It’s Always a Process


Is: 55:10-11

Ps: 65:10,11, 12-13-14

Rom: 8-18-23

Mt: 13:1-23

What these readings have in common is process. We sow seeds, rain falls, crops grow and are harvested. Even the reading from Romans suggests that process is the key. Creation is a process that is being worked out in time.

Typically, what is garnered from Matthew’s parable of the sower, is that we must be the fruitful seed. We must take the Word, let it enrich us, grow in us and we must then use it to facilitate the creating desire of God. And that is perfectly true.

Yet, it also bespeaks something about our faith and how it prospers or not. I often wonder how a fundamentalist reads this parable. Surely they don’t see themselves as seed that has fallen on rock or the path. They see themselves as seed that fell into rich soil. They do not let the cares of the world, or the vicissitudes of life interfere with their dedication to Jesus and the Gospel.  They remain committed to their understanding of the Word.

But I suggest there is another way to look at the parable and the readings in general. They don’t necessarily relate to one’s tenacity in committment to “spreading the Word” but rather to the process of being in faith.

And what we see here is change. There is a process being announced. Seed, rain, soil, each is needed. The seed bursts forth, becomes a plant, sets seed, produces its fruits, and then is harvested. It’s not simply a matter of sowing day in and day out. It’s not merely a matter of reading the same passages again and again and reminding ourselves of the standard meanings.

Growth and change signify each of these readings, and that means ourselves as well as our duties to spread the “good news.”

To cast in iron the meaning of any parable or any passage is to stop growing. And to stop growing is death. We can wave the banner of faith, but if it is a faith that is stagnant, unyielding in its interpretation, then we are failing quite simply to honor Jesus’ words.

Faith is messy as some have suggested. It is, and should be full of starts and stops, turns, flips, inquiry, doubt, doubling back, and throwing up our hands in confusion. We should get angry sometimes, we should find deep peace at others, joy often, confidence–in other words, faith involves the entire panoply of our emotions.

Faith is a living thing. For we are in the process of a creation, one that is still ongoing, still unfolding. And we are deeply a part of that process. The very evidence that our world is not as it should be is all the evidence we need. It is not complete because we are not complete.

Faith is work. It’s not easy nor always pleasurable. Talk to those of advanced spiritual growth and they will explain all the months and sometimes years of deep meaningless agony that must be fought through. To the degree that we attempt to avoid that, but painting a picture of faith as steady and unchanging, we contribute to the stalling of creation unfolding from us. We become the rocky soil, the path where fruitless sowing has occurred.

It is like walking along with a handful of seeds and each step turns to concrete before us. We can sow seed all day long, and we will produce nothing. The vessel is sterile, and can generate no life.

That is what seems to me is the fundamentalist. The fundamentalist has deeply erred in concluding that any question, any confusion about what the Word might mean, is not faith and thus must be avoided at all costs. Fear becomes the stick that guides the fundamentalist.

We must realize that we are in process as believers. It is okay to say, I don’t know. It is okay to say, I can’t agree with that this seems to say, therefore, I must dig deeper to uncover its meaning. It is okay to conclude that perhaps the writer was wrong! But it is right to seek answers that satisfy one’s heart, because that is the truest location of good judgment.

It is all about growth. Jesus called his disciples to grow out of their old thinking into new thinking, and in doing so, he shows us how to as well. Remember, on more than one occasion Jesus made clear that there was ever so much more to tell and to learn, more than he had time for in his short time in our world. So he taught us a method–simply love your God with all your heart, mind and soul, your fellow human being as yourself, and be servant to all.

That is how we grow: by each day making a new effort to proceed throughout that day mindful of those directives.




4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tim
    Jul 11, 2011 @ 15:53:50

    “To cast in iron the meaning of any parable or any passage is to stop growing.”

    Sherry, first I must say this may be your greatest post yet! Several times I actually gasped at the passion and truth beaming out of your paragraphs. Thank you for such flow and wisdom. Thank you!

    To the topic at hand, I’m of a mind that one of the best gauges of our growth comes when we open familiar passages and new light emerges. What we couldn’t see before is now abundantly evident because our spirits have matured. And you’re absolutely right: to cast the Word in iron paralyzes us. We become arrested development cases!

    You’ve done such an extraordinary job with this. I’ll have to read it through several times to glean all the riches you’ve planted here!



    • Sherry
      Jul 12, 2011 @ 11:08:57

      Oh Tim, such very kind words, and I thought I was having a fair amount of difficulty in putting my thoughts down coherently! lol..But we all know that that is what is so rich about the bible–it spoke to it’s own time, which is discernable, and it speaks to us anew at various points in our lives. That is why it seems to me that to go, “oh that parable…I know that one” is to miss what God’s grace may have to offer you TODAY. When I am fighting a problem, I often thumb through some of my favorite places in search of help, but often find that it something on the border that catches my eye that actually strikes right to the heart of my issue. It would never have read it that way the day before!



      • Tim
        Jul 13, 2011 @ 14:36:45

        As the cherry on this sundae, a comment from last Sunday’s sermon: “The parables, in general, function in the Gospel as Jesus’ most maddening and most liberating teaching tools–not always clear, but always full of potential… the potential to reach people without giving them opportunity to immediately disagree… the potential to make people think who might other have just resorted to anger and violence… the potential to model a completely different way of being in community and in relationship with God.”

        When I heard that, it too took my breath!

      • Sherry
        Jul 14, 2011 @ 11:33:03

        Truly beautiful words Tim. Thanks so much for sharing this. I’m sure the parables Jesus related hit home more directly in his time than ours, but we surely do get the point, and frankly, when I see a really bad interpretation, I often see one of them in a new and particularly clear sense. Out of the mouths of …

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