This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
New English Translation (NET)
18 “So listen to the parable of the sower: 19 When anyone hears the word about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches what was sown in his heart; this is the seed sown along the path. 20 The seed sown on rocky ground is the person who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy. 21 But he has no root in himself and does not endure; when trouble or persecution comes because of the word, immediately he falls away. 22 The seed sown among thorns is the person who hears the word, but worldly cares and the seductiveness of wealth choke the word, so it produces nothing. 23 But as for the seed sown on good soil, this is the person who hears the word and understands. He bears fruit, yielding a hundred, sixty, or thirty times what was sown.
As I noted earlier this week, there is a gap between the parable of the sower,( Matthew 13:3-9 ) which focuses on the careless confidence of the sower, and its official explanation as here, which focuses on the different soils into which the seed is sown. The explanation gives a point for point for point equivalence between the story and its applications. These are quite shrewd character sketches of the people who receive the gospel. Matthew’s church is being warned that not all preaching is fruitful, but that where it is received with trust and understanding, the harvest is plentiful. Of course in hindsight it’s not difficult to distinguish genuine reception of the message from shallower conviction that doesn’t last. In that sense the passage just says some you win, some you lose, but the wins are worthwhile. There’s an acceptance here of “poor soil” which we might think is foreign to Jesus’ practice: would Zacchaeus have been considered “good soil”? We can see also that in this passage the seed has become the preached word, whereas in the parable itself, the seed is defined only as what the sower sows; it may be a message but it may also be a messenger.
I guess I’m suggesting that some bits of the gospel are not as inspired as others. But maybe I should just admit that I’m not as inspired by some bits as by others. I can imagine that the “explanation of the parable” was as helpful in the pastoral care of converts, as it is today. Indeed, now that I reflect, its pointed phrases, “”no root within”, “worldly cares and the seductiveness of wealth,” ask good questions about my own fruitfulness. Moreover, the clear assertion about the fruitfulness of those who have truly received the gospel, also squares with my experience of the lavish goodness of genuine people within and outside churches. So yes, maybe when I give the bible passage a chance, it does speak and is inspiring.