I’ve probably read this passage 500 times. I don’t think that’s much of an exaggeration, either. Surely you’ve heard a sermon or 2 or 15 on the subject. We’ve dissected this thing and put it back together thousands of times. I should be an expert on this one.
So how is it that I can read these words again and feel like I’ve missed THE point of the whole thing?
“Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.” – Matthew 13:3b-9
Ok, I have ears. And a Bible degree. I can understand this. You probably can, too. We could sit down and you could tell me what each piece of the story represents — the seeds and the birds and the sun and the thorns. We have this one nailed, right? I bet we have 20 observations about this story that are all valid and good.
But as I sit here this morning, one detail is waving to me from the crowd. One fact is shouting at me to sit up and pay attention:
I am not the sun or the rain. I am not the seed. I have no power to make things grow.
When I boil this story down, this is THE point that remains. My role in the narrative is a very particular one — I get to spread the seed around. I have this amazing experience with the Divine. It has formed and shaped me in ways that are difficult to articulate. But this thing has the potential to be transformative for everyone. And I get to share my experience with it.
What I don’t get to decide is the effect. I don’t get to decide how others receive it. I don’t really know who might take to it and who might not. I don’t get to determine where the lines should be drawn, who is a worthy recipient and who is not.
Because let’s be honest, I’d likely get that part wrong anyway.
Instead, I simply get to scatter some seed.
Which is an utter relief. This takes the pressure off my back. You see, I have these categories that I carry around at all times and like to impose on others. They are heavy and burdensome. And what this story tells me — what Jesus is basically imploring me to do — is drop them because they don’t have much use. Instead I get to carry a bag of seed. And this load is so much lighter.
Is this what Jesus was talking about when he spoke of an easy yoke and a light burden?
Because he says that a couple chapters back. And then there’s a lively discussion about purpose and rules and labels (Matthew 12). Which leads Jesus to tell this story.
So I sit here this morning and I hear Jesus telling me to drop the labels and categories because they’re too heavy and don’t do much for me. And I think he’s telling me that this amazing story that I get to be a part of, this thing that has helped me to see the world so much clearer, that is continuing to help me find healthier ways to live and move in the world, this thing that is making me more whole day after day — I get to share that.
And I don’t have to worry about the target. I just get to live it out and spread it everywhere.
All the time.
And I can let God, who is so much more patient and wise and merciful and gracious and loving than I could ever be, worry about the result. Because like Trevor said yesterday, he wants us all to flourish and how grow.
And maybe if I can drop my labels and categories and agendas and simply be with people and share my life with them, then God can accomplish in all of us what he wants to accomplish.
Because he can make grow what I cannot. He can do the heavy lifting and not me.
Wow, what a relief.