Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: "Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 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. But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Let anyone with ears listen!"
I've seen St. Gregory's member, Peggy, share this parable in the style of Godly Play on two different occasions: first at FOG Camp, then at the Supper Service. Both times Peggy's telling, and the community's subsequent wondering, offered me deep food for thought.
At FOG Camp, during the wondering time following the story, Peggy asked, "I wonder if the sower was happy when the birds came and ate the seeds?"
"Yes, I think she was probably very happy," replied an 8 year old boy. "She must have felt so happy because the birds liked her seeds so much, and also the birds were probably very hungry."
Such a thought had never occurred to me! In my imagination, the sower must have felt very angry, or at least frustrated, or disappointed. Because the only possible purpose of the seeds was to take root and grow tall, right? It had never occurred to me that the purpose of the seeds might have been to nourish the hungry birds.
At the Supper Service, I was captivated during the storytelling by Peggy's hands...her fingers prodding persistently, like little roots trying to push their way into the soil.
When the seeds pushed their little roots down into the good earth, they could go all the way in. They grew and grew. When they were all grown up, they were ripe for the harvest.
Then Peggy's finger flattened out like a blade, and swept a smooth, straight line across the earth.
Then they were cut off and gathered up. The harvest was thirty, sixty, and one hundred bushels.
They were cut off? Somehow I had never really thought about that. In order to harvest the grain, you have to cut it down. You cut it down so that that the grain can become bread for the hungry, or seed for the sower to plant in another season or another field. But you gotta cut it down.
When the birds eat the seeds I have sown on the earth, or the harvester cuts down my plants that were growing so tall, it is easy for me to feel angry, or frustrated, or disappointed. It is easy for me to look at situations and see only wasted effort and failure.
But I wonder what those "wasted efforts" and "failures" might look like through the eyes of a hungry bird, or a hungry family, or next season's sower?
Can you think of a time when your "wasted efforts" or "failures" resulted in unexpected nourishment, beauty, or hope? If an experience from your own life comes to mind, I hope you'll share it.
P.S. Want to go deeper?
Try this 3 minute video meditation on the parable, using prayer beads and song.
Listen to the podcasts of Sara and Paul's sermons from July 13, 2014.