Sowing Seed

Monday, October 24, 2011 — Week of Proper 25, Year One

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 990)

Psalms 41, 52 (morning) // 44 (evening)

Zechariah 1:7-17

Revelation 4:1-11

Matthew 13:1-9

Because the parable of the sower has become so associated with the interpretation that follows in Matthew’s Gospel, it can be hard to read it fresh, as a simple parable without the framing interpretation. But our lectionary gives us that opportunity today.

As I read Matthew 13:1-9, the frame that came into my mind had to do with my own use of time, and my sense of effectiveness and efficiency. I thought of the seeds as all the things that I do. I spend my day in various activities. Some of my time is in study and prayer. Some in writing, some e-mailing, some on the telephone. I visit with people, I have meetings, I work with my colleagues. I eat, I rest, and I have some fun. I take care of some chores, and I waste some time. All through the day, I spend the precious gift of time like a sower sowing seeds.

And what do I have to show for it? What sort of harvest is there?

Sometimes I know immediately. I have just wasted a bit of time. The rocky soil was obvious.

Sometimes a problem is solved simply and quickly. Where is the next weed to pick?

Usually it takes some time to know if a conversation or an email has made a difference. Often I’ll never know. I just sow seeds and trust.

As one who preaches, I’ve recognized that I often can’t predict how what I say will be received. I’ve had sermons that I thought were hum-dingers when I finished writing them, that seemed to bomb when I preached them. I’ve come to the pulpit with something anemic, and later been surprised to hear someone say it was just what they needed to hear. I’ve had someone tell me what they heard, and it was exactly the opposite of what I thought I said or what I intended to say. Sometimes I know I have good seed that will fall to good earth. That feels satisfying. But not for long. There is another service, another sermon due just around the corner.

I’ve become somewhat passive about how my words might be received. So much depends upon the circumstances of the hearer. I think I am a better word-farmer when I relax and sow, and leave whatever germination or growth that might happen entirely to God.

But I digress. I started this reflection thinking about time. If every moment is a seed, how am I planting?

I do want to spend as much time as I can sowing healthy seed into well prepared ground. But I don’t want to be so compulsive that I have to be accomplishing something significant every moment.

There is something comforting about the example of the sower in the parable. The sower works with a relaxed extravagance, as if there is all the seed in the world. The sower is willing to throw the seed continuously, regardless of the context — path, thorns, rocks and deep soil — all gets covered.

So much of my context is given to me or comes to me during the day. I can make a plan to sow in one particular field that I regard as important and potentially fruitful, but getting there sometimes involves surprising detours. It is nice to relax and keep sowing. I never know when something will take root. What looks like a rocky wasteland to me may hide a perfect nesting place for a seed.

It is a Monday morning. Time to begin a new week. I’ll look at the to-do list and set some priorities. But I don’t want to be too attached to my plan that I’ll fail to throw some seed when I find myself on an unexpected path in thorns and rocks. Relax and sow. Relax and sow. No telling what might grow.

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