Getting Beneath the Surface: The Sower
This is one of Jesus’ most famous parables and has often been seen as a template for his parables in general because it is one that Jesus also explains to his disciples. As readers, we are given privileged status as “insiders” who get to hear the interpretation and meaning. On one level this is helpful because we get an explanation of what is beneath the surface of the parable. But here there is another twist: the explanation is pretty obvious and not particularly cryptic. So rather than focusing on Jesus’ explanation of this particular story, perhaps we should focus on what he is saying about his teachings in general. This is a parable about parables; it is a teaching about teaching. The irony is that he is talking about the nature of understanding, but his disciples don’t understand it!
This week we explore that conundrum a little further and seek a deeper meaning in the parable. Our goal is to become both better hearers and better doers, so we will look at the various obstacles we face (comparisons to the soil types in the story) and especially focus on how we can cultivate a heart condition and receptivity more like the good soil. Specifically, we will follow the paradoxical spiral of Jesus’ teaching that “whoever has, will be given more” and look at humility, innocence, weakness and the sense of having nothing to lose as fertile soil for the Kingdom of God to bear fruit. We will also consider the generous, indiscriminate and inclusive way in which the Kingdom of God is shared—whether it is received or not—and the vulnerability of God’s love that does not force its way, but can be as readily rejected as accepted.