July 13, 2014
There’s an old proverb about planting seeds that goes something like this:
One for the mouse;
One for the crow;
One to rot;
And one to grow.
Planting seeds seems to be wasteful business!
According to the proverb anyway, only one seed in 4 will take root!
And that’s if you plant it in the soil.
In Jesus’ parable,
the sower throws seeds not just in soil,
but on a path and on rocks and in thorns….
Seriously, what did he think would happen to that seed?
Everyone knows that if you want to get the best yield,
you use the best soil.
Why waste seed in places it won’t grow?
Here’s another rhyme I learned this week:
“Don’t guess.. Soil test!”
If you REALLY want to get better yield for your seed,
get your soil tested first!
Send your samples to the Virginia Tech Soil Testing Laboratory,
and they’ll tell you just how much lime or fertilizer to add to your lawn or garden.
If your soil has a deficiency of some nutrient,
they’ll tell you that too!
No more wasting seed!
You can plant seed in only the best of soil!
No waste; no guessing; no taking chances; no mistakes; no failures.
Of course soil testing technology wasn’t available in Jesus’ day.
But even if it were, it seems that oddly enough, wastefulness is the point of the parable.
It seems that the sower purposely throws the seed in places where it cannot possibly grow.
It seems that Jesus encourages throwing out seed and more seed –
taking chances on unlikely places;
worrying less about getting the best yield,
and more about just getting the seed out there.
Yesterday I was out walking in northeast DC.
I walked by a bus stop and a man stopped and asked me for $1.70 for the bus.
I didn’t give it to him.
I said to myself it would be wasting seed.
My inner dialogue continued that I had no way to know he’d really use the money – maybe he’d go and buy $1.70 worth of alcohol…!
There was other rationale of course…I’d have to go retrieve my wallet and open it up in public and there were probably other people around just waiting for that to happen and to take my wallet too.
I convinced myself to hang onto that seed and not throw it away.
I walked a little further until I got to my destination – the Basilica of the National Shrine.
I went inside the magnificent worship space and walked up towards the pulpit.
(Sometimes I do think God has a sense of humor.)
On the pulpit were inscribed the words from today’s reading:
“The seed is the Word of God.”
Throw out the seed…the yield is up to God.
How often do we hold back seed…
sowing the word of God only to whom we think it will be well-received?
The sower tosses it out everywhere.
How often do we hold tightly onto our resources, taking stewardship a bit too seriously perhaps,
making sure that nothing is wasted?
The sower lets it go.
How often do we hold onto familiar ways of doing things, stifling someone’s new idea because we’re afraid that it won’t work?
The sower doesn’t worry about failure- he’ll just toss out more seed.
You’ve probably heard a story similar to this…
In the midst of his years of attempting to invent the light bulb,
Thomas Edison was interviewed by a reporter who asked him if he felt like a failure and if he should just give up by now.
Edison replied, “Young man, why would I feel like a failure? And why would I ever give up? I now know definitively over 9,000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work. Success is almost in my grasp.”
And as the story goes, shortly after that, and over 10,000 attempts, Edison invented the light bulb.
The sower takes handful after handful after handful of seed and just throws it out there!
It goes in good places and not so good places.
He is wasteful,
prodigal, profligate, uneconomical, inefficient, extravagant, lavish, excessive, reckless…
He’s all that…
And it seems that a message we can take from the parable is that God is all that.
God is wasteful with love,
prodigal with grace,
profligate with forgiveneness,
uneconomical with mercy,
inefficient with compassion,
extravagant with blessing,
lavish with kindness,
excessive with patience,
reckless with gifts.
God wastes seed all the time…
and God doesn’t seem to mind.
Because another thing about planting seeds is,
that you never know which seed will take on roots.
It may be that the $1.70 I did not give the man yesterday,
would have been the act of compassion which would have taken root in him.
It may be that coming to the table to negotiate a Middle East peace yet one more time,
is the time it bears fruit.
It may be the 46th time you’ve forgiven someone,
is the time it transforms them.
Even Mary Lee has some seeds she plants which don’t take root…
If she stopped planting, she’d have no garden.
It only takes one seed to take root for a plant to grow.
So be reckless this week..
Throw out some seeds and then throw some more.
Throw out kindness to someone who doesn’t deserve it.
Waste some time talking about justice with someone who probably won’t listen.
Make a fool of yourself by talking about God’s love to an atheist who’s smarter than you.
Use your gifts in a way you’re pretty sure you’ll fail at.
Just keep throwing out seed.
Some will be wasted.
But that’s okay…because some may take root.