Home > Thoughts > Divergent thought – Parable of the Sower

Divergent thought – Parable of the Sower

During our visit to a local church this past Sunday we listened to the pastor discuss the parable of the sower and the seed. For the uninitiated, that was one of the stories attributed to Jesus of Nazareth as recounted in Matthew (13:3-23), Mark (4:2-20), and Luke (8:4-15).

We think we like this church (Lookout Mountain Community Church) and have visited it now for three consecutive weeks. We’ll be trying it on for some time before we “place membership”, if we’re supposed to do that. The conversation on Sunday focused much on the sower and the soil: how it’s the job of the sower to faithfully and consistently cast seeds, and how we are all sowers and we are all different types of soil at different times in our lives. Something that I have been thinking about, which would not likely lend itself to pulpit talk, but which I think would be worth exploring over a bottle of wine, is to what extent the quality of the seed is involved, and what responsibility the sower has for ensuring the quality of the seed.

The Sower, Van Gogh

There is also the more elemental question: what is the seed? Without taking that into too great of detail, I believe that the seed represented in the metaphor is not the doctrinal “word of God” (i.e. scripture), but is the more fundamental “Word of God” that is marked by right living and love toward others, with subservience to the ultimate truth and consistent with the nature of God. In other words, the stuff I really suck at. Back to the metaphors at hand, though.

Carrying Jesus’s “sower” metaphor forward a bit, if the sower is throwing seeds that are contaminated by bias, malice, deceit, or misunderstanding, what crop will bear fruit? If the sower throws seeds from noxious weeds into good soil, that good soil – which might not discern bad seed from good – will soon be overrun by bad fruit, choking out an otherwise potentially good crop or worse, preventing a good crop from ever taking root where there is no room among the jungle of messed up ideas.

This brings me to the question: to what degree can the human mind discern good seed from bad – whether that mind belongs to the sower or the soil? How can the human mind prepare the soil accordingly, to fertilize the seed worthy of germinating, and to weed out the seeds that are noxious?

And one last thought that should trouble every sower: crops that grow have a tendency to reseed. Those seeds not only reseed the field on which they’re planted – they also can spread to other fields, carried by the wind or by others who have picked up the seed and resow them elsewhere. And so the quality and condition of the seed is all the more important, because the sower doesn’t control the quality of the soil, nor the germination and reseeding of the original seed.

I’m sorry to beat up this metaphor to this point, but I think it’s a very powerful image. It speaks to the grave responsibility that the sower has to not only faithfully cast seed, but to make sure that the seed itself is of the highest and purest quality, as the sower best and most honestly determines it to be. Understanding that all sowers are limited and fallible, and that all will naturally carry personal understanding and bias into their casting of the seed, if the sower’s motives are pure and if the sower aggressively strives to understand the seed and the soil, and is willing to tend to the crop with love and care, I suppose that’s all we can ask until some great harvest.

  1. NS
    July 13, 2014 at 6:05 am

    You have put some real thought into this story of the sewer and the seed. Very interesting, that you have picked up on right living and love of God as the Word of God. As for me, I see this as Love Itself (God) indiscriminately casting the seed (growth potential for love, real love) hitther and thither, with abandon. Same quality of seed regardless of the place that the seed will fall. Whether the land is prepared, whether the rocky soil deserves to receive the soil, or the thorn infested seed deserves to receive the seed or not, it receives it in abundance. However, once on the soil, there are various responses according to the type of soil or field where it is sown. So the question is, how do we, who are all capable at the very least of being weedy recipients, overcome with thoughts that are contrary to love, prepare ourselves to be at least somewhat fertile as that seed is continuously strewn over us with abandon. What is the role or response of the field to the seed?

    Another perspective on this sewer, seed and recipient of the seed was broadcast today at http://www.wordonfire.org/WOF-Radio/Sermons/Sermon-Archive-for-2014/Sermon-705-The-Prodigal-Power-15th-Sunday.aspx

    Robert Barron gives a thoughtful commentary on this parable of Jesus.

    The Prodigal Sower : 15th Sunday of Ordinary Time

    Thank you for your posting. I enjoyed reading it.

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