Parable of the Sower
Today we took J. to his third church service. It was the first time I had to take him out of the service for fussiness. It was also the first time I had to take him out of the service for a diaper change. I took J. up to the front of the chapel during Communion, but I misjudged his mood and he started crying between when I had my bread and when I got my wine (our St. John the Baptist procedure makes this take a small amount of time as the chalice bearer comes to you). Things weren't a complete disaster: I did get to take Communion with the St. John (and wider!) community, and I did get to hear Father Robert's sermon.
Today's Gospel reading featured Jesus' parable of the sower.
Matthew 13 1-9
The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.
When I hear this, there are a couple of thoughts that immediately spring to my mind:
What a sloppy farmer! Who would sow indiscriminately? I don't know much about farming, but I know that a farmer would certainly remove the weeds from his fields!
I don't know what this parable really means. Like most of Jesus' parables, I find it pregnant with meaning, but I'm one of the people who lack the right "ears to hear". I can't imagine anybody thinking "I've got it!" after hearing one of Jesus' parables, unless they were either much much smarter than me, or a little stupider than me.
Well, the Gospel of Matthew actually includes a explanation of the parable, but it has never satisfied me. It didn't satisfy Father Robert, either. It sounds like an interpretation given by the early first century church, created generations after Jesus' death, and Father Robert says that most scholars consider this text to be exactly that. Well, I'm no biblical scholar, but if these texts are going to speak to me, then we need to look at Jesus' awesome parable afresh. Why would Jesus speak in parables if not to make his followers think, and come up with an interpretation that belongs to them? That's all well and good, but I'm not a farmer and I don't really know how to interpret this: my forefront thought is "what a sloppy farmer".
Father Robert gave a nice little note in his sermon that I found very interesting. He suggested that the key phrase of Jesus' parable was "some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold": these numbers are outrageous. The expected amount of return would be something more like a sixfold return, and a tenfold return would be a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. This insight gave me my own interpretation of the parable: be a sloppy farmer for HaShem, and the spiritual crop you reap will be outrageous. Maybe the sower is HaShem, maybe it is Jesus, maybe a Christian follower; I don't know, but the sloppy farming yields supernatural returns.
So, I will continue to take J. to church. Some days he might fuss, he might make me miss Communion, he might make me miss the sermon, and the seeds might fall on rocky ground. But I am hoping the world might get a crop that yields a hundredfold, or sixfold, or thirtyfold.