105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
106 I have sworn an oath and confirmed it,
to observe your righteous ordinances.
107 I am severely afflicted;
give me life, O Lord, according to your word.
108 Accept my offerings of praise, O Lord,
and teach me your ordinances.
109 I hold my life in my hand continually,
but I do not forget your law.
110 The wicked have laid a snare for me,
but I do not stray from your precepts.
111 Your decrees are my heritage forever;
they are the joy of my heart.
112 I incline my heart to perform your statutes
forever, to the end.
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. 2 Such great crowds gathered around him that he got into a boat and sat there, while the whole crowd stood on the beach. 3 And he told them many things in parables, saying: “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, since they had no depth of soil. 6 But when the sun rose, they were scorched; and since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. 9 Let anyone with ears listen!”
18 “Hear then the parable of the sower. 19 When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. 20 As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; 21 yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. 22 As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. 23 But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
Sermon. July 12, 2020
Rev. John Steitz
Let us begin with an extended quote by Audre Lorde:
“I was going to die, sooner or later, whether or not I had even spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silences will not protect you…
What are the words you do not yet have? What are tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language.”
I began to ask each time: “What’s the worst that could happen to me if I tell this truth?” Unlike women in other countries, our breaking silence is unlikely to get us jailed, “disappeared” or run off the road at night. Our speaking out will irritate some people…and disrupt some dinner parties. And then our speaking out will permit other women to speak, until the laws are changed and lives saved and the world is altered forever.
Next time, ask: What’s the worst that will happen? Then push yourself a little further than you dare. Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. Then will interrupt you, put you down and suggest it’s personal. And the world won’t end.
And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had.
And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realize you don’t miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you. And you will still flirt and paint your nails, dress up and party, because, as I think Emma Goldman said, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.”
And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.
Kendall Vanderslice, one of the leaders of the “Dinner Church Movement” has been developing the concept of “edible theology.” She lifts up that in the Genesis account of creation humanity was created out of the soil, which food comes from too.
God takes soil, that God has already created, breathes life into it, and forms humanity in God’s image. There is this relationship, between God and ourselves, between ourselves and the ground, one another, our own bodies, and those physical relationships are what connect us to God.
The first command that humans are given is to keep and till the earth, and then to multiply and bear fruit. We are told to protect the ground, and to harvest food out of the ground, and to carry life on through our relationships with the ground and with each other.
God ordered the world in this beautiful interdependence where we rely on the ground and the ground relies on our careful tending of it. God opened up a way of preserving this interdependence and allowing life to flourish and continue to move forward.
And the first humans ignored that and discovered that they could use food for good and for evil. From there we see the breakdown of our relationships with the ground, our relationships with one another, our relationships our own bodies, and our relationship with God.
Jesus’ parable of the sower mentions different soil conditions and how profoundly these differences impact the ability of the seed to take hold, grow and produce food.
Jesus then gives his interpretation of the parable that uses what happens to the seed as metaphor for what happens to the Word as it comes to people in different conditions. Some people have no root and fall away when the going gets hard. Some people are too focused on the cares of the world and the lure of wealth and this chokes out the possibility of discipleship. Only those people who represent good soil are able to fully understand and bear fruit.
One takeaway would be to focus our efforts on people we consider “good soil” and to ignore those people who are the type of “soil” found in hard ground, rocky ground, or thorny ground.
Are people who are considered to be “poor soil” hopeless and beyond redemption? And why is some soil hard, rocky or thorny?
Remember the Genesis account. God’s intention is that humans are to till the soil and care for the ground. We are not only sowers but tillers.
When planting a garden before and seeds are sown the ground is prepared. The soil is broken up and made ready. Rocks and thorns are removed.
This then brings us see the condition of the soil as a metaphor not of individual persons but of society. The hard and rocky soil represent the way that oppression can press down groups of people until it is difficult for them to survive, much less thrive.
The thorny soil represent the way domination and exploitation can literally choke the life out of people.
Today the average Black family has a net wealth of $17,000 while the average white families net worth, mainly in home ownership is ten times that, $170,000. This is an average, not specific to one family. There are poor white families with much less than $17,000 net wealth and a few Black families who are millionaires.
This is the result of intentional policies implemented by the federal government and by banks over the course of decades. Even though the law prohibits these practices the soil once packed down needs some way of being broken up to be productive again.
And as the nation watched with horror on Memorial Day there are policies and practices that result in Black people being choked to death. We who are white just haven’t had video evidence to see the truth of this thorny soil and the way it dominates the lives of Black people.
So what are we as disciples of Jesus Christ to do? Some might argue that this is not our responsibility. We are only responsible for sowing the seed of the gospel, not preparing the soil. But when even the Mississippi Baptist Convention calls on the State of Mississippi to remove the confederate flag from the state flag this argument has lost the support of Christians, mainline, evangelical, and Catholic.
What we are called to do as Jesus’ disciples is to embody Jesus’ way of love and justice. This means speaking up and speaking out. We break up the hard, rocky and thorny soil of oppression and domination by breaking our silence!