Sowing no condemnation (13 July 2014, Year A)

Readings
Romans 8.1–11
Matthew 13.1–9, 18–23

 

Jesus was a storyteller.

A great storyteller.

His stories are called “parables”; among the best-known are the parables of the Prodigal Son or the Good Samaritan.

One of the things about Jesus’ parables is that we need to respond to them. Think of the Good Samaritan. The Samaritan was a member of a hated group of people. Today, Jesus might tell the story of the Good Moslem or — in some places — the Good Gay Man.

The Samaritan helps the man who was beaten up and robbed, while respectable people like a priest just pass by on the other side.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan leaves us with questions: do I pass by people in need? Do I stop to help? Which side am I on, am I part of the problem or part of the solution?

In an age of people seeking asylum and finding no welcome — is there “no room at the inn”? — these become very real questions.

In the same way, the Parable of the Sower brings a question to us: what kind of “soil” am I? The sower scatters the seed, but will the seed grow? Will the seeds of God’s Good News take root in my life?

Let me tell you another story. It’s the story of a woman who had the strangest dream.

In her dream, she is wandering around in a large shopping centre. Suddenly, she notices a shop which takes her fancy. She wanders in — and of all people, she finds Jesus behind the counter. Jesus says the most wonderful thing to her: “You can have anything your heart desires.”

Astounded, amazed, but excited, she asks for “Peace, joy, happiness, wisdom, and freedom from fear.” Then she adds, “and not just for me, but for the whole earth.” Jesus smiles and says, “I think you misunderstand me. We don’t sell the finished product, we only sell seeds.

I love that story! It’s the story of someone who wants great things for herself. And not just for her, for the whole world. But that’s not how it works. We don’t get the finished product straight away.

God sows the seeds of love, joy, peace, into human hearts. And those seeds grow as our desire for these things opens our hearts to them. We can receive the things of God, if our heart is open.

The story is right. “We don’t sell the finished product, we only sell seeds.”

We are not the finished product. We are works in progress. We are people who are in the process of being made fully human in God’s sight.

We are the soil into which the seeds of God’s Good News are planted.

The Parable of the Sower tells of different kinds of soil. Some of the soil is hard because it’s become a path. Other soils are full of rocks or weeds. Some is good soil, soil that bears fruit.

Am I prepared, as soil is prepared? Am I open to the Good News, just as soil has to be open for the seed to germinate?

Or am I closed off, offering no place within myself to the Gospel of Jesus?

Many people are closed off from God. I think one of the reasons why people may be closed off is that they have taken in false beliefs about God. One false belief in particular is this: God really can’t be trusted to be kind to us. God actually isn’t good. God will punish us. God thinks we aren’t good enough for him.

Yet the truth is very different: God is “not hateful, violent, punitive, torturing, or vindictive”. (Richard Rohr)

The Apostle Paul puts it like this:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

No condemnation. If someone comes through the door of the church for the first time in years, there’s no earthquake — the sound you hear is God breathing a “Welcome Home” whisper, just as the father welcomed the prodigal son home.

No condemnation. If life deals you a bad hand, then help may come from the most unexpected person, someone like a good Samaritan.

No condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. To be baptised is to be “in” Christ. That’s part of the meaning of baptism.

No condemnation for A, baptised just today. The seeds of God’s Good News are being sown in his heart without his even being aware of it. They are sown through the love of his parents and family, they are sown through the Word of God declared over him and his acceptance into the Church of Jesus Christ.

Jesus was truly a great storyteller, and his stories draw us along into new worlds of grace and acceptance of life and peace.

We are not the finished product; but all of us who are baptised have had these seeds sown in us. We allow those seeds to grow within us as we continually open our minds and hearts to Jesus, the great Sower. Amen.

 

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