Matthew 13:1-9, Romans 8:1-11
by Isaac Villegas
July 13, 2014
I have a bag that I keep in my pantry, a large plastic ziplock bag, filled with packets of seeds, all kinds of seeds — cucumber and zucchini, butternut and summer squash, pumpkin and watermelon, carrots and sweet corn, beets and sugar snap peas, spinach and kale, tomatoes, all sorts of tomato seeds: Sungold, Celebrity, Cherokee purple, Cherry tomato.
When the season is right, I take the bag of seeds and a shovel, and get to work in my garden. I decide which vegetables I want this year, and I figure out where I want to plant them — if I should put all the squash plants in the same corner, or if I should spread them out, between tomato plants, and the sweet peppers. I make rows or dig shallow holes, and carefully drop the seeds where they should go, several in each spot, just in case one or two don’t grow for whatever reason, and then I brush soil over them and sprinkle water.
I don’t waste them—the seeds. I don’t scatter them indiscriminately. I’m not careless. I haven’t had to buy more seeds in years. I conserve them. I save them. I’m a good steward.
The sower in the parable is not. If I were to put him in charge of planting, in my yard, in charge of my seeds, I would have to buy more every season, because he’d be throwing them everywhere — in the lawn, the walkway, my driveway, the street… wasting them, squandering them, a terrible steward, if you ask me.
He’s so nonchalant, carefree, in the parable, as he scatters the seed on the path, among the rocks, in the thorn bushes, with some finding their way into the good soil, where they produce grain. Some of the soil is very good, producing a hundredfold yield, it says, but other soil is just ok, producing thirtyfold. Any reasonable farmer would try to maximize their yield by focusing on that really good soil, the hundredfold soil. That’s where all the seed should be scattered. If he was a good steward, if he was a responsible farmer, if he was a perceptive businessman, the sower wouldn’t go about his work so willy-nilly; he would be more intentional, in order to maximize production.
Or maybe his intentions are not at all like my intentions, when I garden. Maybe that’s the whole point of the parable — It’s a parable about the kingdom of God, where there is no calculation; because with God, there is no discrimination about where God will plant life; there is no no cost-benefit analysis, no yield projections, no land speculation, no judgment about what land or what conditions would be worth God’s time, worth God’s efforts, worth God’s life, worth the gospel.
In the parable, we are invited to see what God is like, to see what God’s world looks like, the world that God is creating in our midst, not a world of scarcity, not a world of profit margins, of commerce and calculation, but a world of grace, where God gives generously, indiscriminately, where God pours out life, the seeds of life, everywhere, even in unpromising places, even in places where life seems untenable, where thorn bushes choke plants, where rocks starve seedlings, where birds feast on seeds stranded on a path.
When I imagine the sower in the story, I think of Simon, a three year old kid, in his back yard, with his parents, and me — this was a few years ago. His dad and I were building a sandbox, while Simon found a packet of seeds, lying somewhere, and he was picking them out one by one, and plopping them in the lawn, and into the bushes, and by some trees, anywhere and everywhere, and he was thrilled to be scattering the seeds, he was full of joy.
If God is the sower in this parable, then, for me, God would look like Simon, a child, exuberant and euphoric. Can you imagine God like that, like Simon? God like a toddler gardener, thrilled to scatter seeds, jubilant at the opportunity to plant life?
When God looks at your life, can you imagine a face full of joy, gleeful that you are alive, that you have survived, survived wherever you were planted?
When God looks at your life, can you imagine a God who is delighted that you have grown, delighted that you have matured, pleased to see that you have produced fruit, seeds, spreading life, spreading good news, with your words, with your hands, with your life?
When God looks at you, can you picture a God who is happy with you, pleased at who you are?—a God who delights in you? As we heard the apostle Paul say in our passage from Romans, “There is therefore no condemnation with Jesus Christ.”
When you picture God, can you imagine a thrilled kid, like Simon, overjoyed at the chance to plant you and water you and watch you grow?
Because that’s what God is like — and that’s the good news. That’s the good news of the God of life — the God who sows indiscriminately, who plants and waters, who finds joy whenever life takes hold in the world, who finds joy in you, a creature of God.