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Homilies by Rev. Andrew Collis unless indicated otherwise.

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Ordinary Sunday 15, Year A
South Sydney Uniting Church
July 13, 2014

Matthew 13:1-9,18-23

‘Ears of corn’

One commentator writes of Jesus that he sows the word of the kindom in a way that is casual and wild. That’s the most immediately striking aspect of our text today the unconventional generosity and liberality of Jesus who, like the One he calls Abba-God, sows, gives, keeps sowing, keeps giving … in a way that seems to many wasteful or inefficient, foolish or absurd. “In a great many hearts [this unconventional] word suffers the fate of the seed in the three losses [as illustrated in the parable]. But when it finds a receptive heart and truly strikes home, the way is set for the arrival of the kingdom in the extraordinary fullness described” (Brendan Byrne). God be with you ...

When it finds a receptive heart … When the word of the kingdom finds a receptive heart ... When the story of God’s kingdom a kindom of heaven finds a receptive heart (alert to wisdom beyond convention; attuned to the edifying in spite of the manipulative and immoral) ... When the image of a life “on earth as in heaven” finds a receptive heart, the way is set for the arrival of a reign of love … and justice, and peace.

The Parable of the Sower is addressed to human hearts. It advocates a spirituality for the long haul, challenges the readiness of human hearts to receive the message of godly love, even as it elevates human hearts as conduits, creative conduits of love, co-creators, co-lovers with God. Hearts have their work to do (there is something to be said here for just the right richness of soil; that a young plant might grow up strong and tall).

At Thursday night’s Bible study Naomi pointed out that rich soil entails decomposing matter analogously, the heart sensitive to life and death, the heart attuned to suffering as well as the glory of kindom realities. Decomposition and regeneration ...

We have heard the word of the kindom. We have heard the story of a kindom of heaven a time and place for sharing pain and joy, for working side-by-side, for valuing each other, for forgiveness and compassion. We have heard about a God who loves the world, loves it into being, affirms its goodness, creates human beings as carers and stewards, responsible and free, redeemed and destined for wholeness and holiness. But have we understood?

The Greek verb syniemi, “to understand”, means to put together, to assemble or relate.

It’s not so much an intellectual question as a matter of the heart: Have we appropriated the word, the story, for ourselves? Have you made the story your own? Have I taken it into my heart, deeply, so as to appropriate the good news into my pattern of life? Jacques Derrida’s elegant work, The Ear of the Heart, explores this metaphor of the listening heart. Jesus’ parable exploits the humorous “ears of corn” image to provoke deeper/different listening.

Jesus is teaching a creative seriousness that assumes a part for each one of us in the story of the salvation, the wellbeing and flourishing of the world.

I’m using many words salvation, good news, word, story, message because it would seem that the first thing necessary, if we are to appropriate/cultivate the “seed” sown among us, is for us to know that life-giving power, wonder, beauty, glory we have received. We won’t all name it in the same way. But naming it is a first step in the process of truly hearing it and understanding it. Only when we know in our own hearts what it is that we hold most dear what it is we are most passionate about, what and whom we deeply trust can we persevere in the face of challenges and disappointments. Only in a state of creative seriousness or attentiveness to God and others can our understanding bear fruit, that is, produce good works.

When we know something of God’s care for us and all however that care is given we need to live it deeply that it might grow in us, effective, creative in and through our work, our actions and relationships.

For many, a discipline of prayerful meditation repeating the word, singing the song, centring one’s heart on the image or icon of God’s love helps to deepen understanding and to nurture love in one’s life. Perhaps in the silence this morning, you might begin to appreciate the word (is there a particular word?), the song (is there a particular song?), the image (is there a particular image or icon?), the message of God’s love as that is given to you. How deeply might you live such love?

When we know something of God’s care for us however that care is given we need to live it deeply that it might grow in us, effective, creative in and through our work, our actions and relationships.

There is a weakness with this reading of the text, and I need to say something about that. There is a danger of believing and saying that some hearts are deeper than others, or that some creative appropriations are more worthy than others. That I am deep, and others are shallow.

We can resist such self-righteousness only by confessing that our profound appropriations, our prayerful responses to love, are the work of God’s Spirit in us. All is gift. Even as we are encouraged to engage and to respond, to become more responsible, we know that, on our own, we are as shallow and as lifeless as everyone else. As Martin Luther once famously said: I believe that I cannot believe. That is: I believe that [on my own, all by myself] I cannot believe.

The Word is the Gift. May gratitude, then, be our deepest response. In silence, let us receive what the Spirit brings.

Then let us complete the homily together. How might the Word (story, song, image, icon) you receive be an invitation to live deeply? Or an invitation to deeper understanding of self, of others, of the world? ...

Divine sower,
scattering seed,
never hoarding,
wasting life or so the world thinks:
give us the depth to receive
the gift so freely given
and the maturity to revel
in love’s abundant, reckless growth;
through Jesus Christ, the grain of life.

(Prayer by Steven Shakespeare, 2009).