When God gives gifts, God is so extravagant as to appear wasteful. Of all we're asked to believe, this, I think, is the hardest. Yet, it is the consistent message of the entire scriptures; a message to which all of our readings attest: When God gives gifts, God is so extravagant as to appear wasteful. Trees burst with fruit, the sea teem with life, the skies drop fatness, flocks lavishly clothe the meadows, grain, wine and oil overflow, faith abounds and God's Word is always full! When Jesus tells the parable of the sower and the seed, his most radical notion is that the seed is scattered everywhere -- in the path, on the rocks, among the thorns, for the birds and, almost incidentally, on fertile ground. For Jesus' first century hearers long convinced by their political overlords and their religious enablers that God is frugal, doling out resources to only a select few, this is radical. For us today, immersed in the myth that there is never enough of anything -- this appears as pious nonsense. Yet this is exactly what Jesus, with Isaiah and the prophets and Paul and the apostles, proclaims to us, inviting us to believe and nourishing us to use to shape our lives, our society and our world. We have a name for what Jesus proclaims, invites us to believe and nourishes us to use. We call it "the Gospel." So I'll say it again: When God gives gifts God is so
extravagant as to appear absolutely wasteful.
"A sower went out to sow," says Jesus. He didn't do soil studies, demographic charts or cost analysis. He didn't consult actuarial tables or probability charts. "A sower went out to sow," says Jesus, "and he scattered seed everywhere." Birds, rocks, well-worn paths, fertile soil, they all are showered with extravagant abundance. In Jesus' parable, the sower is not the slightest bit concerned about being extravagant or wasteful. In Jesus' parable, there is enough, in abundance, for all.
"The myth of scarcity," the notion that there is not enough, runs rampant today. Hear the fear-filled chants against abused and battered refugee children in southern California: There isn't enough. Affordable health care for all: There isn't enough. Affordable housing, even while luxury condos are being built: There isn't enough. Parse the language denying climate change and the 'cost' to slow it or reverse it: There isn't enough. Nearly 2 million Syrian and Iraqi refugees now exist in Jordan. We hardly know it. Why? Because of the myth that there isn't enough. Pick any issue -- local, national, global -- and "the myth of scarcity," that there isn't enough will inevitably
be the root cause of it.
"A sower went out to sow," says Jesus, "and scattered seed everywhere." With these words and by his subsequent actions of healing the marginalized, feeding thousands and dying for all, Jesus proclaims the abundance of God and simultaneously declares the myth of scarcity, demonic and its power to shape society, wrong.
"A sower went out to sow," says Jesus, "and scattered seed everywhere." The seed, Jesus explains, "is the word of the kingdom of heaven." Now there's a loaded phrase. Conveniently misused to take all God hold together in a single peace and divide rich from poor, haves from have-nots and perpetuate the "myth of scarcity" for the benefit of some but not all.
In explaining this parable Jesus says "the kingdom of heaven;" is not at some unfathomable destination finally reached when we shuffle off this mortal coil; but a God-designed reality, meant to be prayed for and experienced "on earth as in heaven" -- growing, blossoming, bearing fruit within us as we live our lives rooted in God's abundance and shape our society by rejecting the powers and pundits, protestors and pessimists who persistently proclaim that there
has never been nor will there ever be enough for all. "A sower went out to sow," says Jesus, "and scattered seed everywhere." Grounded and nourished, we blossom and bear fruit so that the kingdom of heaven grows "on earth as in heaven," amidst the weeds of the myth of scarcity and the lie that there is never enough.
John Keogh believes that. Jesus' "word of the kingdom" sown in him persisted to blossom and grow. We all help to nurture him. Soon he will be going back to seed, that is, to a seminary, I order to be more deeply nourished and carefully cultivated so that through the ministry of Word and Sacraments, God can seed, nourish and cultivate others through him.
Carol Schneider believes that. Her "seed" (i.e. seminary) days are behind her. Soon she will leave to blossom and grow and be for others what Christ is for all a "tree of life with fruits for all for the healing of the nations."
Stan and Maria believe that. They've been blossoming and growing, and bearing fruit together for forty years. Their life together joyfully proclaims what we heard from third Isaiah today, that "[God's] word be that goes out from [God's]
mouth does not return empty, but accomplishes what purposes and succeed in the thing for which [God] sent it." Their passion that the design of God's love be evident "on earth as in heaven" eloquently proclaims the truth that faith in God's abundance can and does transform the Church, the city and the world. Their life as Jew and Christian together yet more eloquently proclaims that God's Promise to Abraham and Sarah, Miriam and Moses, Ruth and David and their descendants forever is the one and same promise confirmed to us in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus; that it is one promise, indelible; and that it is a promise meant without distinction to for all. Grateful that God has nourished them together for forty years and holds them together "for such a time as this," we pray that they continue to blossom together -- shaashuim adonai -- "God's pleasant planting" and grow in love and joy all the days of their life.
"A sower went out to sow, says Jesus, "and scattered the seed everywhere."
Still have trouble believing that? Well, here comes our God; and whether you are a worn-down path, impenetrable rock, a fertile field or simply "for the birds;" here comes God, to be the Sower,
the Seed and the Nourisher who showers us now with life and health, power and blessings, enough for today, enough for tomorrow and more than enough for all who shall be "on earth as in heaven."
"A sower went out to sow," says Jesus, as he seeds us and feeds us and needs us in this world -- now.
Amandus J. Derr
Saint Peter's Church
In the City of New York