning of the story begins to break down, allowing the deeper meaning to penetrate the interior life of the hearer or reader.” (Arthur David Canales)
A parable is “where the ordinary has gone askew and thereby shocks us into realizing that the parable leads us into another way of thinking about life.” (John R. Donahue) So Jesus tells a parable to the crowd (and us) about a sower sowing seed on the ground. Notice the sower throws seed everywhere!
· Some falls on the path, birds eat
· Some on rocky ground, no root & withered away
· Some fall on ground that is chocked by thorns
· But some fall on good soil and produce grain, 100 fold, 60 and 30.
“Let anyone who has ears listen,” says Jesus. That’s the 9th verse, what we don’t have in today’s reading is the disciples flummoxed by what Jesus said, in the missing verses. When asked, he gives them an interpretation. The seed is the word of the Kingdom of God that is given freely to us:
· Some falls on the path & they don’t understand and Satan snatches it away
· Some on rocky ground, hear the word joyfully, but when trouble comes, they fall away
· Some fall on ground that is chocked by cares of the world and wealth, & it yields nothing
· But some fall on good soil and produce much fruit
The challenge for us is to make sure the Kingdom of God has good soil in us to take root. Clear out the rocks, the weeds & thorns… There is so much we can do in our busy, hectic world to make sure our hearts are receptive to what God is giving freely to us. And the first thing we do is…
Once upon a time there was a little seed. Because it was only a seed, nobody seemed to notice or care. The seed didn't consider himself very important, either.
One day, the wind picked up the seed and threw the seed mercilessly into an open field. The sweltering sun beat down on the little seed; rain pounded the helpless seed into the ground; snow and ice trapped the shivering seed for long periods of time. The little seed was broken, confused and lonely.
Time went by. Then, one day, a traveler came up and sat beside the seed. "Thank you, O God, for this place," the seed heard the traveler say. "Excuse me." The seed spoke up. "What are you talking about?" People had stopped by his little plot of earth before, but no one had ever spoken like this. The seed thought the traveler was making fun of him.
The traveler was startled. "Who's speaking to me?"
"Me. The seed."
"The seed? You're no seed. You're a tree - a goliath of an oak!"
"Really?" asked the seed.
"Yes! Why else do you think people come here?"
"To rest under your shade. Don't you realize how you have grown?"
It took a moment for the seed to realize what the traveler was saying.
The seed smiled for the first time in his life. The years of restlessness and struggle, of brokenness and loneliness, finally made sense to him. "I am worth something," rejoiced the one-time little seed, now a great oak. [Adapted from a story by Novoneel Chakaborty.]
In this charming Indian parable, a simple seed learns the meaning of struggle and discovery, as the seed has taken root. In the first part of Jesus' parable of the sower, the seed sown is the Word of God - but in the interpretation, Jesus tells us the seed is the individual in whom the Word of God takes root.
We become the seed that was planted within our hearts. Listen says Benedict. Listen says Jesus. And the Spirit of God inside of us will help us find meaning in the parable because the Word of God is planted within our hearts to live out in our lives. Amen.