Parables "are fictional stories."* They are the bread and butter of Jesus' teaching ministry and filled with images from everyday life. Most of us are not farmers (but if you would like some eggs, there's someone at CLC you should talk to) but we know what farmers do. Most of us do not plant seeds on acres of land but we do know the type of soil plants need to grow. This reading from the book of Matthew is the first parable we will see in this season after Pentecost but it will not be the last. We read the stories Jesus told because Jesus is a storyteller.
As a storyteller, the stories Jesus tells can sometimes appear simplistic. Since these parables include images we know and understand, we trick ourselves into thinking any interpretation of a parable must be just as simple. If the parable confuses, challenges, or makes us uncomfortable, we seek out a simple answer to make ourselves feel better. We do a disservice to parables when we make them simple. Parables are confusing. They sometimes compare two things in striking and unpredictable ways. Parables sometimes do not make sense on the first (or 12th) reading of them and sometimes Jesus' own explanation of these stories fails to clear up their meaning. Parables are important because they help expose "two equally deep mysteries: the mystery of God and the mystery of human life."** The God who uses the phrase "I AM WHO I AM" as a name when Moses meets a burning bush is not a God who is neat, tidy, and containable. Anytime we limit God and Jesus inside a simple and safe definition, we miss experiencing who God really is. The God who created everything and who can never be fully comprehended by human beings is the same God who, through Jesus, entered into the mystery of human life. Parables do not try to explain away the mysteries of God and our lives. Instead, parables reveal these mysteries through stories that are challenging, familiar, odd, and comforting. Parables get the gears in our souls turning because engaging in all of life's mysteries is one of the ways the Spirit transforms us into Godly people.
In today's parable, a farmer is terrible at their job. The farmer doesn't try to plant seed in only the places it will grow. Instead, the farmer throws seed around with abandon. In some places, the seed grows. In other places, it is eaten up. The farmer has a success rate of only 25% and yet the farmer keeps sowing. Where are you in the story today? Are you the farmer sowing seeds of love and life with abandon? Are you the rocky ground, the path, or the soil covered in thorns? Are you a seed waiting to sprout, not knowing what kind of soil you have landed in? Find your spot in the story - and discover what the Spirit wants you to hear today.
* Richard Lischer's Reading the Parables, page 3.
** ", page 13.
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