Saturday, March 20, 2004

On the Parable of the Sower

Jesus seemed to have a confidence in his preaching that I probably shouldn’t emulate: “if you don’t understand what I’m talking about, it’s because you’re predetermined to be unspiritual.” Riiight. I’ll try it one day and let you know how well it goes over.

Jesus has a lot of work to do in teaching us to see our world and ourselves as God does, and he uses stories to get the point across. He often presented to people very commonplace dilemmas, but with unexpected twists. He leads us to ask, “who am I in this story?”

When his disciples asked about the stories, Jesus told them that they reveal “the secret of the Kingdom of God,” what the rule of Yahweh looks like when ordinary men and women enter into it. Jesus identified himself by word and deed as the Jewish messiah, so was developing quite a following of folks who expected the immanent reign of God. We have to understand, however, that in this culture, entering the reign of God was something one did with a big knife: Isaiah called Messiah a mighty warrior, and there was plenty of war to be made. Israel was under foreign domination, and the Pharisees were always struggling to maintain the integrity of Jewishness in a sea of Gentile idolatry.

But Jesus doesn’t tell them of battle and destruction at this moment. He tells them about a farmer, haphazardly throwing away seed. Not meticulously planting each one, apparently even plowing. He just throws it out everywhere and waits to see what happens. The kingdom is coming, but not through the immediate vindication of Israel, but by the transformation of lives. The poor hear good news, broken hearts are bound and prisoners are released from darkness. A Roman centurion’s servant is healed, a little girl is raised from the dead, and demons vacate the oppressed spirit of Mary Magdalene.

This is what grows up all around us when the Word finds good ground. As we journey deeper into the Lenten season, deeply aware of our own mortality and fragility, we ask, how do we receive the word? Do we live our lives in a listening way, putting down roots when the Word comes down to us? Do we lose ourselves in the addictions of media and materialism, allowing the Evil One to steal away what we’ve been given? Does our desire for comfort choke our growth into vulnerability before the Lord and obedience to his call?

Dust we are, and to dust we will return. We come before the Lord of the universe with ashes on our foreheads, dirty hands that cradle too many regrets to name, and fearful hearts that harbor deep brokenness. But that’s alright. He, in Himself, is enough for us. We come to his table to receive the bread of heaven and the cup of salvation, trusting that he will impart his wholeness to us. Nothing else will satisfy. Nothing else will heal us. We wait, together, in the stillness, in the dark, for his word of compassion and healing. This altar is set up in the darkest parts of us, where shame, guilt, and our continual inability to “get it together” remain the core values of who we are. Lord Jesus, meet us here.

His word will heal us and set us free. This will not be a matter of immediate, whiz-bang “name it and claim it” prosperity gospel rubbish, but a process that will flow out of his commitment to us, and ours to him. We have re-order our lives so to be “good ground” to receive the love that he throws around like great bags of seed.

No comments: