At the beginning of the Gospel for this Sunday, we hear Jesus leave the house he is staying at to go sit by the water of the Sea of Galilee. Not much time passes before a crowd of people gather on the beach, too. His words do that—they gather people around him. People want to hear more; they want to know more.
Jesus has a parable to tell them, a mystery for them to think about. But how can they all hear crowded about on the beach? Someone gets a boat and anchors it out a little ways in the lake. Jesus swims out to the boat, gets in and sits down. As he dries off in the sun, he begins to tell the parable. It is perfect; his voice carries over the water to the people on the beach.
While we listen to the parable that Jesus tells, where will we imagine ourselves? Will we sit in the boat with Jesus, bobbing on the gentle waves? Will we sit on a rock at the edge of the water, digging our toes into the wet sand? Will we stand with the adults, shielding our eyes from the sun as we look out towards Jesus in the boat? We can take a moment to decide where we will picture ourselves as we listen to Jesus' words.
“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!”
Jesus begins and ends this parable by telling us to listen. He wants to be sure that we know how important this is. What does he want us to know? What does he want us to listen to?
Let's listen about the sower. How would we describe how he plants his seeds? We might say that he does not plant them at all! He seems to fling the seeds over all the ground: on the path, on the rocky ground, on the soil where thorns might grow, over good soil. Why does he not carefully sow the seeds? Why does he not use care to ensure that the seeds fall on the good soil?
The sower must not be worried about not having enough seeds, or that not enough will grow. He does not have to be careful where they fall because he must have more than enough seeds to sow. More than enough... The sower has an abundance of seeds!
He flings that abundance everywhere. The seed flies through the air, raining down on all the kinds of soil. It seems like the sower wants to give all the ground a chance to grow the seeds. How generous the sower is with his abundance! He gives it to all.
Let's listen about the seeds. Jesus says that the seeds bring forth grain—probably, he means wheat seeds. Each seed is one grain of wheat. Each seed can grow into a tall stalk with a head. When we open the head of a stalk of wheat we can see all the new grains of wheat—some have 100, some have 60, some have 30—each seed produces so many more seeds. The sower's abundance grows! What will the sower do with all these seeds? Will he fling them wide, too, giving more soil the chance to grow seed? Will he grind the wheat into flour and make it into bread? How many hungry people will be filled by the grain produced by the good soil?
Let's listen about the good soil. We can picture this soil, can we not? Black, heavy, and moist. No stones, no weeds. Ready and waiting for the sower, ready and waiting for the seeds to fall. If we could choose, we would want to be the good soil. We would want to be the soil that grew more seeds for the good, generous sower! We would be ready and waiting for him to walk past, flinging his seeds.
Sometimes we feel like that good soil, do we not? We listen to Jesus' words and we are ready for them to grow in us and produce...—well, we do not know what they will produce, but we know that whatever God causes to grow in us will be great! We are ready and waiting!
There are other times, though, when we do not feel like that good soil at all, right? We feel dry, hard, and thorny. Sometimes we feel like nothing good will grow in us. We might even feel like the sower will never walk by.
Can we do anything about this? Can we choose to be good soil? Perhaps. Jesus says to listen—twice in this Gospel!—so we can choose to listen to the Word of God. The Word of God will grow in us. It has a power of its own to break up dry soil, to remove rocks, to root out thorns. We will make good choices.
But we cannot do it all on our own. Soil cannot fix itself. Soil cannot scare away birds and dig up rocks. But what do we know about the sower? He is so generous. Will he not notice our troubles? Will he not bend down to pluck out our thorns? Then we can joyfully produce seeds for him.