A sower went out to sow...
Jesus is talking to a huge crowd of people.
There are so many people gathered around him on the beach,
that he gets into a boat and goes out onto the water.
I always thought this behavior was a little strange,
until I moved here to Burlington.
I used to think that Jesus was just not fond of crowds,
that he needed a little space.
That’s why he moved out onto the water.
But some of you who live on the Lake,
have shared with me,
that you can be on the shore and actually hear every word
that someone speaks when they are on a boat
out on the water.
Whether they intend it or not,
their voice comes through crystal clear.
So it makes sense
that Jesus would move out onto the water
so the crowds on shore could hear him better.
Jesus likes to teach
Parables are peculiar stories.
They are not narratives
Parables do not take us logically from point A
to point B.
Parables are not fables.
Yes, they want to teach us something,
but parables are not simple stories
with a clear and focused moral point.
Parables call us to pay close attention.
Parables invite us to look for bizarre behavior
in what on the surface appears to be a simple story.
Parables are designed to catch our attention,
to cause us to furrow our brows
and make a strange sort of puzzled face,
and have one of those, “Well, that’s weird!” moments.
You’ve heard of “AHA!” moments?
Well, parables are sort of “HUH?” moments.
A story to hear and then to wonder about,
to roll over in your mind and in your heart,
to try to understand
what is Jesus trying to teach us.
One of the odd things about this gospel reading
is that we have the parable
and then we have an interpretation of the parable.
Having a specific interpretation of a parable is an oxymoron.
You can almost hear Jesus shouting,
“No! No! No! That’s not what I meant at all!”
Most scholars, and I agree with this,
believe that this very specific, allegorical explanation of the parable
probably did not originate with Jesus,
but with someone writing their understanding of this parable
for the early church.
That does not mean the interpretation is without merit,
but it is the parable itself that we are called to ponder.
A sower went out to sow....
Jesus knows his audience.
He knows they are people who understand farming,
and growing things.
These are not people that shop at Hannaford’s or Healthy Living.
These are people who grow their food
or barter fish or other skills for food.
These are people who know where their food comes from.
When Tom and I were first married
and living outside of Blacksburg, Virginia,
we decided to plant a garden.
We wanted to raise as much of our food as possible
We planted a huge garden!
Isn’t that what first time gardeners often do?
Now, I love zucchini!
So I wanted to be certain
we had plenty.
Now, being very novice gardeners,
we thought that for each seed we planted
we would get one zucchini.
So we planted rows and rows--
Needless to say, we could have fed all of southwestern Virginia
with our zucchini crop.
I think it was Garrison Keillor that warned people who were friends
with people who grew zucchini
to be sure to lock their car doors at night,
lest they find baskets of zucchini on their backseats in the morning.
I am not sure if it matters if the soil is rocky or scorched
or thorny or marvelous,
zucchini is a crop of magnificent abundance.
We don’t know what kind of seed this parable sower
Probably not zucchini.
But regardless of the crop,
this parable would have been quite puzzling
to those who were listening.
Why would anyone waste their seed
on ground that does not produce?
Seeds were precious.
Seeds meant food
Yet this strange sower seems to randomly toss the seed
everywhere and anywhere.
As if there is plenty for everyone.
Belief in abundance is not the norm.
Not now and not two thousand years ago.
The world preaches scarcity.
Hold on to those seeds.
They’re all you’ve got.
Don’t waste them.
Don’t squander them.
Certainly there are resources we should carefully protect
but this is not where this parable is leading us.
The sower seems to be telling us
that God’s garden is different.
Just as the sower is extravagantly generous,
we too are called to be generous.
To be extravagantly generous with our love and compassion.
To sow it everywhere.
This parable shows a sower
who is generous even to the thorniest of recipients,
Mother Theresa is credited with writing,
People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
Love them anyway....
The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable.
Be honest and transparent anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
People who really want help may attack you if you help them.
Help them anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you may get hurt.
Give the world your best anyway.
A sower went out to sow...
God lavishes mercy and grace and love
upon all of us.
is as prolific and abundant
Perhaps this parable is teaching us
that God is a very bad farmer
but a very good God.
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Sermon for Year A Proper 10
July 13, 2014
Cathedral Church of St. Paul
The Very Rev. Jeanne Finan