I wonder why Jesus, who was in a fishing village and sitting in a boat, decided to talk about farming? Jesus was a craftsman, so what did he know about farming? Well, not much, it would seem. This picture Jesus paints of a person sowing seeds by broadcasting them by hand from a bag slung over his shoulder really impresses me--as the wrong way to do this! One doesn’t throw seeds out without preparing the soil first and one doesn’t throw them willy-nilly to fall wherever they might. Seed is precious.
Yet, this image is an image of abundance. What kind of seed was Jesus spreading and why wasn’t he pickier about who heard it and who received it? In the Gospel, Jesus was so pressed upon by the crowd that he got into a boat and spoke to them across a span of water so he could be seen and heard. We kept looking for something similar for Corby during story time at Bible Camp this past week.
All kinds of people had gathered to hear Jesus. Why not a fishing metaphor? Apparently this group of diverse souls led Jesus to think of diverse soils. Many say there are four kinds of soils in this story but there are really six. All are given seed in abundance no matter their individual condition. One soil is so trodden it immediately passes its seeds to the birds, one soil is so rocky that the seeds immediately sprout and perish from lack of water, one soil has so many weeds the resulting plants choke out and die though they grow for a while, and the other three soils each produce a phenomenal amount at harvest time. One a hundredfold, one sixty times and one thirty, when a good yield was 7 ½ times what was planted. In a really good year tenfold could be achieved. Tenfold would cause a lot of excitement and celebration--surely there were some farmers thinking, hey, I would like soil like this!
Then there were the Roman soldiers who were always watching Jesus. Caesar was always after more grain to feed his army and his people. Thirty fold was absurd, sixty fold was mind-boggling and a hundredfold was absolutely impossible! Jesus was speaking of abundance: abundance in the sowing and abundance in the harvest, if the conditions were right.
All of today’s readings are about abundance: a barren woman gives birth to twins, Paul tells us healing is abundant through Jesus, and Jesus speaks to a crowd about a farmer sowing an abundance of seed.
What was the seed that Jesus was sowing so willy-nilly in this crowd, in all the crowds to whom he spoke? He healed people of physical, emotional and spiritual wounds. He spoke of justice. And he spoke of the kingdom of God.
The Hebrew word, shalom, embodies all of these. Shalom is about harmony and healing not just for individuals but for communities and nations and the world.
If we embrace the seeds of healing and we are healed as individuals and we recognize this healing comes from God, we can produce a bounty of healing. If I say, “I was healed from the inability to see another’s point of view and from the need to jump into other people’s stuff; then I can reach out to other people setting my own needs aside and meet their need to be healed.” There is an abundant harvest of healing. If we as a church can open ourselves to the seeds of healing so we can receive what God has offered to us as individuals and as a church community, we can spread that healing in the wider community by being a presence of harmony and healing. We will want to reach out to others who are broken and in need so they can feel this same sense of belonging to God’s kingdom. The harvest could be impossibly large.
I think we are partially there. We act from abundance though we sometimes complain about it. We have this church house and we have improved it so we can enjoy it more ourselves and so we can be better hosts and even so we have a smaller footprint on the planet. We have done this from the viewpoint of abundance--we used what we had to do these projects. Our space is brighter, more functional, and more accessible for our guests.
Our guests get the place dirty. We have mystery spots on the carpet. Yet, that dirt is a witness to our hospitality. Carpet can be cleaned and eventually replaced and it is worth it so the 12-step groups can offer healing and community to broken people who live in our town. Or so 4-year olds can hear a story and receive an abundance of love and attention. This is a place of harmony and healing. Some of the people who come here may not have prepared their souls for the seeds they receive but they come just as people came to see and hear Jesus.
Jesus looked at a crowd of souls/soils and he saw people in need of healing--some of them knew this and others came to see the show. He told them a story of abundant seed as an example that some of them weren’t going to get but, he cast out the seeds anyhow.
We approach this table back here, and sometimes we get it and sometimes we don’t. The truth is: it is God’s table and it is Christ who invites us to eat there. The food is abundant--there is always enough for all of us. Even when we miscount how many are here, we always make it work. The food is there for those who are healed and those who need to be healed. It is there for those whose souls are like the trodden path and for those with soft, open souls. It is there for those who live in harmony and those who have never experienced harmony. It is for those who have found and for those who are still seeking. It is there for those who had it together last week and are falling apart this week and vice versa.
There is healing in this connection with God, and God calls us to participate in whatever frame of mind, in whatever physical state, in whatever social status, and in whatever economic state. This is a place of abundance, of healing and of harmony.