Today’s scripture seems to interpret itself for us – Here’s Jesus’ parable; here’s what it means. Not everyone agrees that the interpretation came out of Jesus’ mouth, even as most everyone does agree that Jesus did tell this parable. But early Christians are like us, and they want a clear, well-marked, path of faithful discipleship. People are either good soil or bad – You’d better be good.
O, Jesus, I want to be good – I really, really do. But you know what? My heart is not filled with good soil. My heart is filled with all sorts of dirt. Every human heart is a complicated garden, with all sorts of soils. Sometimes everything’s grand, and we feel God’s love pouring down all around us everywhere we look. Sometimes, not much, if anything, seems good, and if God’s tossing seeds of love our way, they are just bouncing right off the hard path choked with rocks and weeds of our hearts.
Maybe there’s a place in your heart like mine – Instead of nice good rich soil, it’s filled with rocks – The rocks of anxiety, and fear, and the mental gymnastics of staying safe and sane in these times. And there isn’t enough time or energy or attention for much else to grow.
Maybe there’s a place in your heart like mine – Instead of nice good rich soil, it’s got thorns and weeds taking over. Chores and distractions and people who need us. News that changes every minute but doesn’t really change at all; Weariness and boredom; The impossible effort of keeping up with the latest guidance or political pivot – And maybe like me you’re noticing the thorns of hate and anger taking up all the space in your heart, and crowding out any good dirt.
It makes sense - We’re all watching powerful people magnificently use that power to shore up their own egos, their own bank accounts, their own worldviews. It’s a hard, hard time to be a person of faith. It’s hard to know what to do with the thorny, rocky, hard dirt in our hearts.
And what does God, the Sower, do with all these soils? Just keeps tossing seeds around. Not planning. Not analyzing. Not strategizing. Not considering that seeds thrown on rocks or in the midst of weeds or on a path have little chance of growing. The Creator doesn’t seem concerned with output or outcome, with cost-benefit analysis, or a business plan. The Divine doesn’t seem to have any expectations at all. Our Lord, at least in this parable, just keeps raining down love like Mardi Gras beads thrown from the New Orleans’ floats at Mardi Gras parades – As though there’s an infinite supply that will never run out.
Huge handfuls of love, that look to us to be squandered. Love poured out where it will be wasted, ignored, unnoticed. Where it doesn’t have a chance of growing into anything. A good ¾ of all of that love, all those seeds, don’t land anywhere promising. What kind of farmer, what kind of sower, is our God?
We’re big on expectations. We’re big on measuring outcomes, on strategic planning, on visioning, on using our resources carefully and mindfully. And that’s all great. It’s called being a good steward. But it doesn’t apply to God’s love.
Apparently, we’re to throw huge handfuls of God’s love on everyone and everywhere we walk. Randomly. Consistently. Constantly.
Really? A friend of mine got into a dispute with her young adult son, who had posted something pretty angry and mean on facebook in respose to police violence. When she asked him about it, he kept insisting the only way to fight injustice was to be ruthless, to let rage fuel the fight. His big comeback line was, “I guess you think we should love Hitler,” which, in this Jewish family, was pretty radical. A hit below the belt, perhaps. And Kim said, “Well, actually, yes.” And she shared Martin Luther King’s words, which probably fell on deaf ears in that moment, but still, for her own sake, she said, “Hate does not drive out hate – only love can do that. Anger does not put out anger; only love can do that. Violence doesn’t stop violence; only love can do that.” In that moment it probably didn’t change her son’s mind. But it reminded her who she is and what she believes.
Right now, I don’t like this much. It’s so much easier to answer violence with violence, anger with anger, hate with hate. An eye for an eye and all that – but I don’t want us all to be blind.
Instead, there God the Sower is, scattering seeds of love every which way, apparently not caring if the seeds sprout or not. Because it’s what God does: God loves. In times of war and pandemic, social strife and selfish leadership, short-sightedness and self-aggrandizement, fear and more fear, God’s still loving, because that’s what God does.
And, I guess, as a follower of Christ, that’s what we’re to be about, too.
This feels too hard. At least for me. At least right now.
And then, wouldn’t you know it, at Session this week, Sue Holley shared these words from the Talmud for our devotion: (The Talmud is the ancient collection of how rabbis interpreted the Torah, the first five books of our Bible.)
Do not be daunted
By the enormity
Of the world’s grief.
Do justly, now.
Love mercy, now.
Walk humbly, now.
You are not obligated
To complete the work,
But neither are you free
To abandon it.
And Sue reminded us who we are and what we believe, and some of the anger and hate in my heart was dissolved. Because there is no end to God’s love. It just keeps coming. In spite of the hardened, thorn-infested, rocky ground of my heart. God’s going to just keep throwing handfuls of love my way.
And then, wouldn’t you know it, I happened to see Maria Janush’s facebook post, and the coincidence I saw there eased some of the hate and rage in my heart, and a seed of love was planted. See, it’s her birthday today, and it’s Sunday, so worship with communion today, and we’re taking a communion offering. And for her birthday, she is asking people to donate to the same fund of today’s communion offering: The Equal Justice Initiative. She read Bryan Stevenson’s book “Just Mercy,” the same movie we discussed a few weeks ago, about providing legal counsel to people unjustly sitting on death row. And the anger in my heart eased, because I saw someone doing justice now, sharing seeds of God’s love, now.
We may feel anger, and rage, and hate. And, there is no end to God’s love. It just keeps coming. Our hearts might be hard and rocky and thorny. And, there’s no end to God’s love. It just keeps coming. I can’t argue or yell or shame the anger, rage, and hate away. And, there is no end to God’s love. It just keeps coming. It’s all true. And so, all I can do is be honest about my thorny, rocky, hard dirt of a heart. And offer it to God. Then go out and scatter a few seeds of love myself, never knowing when and where and how they will take root, and ease someone else’s anger and rage.
And practice trusting that God’s love is more powerful than anything in my little heart.
Because this isn’t who I want to be, and it isn’t who my Creator made me to be. And, this minute, tomorrow, in the darkest of night and the brightest dawn, there is no end to God’s love. It will just keep coming. Maybe in one small hidden dark corner of our hearts, we can trust some of God’s seeds of love will fall, and take root, and we can stumble our way to live in the love of God,