1 Again he began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” Mark 4:1-9
Above is a very familiar parable, the Parable of the Sower. I’d like to say two things about this parable really quick. One, the sower is a TERRIBLE farmer. I mean, who just starts tossing seed everywhere? C’mon. But second, and most importantly, I think that I have, and maybe all of us, have thought of this parable in the wrong way before.
So often when I have read this parable I think of myself as the soil and God as the sower. I have to get my heart ready to accept the seed that God sows, which is the Word of God.. In other words, the success of the sowing is all up to me. I have to prepare and get my heart ready so that I can grow faith in my own heart. It makes some good sense. But what if, in reality, we are the sower? What if God’s job is to harvest, but it is our job to spread the word, to sow the seed? What if instead of worrying about the final planting and what will come of it, what if our focus is to be on spreading the word as much as possible, no matter the soil?
But then I had another thought: since we might be the sower, the one spreading the seed, what if what we are sowing isn’t the word of God? What if we are sowing something else? I thought of this because I see in the world an increase in fear and paranoia. I see seeds of distrust and hatred that are creeping into every fabric of life: home, schools, community, politics, media, everywhere. I see the sowing of bigotry and hatred and a lack of compassion and willingness to talk to each other. Even worse, I see that being sown in the hearts and minds of the people of God and calling it “Christian.” I see thoughts blooming in our culture that somehow being a Christian means hatred, exclusion, and fear. I think that sometimes we have forgotten the seed we are to be planting is the Gospel of Jesus Christ and this seed is one of hope, acceptance, compassion, and forgiveness. This seed is not about stiff arming the other but welcoming them. It is about loving our enemies and about praying for those who persecute us, not revenge or hatred or violence. It is a seed that is about changing hearts with grace and love, not bigotry and persecution and power.
We are the sowers. God is the harvester. What will God find to harvest if the seed we are sowing is not his Gospel of hope, grace, and love? The seed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, of a God of hope who sends his only Son to defeat sin and death to bring us to everlasting life, who calls us to lead lives of compassion, faithfulness, and love. This seed can change a heart. This seed can change a life. This seed can change a world. But it must be sown. It must be scattered. And it must trust that God is at work.
Go out into the world, brothers and sisters, with a huge bag of seed. May that seed be one of new life and hope, of love and forgiveness, of acceptance and joy. The world needs it. God will grow it. Scatter that seed. For that we can say, “Thanks be to God!” Amen