We are all starved for hope.
I saw that line somewhere this week and I’ve been sitting with it ever since. We are 4 months into a pandemic of biblical proportions and a racial reckoning too long over-due. Add to that the growing frustration of a fractured republic where no one has ears to hear another unless they agree with you. And we have lost our ability to have civil discourse or find real leadership to help us weave our way through these heart-wrenching times.
Violence is everywhere and the earth is burning, flooding, and becoming more toxic by the hour.
We are all starved for some shred of hope in the midst of this. Even those of us who seek to follow God are struggling. Where is God in this mess?It is easy to go down that road and lose all sense of hope for what will happen in the next 24 hours, much less the next 50 years. We have work to do to address all these things, and we have no idea how. And that is so depressing that hope seems elusive and despairing.
We are all starved for hope. But hope, like God, is right here in the midst of it all. How do we find it, see it, hear it?
The Parable of the Sower is one of my favorite stories. Parables were meant to be subversive stories that would challenge and transform its listeners. A parable should leave you uncomfortable. Things could change in a big way if you really listened to it and took it to heart. That discomfort is an invitation to let go of an old way of being and take on something radically different.
Parables are meant to be disturbing visions of how things could be. They challenge the status quo and ask us to imagine something beyond the way things have always seemed.
Perhaps we are a living manifestation of a parable. The disturbing vision of how things are right now is certainly uncomfortable. How can we imagine something different? Or to the point, what’s the invitation to find hope in the midst of our hopelessness?
In today’s story Jesus pretty much asks those on the shore, “Why on earth would a farmer waste precious seed to scatter it anywhere and everywhere?” Our way of thinking says, “How wasteful!” And then he says, “Who would even guess that a field would produce 100 times the amount sown?” And we react with, “Like that’s gonna happen!”
The first word out of Jesus’ mouth is Listen! I think Jesus is saying, “Don’t listen with your mind, listen with your heart. Imagine being a sower of seeds.”
This is the parable of the sower – not the parable of the seeds or even the parable of the different kinds of soil. Who is this sower of seeds who farms unlike anyone I’ve ever heard of?
We lived on a farm once and the only place the seed went was in the well tilled earth in nice straight rows in the perfect amount. It’s an exact science designed for the highest yield.
Even if you buy a little packet of seeds for your garden at home, the instructions on the back say to place one seed every 6 to 12 inches apart. To do otherwise would be wasteful and pointless because you have to thin them anyway.
If we think about this parable as really being about seeds, then the wastefulness seems flagrant. But if we were to substitute the word love or joy or hope into the story, then we might get an entirely different scenario and a wholly different outcome.
The problem with this parable isn’t that it’s foolish or doesn’t make sense. It is our fear that this sower of seeds won’t find us as rich, loamy people ready to take the seeds and become good fruit. It is our fear that we will be found as rocky, thorny, dried out soil and the sower will walk away and leave us without the hope we need to survive. And it is our unwillingness to follow the sower and spread seeds of hope around us.
If you have heard this story for years and always heard it from the standpoint of needing to buck up and be better the better soil to produce good fruit for Jesus, please stop! It’s not about you. It’s about the sower, not the ground. It actually isn’t even about the seeds. They are the props in a one-actor play whose main purpose is to show us how to love. It is the hope we are in starving need of at the moment. And that can change so much. The sower always has more seeds and the sower is out there all day, every day, scattering the seeds of hope all over the place with reckless abandon.
We are so blessed! But we are blind to this blessing if we can’t see that the seed thrown on dry paths and rocky ground and thorny patches is different than the seed scattered in rich soil. Right now we are the dry, rocky, thorny soil. And we need this hope scattered on us even if only one seed sprouts and works it’s way up through a crack in the sidewalk or manages to find the heat of the sun nourishing like a succulent instead of a begonia.
If your soul is worn down like a path – receive the hope tossed on you.
If your soul is rocky – receive the hope that bounces around as they are scattered
If your soul is thorny – receive the hope thrown your way.
If your soul is rich and ready – receive the hope that falls into you.
God is faithful. The sower would rather waste hope on someone who might not receive it than lose the one person who desperately needs it. You and I are that one person.
And when we are filled with this hope, it will become easier to be like the sower and plant more seeds with frivolous abundance. When that happens, outrageous hope becomes a ridiculous harvest.
Why would we want or need to be like this sower of seeds? In difficult times, the world needs hope. That’s obvious. But to have hope tossed around lavishly (and seemingly endlessly) is exactly what we need right now. Hope that comes from someone who knows its value and then gives it away freely and abundantly.
The invitation is to become a sower, not the ground necessarily, although if you are the ground and received that bit of hope, it’s time to pass on. It’s time to share it with someone else, because sharing just a little bit generates more and more and more. And it may feed us the blessing we need. It may offer us the hope we are so starved for.
Be the sower, spread the seed around. Find some hope today. Find some crack in the sidewalk and look for the little something that’s growing in the ground. Look for something that’s growing up out of the rocks . Seek it out and when you find it, share that news. Because that’s Good News.
You were the person that was supposed to receive it. And with that hope, you’re invited to become a sower too to share what you have been given. Because the world needs us now to be the sharers of the hope that we are all starved for.
The Reverend Patty Baker, Vicar
St. Clare Episcopal Church