Today we have Jesus' explanation to his disciples of the parable of the sown seed. He gives four examples of how the word can be received by the people who hear it: 1) path - it is not understood and rejected out of hand; 2) rocky ground - misunderstands it by accepting it with joy and then when things get tough, rejects it; 3) thorns - the word is heard but the cares of the world get in the way of truly understanding it; and 4) good soil - the word is heard, understood and bears much fruit.
At first glance this seems like an un-hopeful parable. It has certainly been used through the centuries to cast aside whole swaths of people by categorizing them and giving up on them. But Jesus was not known for giving up. What if that initial reading of the parable is to narrow a reading of it? What if Jesus is talking about how people really are: that we develop our understanding over time, or at least most of us do. If we are honest with ourselves I think all of us believers have probably fallen into categories 1, 2 and 3 more often than 4. What if Jesus is saying there is a path, a journey, that there are phases of faith development and that upon reaching 4, we are ready to keep questioning but at the same time helping bring along those in earlier phases of spiritual growth and development. That is a much more hopeful understanding of Jesus' parable and one to be quite joyful about!
Copyright 2010, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.