Subtitle: A personal reflection on last Sunday’s appointed readings in the Revised Common Lectionary (or this is what happens when I wasn’t the preacher last Sunday, but my brain won’t turn off during the following week!).
Thus, saith the Lord, “My word shall not return to me empty, but shall accomplish that which I purpose” (Isaiah 55.11)
Jesus told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow” (Matthew 13.3)
God’s word, once spoken, accomplishes what is uttered. For God’s word is an expression of God’s person and, conversely, God’s personal actions are words. Thus, for God, word and deed, orality and activity are the same.
So, I understand more fully God’s earlier declaration: “My thoughts are not your thoughts nor your ways my ways” (Isaiah 55.8)
Simply stated, God’s ways are inhuman and my ways are ungodly. For when I say, “Trust my word,” I know that what I have said is only as true as my subsequent actions to fulfill it. And when I don’t act (because sometimes I don’t), I prove that my word was untrue.
More truth, because I’m always in the process of becoming, there’s always a difference between what I say and what I mean. Therefore, most truth, I never can know precisely what I mean when I utter a word in time, the fulfillment of which must be at some future time.
For this reason, I think, we humans need contracts and an entire legal industry to interpret and enforce them when (not if) we fail to understand and honor them. But not with God. With God, there is instantaneity; word and deed are one.
So, the Parable of the Sower. Jesus sowed the seed of God’s word of teaching, of healing, of loving that he proclaimed and performed. In him, as with God, was the same immediacy of word and deed, of utterance and fulfillment.
Yet, as I interpret the parable, I focus less on the sower, Jesus, and more on the soil, me. And, it doesn’t matter which kind of soil I am, but when I am one or the other.
“The path” isn’t those hard-beaten places in my life where my troubles have left me hard-bitten, bitter. Though, yes, I have and know such parts of myself. Rather, Jesus associates “the path” with a lack of understanding.
Anything beyond my experience and knowing, I don’t, I can’t understand…
And sometimes something I experience, too complex for me, defies my comprehension…
And sometimes something beyond the grasp of my intellect, I can embrace psychically, spiritually. So, at some future “Aha!” moment, a revelation dawns and instantly I realize that I already knew it, though I did not know that I knew…
And sometimes I may choose not to understand, for that would require a change that I do not desire to make.
So, being “the path” isn’t about bitterness, but denseness, obtuseness.
“Rocky ground”, Jesus says, isn’t cluttered, but shallow. How often this has been true of me. Given to serial pursuits, a kaleidoscopic array of ever-changing enthusiasms, all scintillating and, when the “trouble” of long-term commitment arose, all short-lived.
“Thorns”, Jesus equates with “the cares of the world and the lure of wealth.” Not bad, but rather necessary things. My marriage and relationships and the joys and struggles that come with these commitments. My home and mortgage payments and the costs of upkeep. My financial security and insecurity.
These “cares of the world” can occupy, preoccupy me enough to become my valued goals and, thus, no longer the symbols or reflections of what and how I value.
Now, my focus shifts from the soil to the sower. More precisely, the seed. Most precisely, its fruit. For, again, the emphasis is on word and deed, utterance and fulfillment.
So, a question: Do I value, that is, understand God’s word so to become and to be soil that can receive the seed and bear the fruit of that word?
My answer to this question rests in my understanding of the one who speaks. Jesus. In knowing that, in knowing him, God’s word is any word that calls me to unconditional love and justice. Any word that calls me to self-sacrifice, to die to myself for the sake of others.
Whenever that word is spoken to me, I know that it is God’s word and that I am “good soil,” for immediately the fruit of the seed, which is action, is born in me and borne by me in the world.
© 2020 PRA