When I first watched this video clip, seeing the animation of this famous parable, I gained an insight that I have never had when reading this well-known story. I could see the parable as TROUBLE. When we look at something old and familiar and still think, “uh-oh”, that means that it still has power. This parable is old, it’s lived through countless generations, and yet it doesn’t feel old, pale or boring – it still has its capacity to upset us and to turn this world upside down. This parable is more like an electrical device that plugs us in to seeing the present world from the perspective of Jesus.
Watching the parable on YouTube, I was dismayed, wondering, if we see the seeds as people, who might they be: the seeds that fall besides the road, the seeds that fall on the rocky places. And who are those that fall on the good soil and yield a crop, some a hundred-fold, some sixty and some thirty?
Day by day, year by year, we are learning that we live in a global economy, and we are not on a level playing field. (Assuming kids are there) Do you know what that is? Can you imagine it – a playing field, maybe the same size as the one at your school, and it’s slanted so the ball only rolls in one direction? It might be fun to be the team that’s on the top of the field, but imagine how hard, and how frustrating, it would be to be part of the team at the bottom of the field, trying to kick uphill for a goal that seems impossible to reach.
So many people in the world live on less than one dollar a day – we know that – but how hard are we really trying to change that? We can’t say that we don’t know about the team at the bottom of the field – we were reminded of the reality of the divide between our comforts and other, harder lives when an eight-story factory complex collapsed in Bangladesh last year; as news cameras showed us the rescue effort, they also showed us the thousands of dresses and skirts and shirts lying on the ground, what the workers were making while the cheap concrete cracked around them – and the labels were so familiar – Joe Fresh, George, The Children’s Place – bargain fashion. Our bargains depend on their cheap labour and unfair working conditions. We are not on a level playing field when our cute-t-shirts are costing people their lives. So we have to ask ourselves, what is our soil – we look around and see the good, productive Manitoba dirt, and we hope that is our soil – but there’s other soil – the shallow soil of consumer culture, of looking for bargains without asking what their true price is. Or even looking at the land around us and not asking what its true price is – and who paid that cost. I think about First Nations communities whose individual and collective lives were disrupted as they were pushed into the low end of that unlevel playing field. And then, maybe, if we are really being honest, we should ask ourselves where the best soil usually is – at the top of a hill, or at the bottom? Maybe, by being at the top of that field, by having the best view and the easiest goals, we’re also keeping ourselves out of the best soil, the richest earth, the place where our seeds would do best.
Interpreting today’s parable in this way is not common – yet encountering parables not just as Sunday school stories but as TROUBLE invites us to a conversation within our hearts and minds: inner conversation for imagining and thinking about how we can transform the world around us, transform ourselves to truly represent the vision of Jesus – the Kingdom of God – every living being who holds a vision for life and faith in their life should thrive in the Kingdom of God.
In this parable we are invited to wonder along with Jesus – one of our church members gave me some very good books this week, and I loved the title of one of them – INVITING WONDER…
We are invited to wonder with Jesus – what should the kingdom of God be like? My response is that whoever has a vision for life, a good faith for the life that God has given them should be supported and nurtured to grow and yield a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.