Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Dirt (Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-23)

First of all, I wasn't necessarily scheduled to post this week. But the blog has sit silently for over a week so I'll go ahead. If I stepped up and took your week, sorry. Just go ahead and post yours, too. (Dan Mayes)

Prior to moving to Iowa I spent 6 years of my life in Oklahoma serving congregations there. I had grown up in Kansas, close to Wichita. When we moved to Oklahoma we found a house to live in and initially thought very little about the smooth slab foundation. That is, until the first summer arrived, and the tornados along with it. In fact, while I was serving one Oklahoma congregation the building was completely wiped out by a tornado. Tornado times made me leery of the house I lived in because it provided no protection at all from the violent storms. You could hide in an interior room, but that was really not much protection.

I began asking around shortly after the beginning of that first summer season and found out that very few houses in Oklahoma have basements at all. Most that do were built prior to the depression. Builders there don't build basements because of the clay and sandstone in the soil. It cause leakage and foundation problems. It's even been know to cause basements to cave it.

So I like it up here in Iowa, where the rich, fertile soil grows the sweetest corn...and where the homes have basements.

In this week's Gospel lesson Jesus offers the parable of the sower. And unlike many of his other parables he offers an interpretation. In his interpretation we can notice a major difference in the allegorized interpretation offered here from how it is offered in Mark. Mark provides a little bit of a conundrum where the sower is sowing the word (v 14) and then later the sower is sowing the hearers (v 16). Matthew, however, does not focus so much on which is which, seeing the combination of seed and soil as a complete component, a recipe in which both ingredients are necessary. So the situation of each combination is likened to a different type of hearer and their response to the word.

The question this parable poses for all of us is thus: Which one am I? Am I like the situation where the seed is sown on the path, the rocky ground, among thorns, or in the good soil? When preached the call to self-examination should be obvious.

There is also direction that this questioning and self-examination leads to. There is a harvest at the end of the season. Jesus uses some pretty incredible figures, too. A hundred-fold harvest is virtually unheard of in Palestine at the time. It's such a harvest that it would easily make up for the seed lost in the other types of soil. The emphasis here is not so much on us and our response, it is instead on God's miraculous action. This is a passage about eschatological hope.

If we're focused simply on the bottom line of the harvest we have a problem.
On the one hand, it matters how we hear and respond.
On the other hand, it doesn't matter so much because God will still reap a bountiful harvest.

But maybe what Jesus is suggesting is that we leave the bottom line to God. We hope for and trust in God to bring about the fruit of the seed. It will happen. But what is in question is whether or not we choose to be a part of it. In this way, our response to the word determines our future.

I'd love to hear your thoughts and interpretations of this parable or any of the other lectionary readings for this week.

Dan Mayes


Karen L. Moore said...

One of the lessons for me in this parable is - it is not our responsibility to determine where we should sow the seed. We often refuse to sow seed simply because we may believe (erroneously) the soil is too hard, too shallow, too thorny. God already knows most of our efforts may seem futile to us. It is simply our responsibility to sow the seed and allow God to create the fertile ground. However, if we refuse to sow the seed for any reason (not our call), we lose out on the promise - that our harvest will be blessed up to 100 fold. Those are outrageous odds! More than we can ever hope to imagine!! How dare we refuse to sow because we think our sowing will be futile. The challege and Blessing is to Sow and Believe!!
(Karen L. Moore - FCC, Mt Ayr)

Dan Mayes said...

Amen! Karen, good words!