July 16, 2017 – 6 Pentecost A, Proper 10
Isaiah 55:10-13; Romans 8:1-11; Matthew 13:1-9,18-23
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
“It takes all kinds,” I said to an elderly friend years ago as we were discussing how different people are. “It doesn’t take all kinds,” she replied, “but we sure got all kinds.”
A New Yorker comic is framed in my office. Two grumpy looking old guys are sitting at a bar. The caption reads: “What do you mean, ‘Your guess is as good as mine’?; My guess is a helluva lot better than your guess.
We see how different others are and we assume our way is better. We hear someone express an opinion and we know ours is superior. If a mistake has been made it is more logical for us to assume that someone else made it. Differences imply inferiority in our minds. If the rest of the world was more like me, we wouldn’t have all these problems. If someone is having problems, we assume they are in large measure responsible for their situation. We never would have allowed ourselves to get in such a pickle and they deserve whatever they get. Amazing the logic we apply to life. We live in a world where we are in control of so very little, yet we think we are ultimately in control of our own destinies. We don’t need all kinds but we sure got all kinds. My guess is a helluva lot better than your guess.
The parable of the sower is the first parable Jesus uses in Matthew’s gospel. The kingdom of God is kind of like this, Jesus says, and then he offers not just one but numerous images to get us thinking. The first image involves various kinds of soil and the implication is clear: there are many different kinds of people out there represented by the varying soils. And Jesus says it right out there that some of the soil is not as good as some other soil. The kingdom of God is like seeds being strewn over all kinds of soil. In many places the seed doesn’t stand a chance because the soil is so poor but where the soil is good the seed will bear unimaginable fruit. It doesn’t take all kinds but we sure got all kinds. My guess is a helluva lot better than your guess. Doesn’t the parable say that there is good and bad soil, superior and inferior types, folks who get it and do right, folks who don’t get it and do wrong? Doesn’t the parable suggest that if everyone was more like me we wouldn’t have all these problems?
From my perspective I can look out and see good soil and bad soil. I can see fruitfulness and fruitlessness. I can see rocky ground and thorns where things are a real mess. And I can see good, rich territory where things are going so well. But my experience, as I look out and watch, is that the soil shifts. At any given time we are soaking up the good news of forgiveness and salvation and growing in the kingdom. But at another given time we are dry and barren, rocky and thorny. One day I might be hearing and understanding and open to grace and mercy. Another day I might be so caught up in the cares of the world that this good news of salvation is totally removed from my life. Some days I get it and some days I don’t. Some people get it and some people don’t. But tomorrow the soil may shift. Tomorrow the roles may be reversed. At any given time some get it and some don’t, we get it or we don’t. That’s the world God is dealing with.
And so the parable moves from being a commentary on which of us is good soil or poor soil to being a commentary on the God of grace who has to deal with all of us. Some of us are getting it, some aren’t. Today we are tuned in and tomorrow we are cold and cruel. And God pours grace day after day after day upon the whole lot of us indiscriminately and without limitation. Grace is not aimed at the soil that is good at the time. Grace is poured out on everyone all the time no matter what.
The parables of the kingdom will continue. Next comes the parable of the weeds among the wheat: let it all grow together, Jesus says. Next comes the parable of the mustard seed: the kingdom starts small and grows larger. Then the parable of the yeast: the kingdom enters the world and transforms it. The parables continue: images of unlimited grace and unexplainable transformation. All of them say certain things about us, encouraging us and inviting us to open ourselves to grace and forgiveness and fresh new life, readily admitting the cosmic struggle between good and evil. But all of them say even more about God than they do us. Good soil, bad soil, fertile or unfertile, it all gets the same treatment: abundant grace.
God doesn’t aim. God pours. That’s why there is such hope in the world. We’re all invited in and we all invited to grow.