The Lectionary (the list of readings that churches use for each Sunday: most often I use it as it stops me preaching ‘greatest hits‘) has thrown up the Parable of the Sower in Matthew chapter 13 (go on: read it…and skip later on in that chapter to the explanation- you know you want to). Sometimes with well known passages like this it is tempting to ‘phone it in’, instead of grapple deeply and daily with it.
Mostly I resist this: life is too complex and I am fed up of the smug smile and the easy answer. Also, each time I sit down I think of my disparate group of mates that meet Fridays at my local or other friends I have that come nowhere near a church- if they ever came to hear (and some very occasionally do) would they appreciate and understand- have I descended into simplistic and Christian cliche?
I found this: a retelling of a Native American tale. I am not going to use it, but I think it takes the meaning in a different way:-
One day an opossum visited his good friend, a raccoon, at his home near the river. The opossum marveled at his friend’s lush garden and asked if he could grow one like it. The raccoon assured the opossum he could do so, although he cautioned him, “It is hard work.”
The opossum eagerly vowed to do the hard work necessary, then asked for and received some seeds. He rushed home with his treasure, buried them amid much laughter and song, went inside to clean up, ate, and went to bed. The next morning he leapt from bed to see his new garden.
Nothing. The ground looked no different than it had the day before!
Furious with anger and frustration, the opossum shouted at his buried seeds, “Grow, seeds, grow!” He pounded the ground and stomped his feet. But nothing happened. Soon a large crowd of forest animals gathered to see who was making all the commotion and why. The raccoon came to investigate with all the others.
“What are you doing, Opossum?” he asked. “Your racket has awakened the whole forest.”
The opossum railed about having no garden, then turned to each seed, and commanded it to grow. When the animals began to mock the opossum for his silly actions, he only screamed louder. At last the raccoon spoke up once more.
“Wait a minute, Possum,” he said. “You can’t make the seeds grow. You can only make sure they get sun and water, then watch them do their work. The life is in the seed, not in you.”
As the truth sank in, the opossum ceased his yelling and began to care for the seeds as the raccoon instructed, watering them regularly and getting rid of any weeds that invaded his garden. (On some days, though, when no one was watching, he still shouted a bit.)
Then one glorious morning the opossum wandered outside to see that multitudes of beautiful green sprouts dotted his garden. Just a few days later, gorgeous flowers began to bloom. With uncontrollable excitement and pride, the opossum ran to his friend, the raccoon, and asked him to witness the miracle. The raccoon took one long look at the thriving garden and said, “You see, Opossum, all you had to do was let the seeds do the work while you watched.”
“Yes,” smiled the opossum, finally remembering the wise words of his friend many days before, “but it’s a hard job watching a seed work.”
( From a retelling by Doug Murren, in Churches That Heal (1999) )