The RevoLectionary is a lectionary blog written by Irish young adults.

Proper 10: Soil & Seed.

Matthew 13: 1-9, 18-23 (NRSV)

The Parable of the Sower

1 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6 But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 Let anyone with ears listen!”

The Parable of the Sower Explained

18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23 But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

I remember hearing an old fable back when I was in college about a child walking through a construction site where a community were building a new church. As the child let his curiosity lead him, he found himself sidling up beside various workers, tugging on their hi-vis jackets and asking, 

‘Excuse me sir? What are you doing?’

The first person he asked was hunched over a desk, analysing blueprints. He turned to the child and said, 

‘Me?' he replied. ' I’m the architect. I look over the plans and make sure that what is built matches what is planned.’

The child approached another man giving instructions to those circled around him and asked,

‘Excuse me sir? What are you doing?’

‘Me?’ he replied. ‘I’m the foreman. I’m the one who gives instructions to the builders and makes sure they do what needs to be done and that everyone is in the right place.’

Finally, the child found an old man digging a hole at the edge of the site. Again, he asked his question,

‘Excuse me sir? What are you doing?’

The old man stopped digging, placed the blade of the shovel against the ground and leaned against it. Looking out over the building site, he smiled proudly and said to the child,

‘Me? I’m building the house of the Lord.’

This week’s lectionary reading has come back to me again and again over the past couple of years and I’ve found myself asking deeper questions than I did when I first read it as a child. Having grown up with the passage, I always took it as a comfort that, as I perform my role of sharing my faith with other people, I can’t take responsibility for what happens to the seed once it is sown. In some places, it will be choked or scorched. In others it will be eaten by birds. And, once in a while, something beautiful and fruitful will grow from it that far exceeds what I ever could have thought. My job, however, is just to keep sowing seed and trusting that God will bring the growth. 

Recently, however, I have begun to wonder if I'm wrong. Or, more accurately, if I’m missing the full truth.

When I perceive my role as a simply to be one who sows seed and moves on, I may be faithful to my duty … but only if I see that as being the limit of my responsibility as a Christian. But what if it isn’t? 

What if I’m called to be more than a sower of seed?

What if I’m actually called to be one pursues harvest, growth, transformation and change? 

And what if sowing seed is just one small part of that? 

When I limit myself to solely being one who sows then I end up like a dispassionate hired hand on another’s farm, doing the bare minimum that I have been employed to do. I become the one who does what he is told – either in hope of reward or for fear of punishment. When my faith is reduced to this kind of response, I become a shadow of who I am called to be. 

When I see myself as part of the farm's family, however, I become invested in a different way. It’s no longer enough to sow seed. I am also called to tend the soil. This means breaking up the hard-packed dirt of the path so that the soil can breathe. It means digging up the rocks that block the soil from allowing truth to make its home deep within it. It means pulling up the weeds so that new life can burst forth.

This, for me, is the difference between faithful and being fruitful. Or perhaps going beyond mere faithfulness to passionate fruitfulness. 

As the child wandered from worker to worker, he found professionals doing their jobs. Those jobs were important and they were what they were employed and called to do. The old man at the end of the story, however, was doing more than his job. The humble hole he dug was part of a bigger story, a greater vision and a deeper understanding of who, where and what he was called to.

In my life, my ministry and my community, I am learning that I am called to more than simply proclaiming a message. I am called to demonstrate and embody the truths that I have learned and am learning from my faith. The way in which I love and serve, the way in which I seek to be kind, gracious and fully present, these pursuits tend the soil so that the seed may find a home. 

Proper 11: Weeds & Seeds.

Proper 9: Burdens.