06 - Parable of the Sower, Oct 13, 2013

Hebrews 13:7-16 (saints)

John 17:1-13 (saints)

2 Corinthians 6:1-10

Luke 8:5-15

When Our Savior explains the parable of the Sower to His disciples, I think He is giving the keys to unlock its meaning, not the meaning itself, so that it remains for us still to contemplate the meaning of the parable using the keys the LORD has provided for us.

One notes that in the parable of the Sower, people are likened to four different places (not to four different kinds of soil) where the seed sown by the Sower falls: a placealongside the road, on top of rocks, and in weeds and thorns. One assumes dirt is in these places, too; but, curiously – or significantly – the parable speaks of dirt only in that place where the seed falls into the “good soil”.

Note the parallel in our parable this morning between the “good soil” and a “good heart”. This is one clue that the “good soil” represents the heart. Note also that in our parable this morning all four “places” receive the Word of God; but, only the “good soil”, i.e., the “good heart” both receives the Word of God and keeps it to produce fruit with patience.

Here is how I am inclined to interpret these “notes”. The places by the side of the road, on top of the rocks, and among the weeds and thorns, which are not in the “good soil”, represent the different states produced in the human soul that has been cut off from the “good soil” of the heart; for, to separate the desiring faculty of the soul from the heart where it originates, so that the soul in her desire begins to chase after things that are not worthy of her heart, is one of the chief effects of sin. This produces in us a profound spiritual schizophrenia. Separated from the “good soil” of our heart, our desire that before was single has become divided, so that in our soul we desire what our heart does not.

Let me explain it this way. In our heart we were created in the image of God. In our heart, our desire is for God, the Font of all that is good and beautiful. He is even, the holy fathers tell us, the begetter and originator of the erotic love that is within us that yearns naturally to move into God, not away from Him. But, cut off from our heart, our soul forgets God, and then becomes ignorant of Him altogether. She aches with deep yearning in her heart, but she doesn’t know why. In the blindness of her ignorance of God, she seeks to comfort the ache by giving her desire to the “lust of the eyes and the pride of life.” These become her gods, and so she becomes an idolater, in the imagery of the prophets, she becomes a spiritual fornicator, even a prostitute, because she is giving her love to lovers who are not worthy of her. But, this only intensifies the ache she feels, and makes her separation from her heart deeper. She can become hard like rock. This is the soul that has become numb to the ache that gnaws at her. Or, she can be given over to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life as she flits from one “lover” to another, looking always for her prince and never finding him.

Beloved, do you remember that Adam was fashioned by the hands of God from “good soil” (because the clay from which Adam was fashioned was part of the world that was “good”, before the Fall)? I wonder if we could apply the parallel in this morning’s parable between “good soil” and “good heart” to the story of Adam fashioned from the clay? It would mean theologically that God fashioned man from a good “heart”.

When Adam and Eve eat the fruit of the forbidden tree, they receive into the “good soil” of their “good heart” the seed of the serpent. It is the seed of disobedience. The “good soil” of their heart is corrupted with the bitterness of the serpent’s venom, the venom of disobedience and self-willfulness. And so, God is not cursing Adam and Eve so much as He is telling them what they have done. He does not say, “I curse you.” He says, rather: “The ground (your heart) is cursed because of what you have done,” (so it could be translated from the Greek, Gn 3:17 LXX). We could put God’s word to Adam and Eve in the words of our parable this morning: “Because you have heard and kept (i.e., acted on) the word of the serpent, and not mine, the ‘good soil’ of your heart is no longer ‘good’. In the word of the prophet, Jeremiah: Your heart has become ‘desperately corrupt.’ (Jer 17:9) And so, it will now bring forth, as its fruit, not the fruits of the Spirit, but the fruit of the serpent: the fruit of weeds and thorns.’”

But, is this not our story? The place of thorns and weeds where the seed of the Sower falls in this morning’s parable, could we not take it to represent our soul that has “kept” or done, not the Word of God, but the word of the serpent, the dark spirit that, as St Paul says, is the ruler of this age, and who is active even now in the sons and daughters of disobedience? (Eph 2:1-3)

When clay is put into an oven and baked, it becomes hard, like rock. The shape that it was baked in cannot be reshaped without breaking it and grinding it to dust so that it can be moistened into new clay and reshaped. We could take the rocky place in this morning’s parable as the human soul that has placed her desire in the fires of hell that burn in the oven, if you will, of the pleasures and comforts of this worldly life, and become hardened in a spiritual “shape” that is in the image and likeness not of God but of the spirit of this world. Is this not the story of our soul, also?

From the keys given us by the Savior for finding the deeper meaning of this morning’s parable, we found ourselves reading this parable together with the Genesis story of Adam and Eve in the Garden. This morning’s parable takes us to the “good soil” of the “good heart”, which echoes the fashioning of Adam by God from the “good soil” of the earth. The place by the side of the road, on the rocks, and among the weeds we see as an image of our soul’s inner agony because of her separation from the heart, which follows when she “hears and keeps” the serpent’s word of disobedience. But, I think we begin now to see how this parable of the Sower may open to us the inner meaning of God’s word to Adam and Eve, “From the dust you were taken; to the dust you shall return.” This no longer sounds like a curse, but a word of profound hope. It shows how merciful and kind our God is, for it is mapping out, from the moment of our fall, how we can be healed of our spiritual schizophrenia and our separation from God and attain to the “good soil” of a “good heart”.

The LORD tells us that the seed of the Sower is the Word of God. What do you think that Word of God might be that the Sower sows everywhere, even by the wayside, on the rocks and among the weeds? I think it is the Lord’s command: “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” “Whoever would be my disciple, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” This is the work of the Christian Faith that all who would hear the Word of God and keep it are called to do, as did the Theotokos, the Second Eve, who in the patience of her obedience to God brought forth as the Fruit of her womb the Second Adam, Christ, the Son of God made flesh. It is the work of going back to the dust of the ground, which we do by taking up our cross to follow Christ, the Second Adam, back to the dust of the ground from which we were taken; i.e., to follow Him into the “tomb of our heart”, so that He may break the shape of our worldliness, and grind us to dust, moisten us with the living waters of His Holy Spirit and re-create in us a clean heart, a “good heart” that is, as it was in the beginning, “good soil”; and from the “good soil” of His own crucified and risen body and blood, the “good soil” of His own “good heart”, the “good soil” of the baptismal waters of His Holy Church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who is all in all, raise us up in a new and right Spirit, His own Holy Spirit, so that we, too, like the Theotokos, may bring forth from the “good soil” of a “good heart”, in the patience of the Second Eve’s obedience, the “fruits” of the Spirit: love, joy and peace, that grow naturally and abundantly from the Seed of God that is sown in our soul and body when we hear and keep the word of God; i.e., when we  partake in the fear of God, with faith and love, of the most holy body and blood of the Word of God, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in Holy Eucharist. Amen.