Saturday, 15 July 2017

The Parable of the Sower, Matthew 13.1-9 and 18-23




We know the different landscapes of which Jesus speaks in the parable of the sower. We know the beaten path of life, being pecked at, the rocky patches of life, the weeds and thorns of life, the inner states from which God seems to bounce off or wither away inside us, seemingly killed off, and we may know the sacred soil of life in which the kingdom grows to a sizeable harvest. 

Jesus then, in the parable of the sower, is describing our inner geography, the various landscapes of the human heart. We have met these in others and discovered them in ourselves. We are rarely one type of soil. We are all four, the soils describe how we live and relate to others and God. 

Jesus’ parable then, describes the consequences of each kind of life we can live, so at one level, Jesus invites his first hearers, then Matthew’s hearers, and now us, to be self-reflective and examine the kind of life we are living. That is very important work indeed, to reflect, and to reflect on whether we are attempting to live out of our fear and pride wthout God or through God’s love and humility in us.  The word, humility, comes from the word, humus, the stable, long lasting remnant of decaying organic material, essential for life, but formed and discovered only by regular decomposition and death.  This then, is the value in thinking about ourselves as soil.

But in thinking this parable is primarily about ourselves, we can also be misusing and even abusing this parable.  The other day, for example, I was walking along, quite lost in the most unpleasant states of heart and mind, a miserable feeling in which it seemed nothing of God could flourish, when suddenly I realised I was not subject to these conditions at all, because God was the true life in me, not myself, and I wasn’t even born and nor would I ever die.  This is the power of the parable, if you listen, know, perceive and understand it.  But not everyone does, even Jesus acknowledged.

‘Why do you speak in parables?’ the disciples ask in verses 9 - 18, and Jesus answers, ‘To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom, but to them it has not. The reason I speak to them in parables is that they do not perceive, or listen, or understand.”
 

Why not?  Because their focus of attention is only on this world, which thrives on competition, comparison, and judgment, and on the question about what kind of dirt we are, which is about putting ourselves, and our Church, at the centre of God’s Kingdom, with the sower being choked out, somewhere in the background.  No.

The “what kind of dirt are you” question can become a decoy, making us try to understand through the lens of our selfish worldview alone, which may not be sacred.  If our worldview is not sacred, we hear but don’t understand, see but don’t perceive, and the parable simply doesn’t make sense. The farmer, God, sends his sower, Jesus, to sow on a public pathway, where birds can get it, on rocky ground, amongst thorns, which is all very bad planning, it is wasteful, inefficient, ineffective, bad farming.  You just can’t plant seeds among birds rocks and thorns and act surprised when nothing grows there. Jesus tells a parable that does not fit our worldview.

To understand this however is the beginning of understanding that the parable therefore offers a new, fresh, different and delightful worldview. It gives us a glimpse into God’s worldview, heals our ears and our eyes so that we might hear and understand, see and perceive. The Hebrews called parables riddles, the Greek called them comparisons, the Orientals called them koans. It is enough for us to know that parables test our heart’s willingness to surrender to and be enveloped in the always revealing surprising and gracious generosity of God, not just thinking about what kind of soil we are.

Different as the four soils are, the sower sows the same seeds in all four soils with equal toil, equal hope, equal generosity, and no evaluation of the soil’s quality or potential. There is no soil unsown, no ground declared undeserving of the sower’s seeds, no state of mind and heart which does not have a chance, and therefore this is not only about the quality of dirt, but the quality of God, the divine sower. We want to judge what kind of dirt we are, God wants to sow his life into our dirt. No life, no person, no soil unsown.  

Seeds are being thrown here there and everywhere, which is both poor planning and wasteful economy by our own farming practices. It is inefficient and unprofitable, and bad management, but you see, if you do see, that is, this is not about our concerns, it is about the sower, God’s gracious faithfulness. God’s concern is not dependent on how things work out in our world, the sower’s world, but it is about our wastefulness giving way to his hope, our inefficiency to his love, and our profitability to his generosity. 

This is a parable of who we are capable of being and becoming if every part of our life has been sown with the seeds of God.  And it has.  Do you know what can happen to seeds, this is the question, riddle, comparison, koanDo you know what can happen?

Given the right conditions, which include our regular acceptance of death to our own concerns, of course, apple seeds become apples. Peach seeds become peaches, and God seeds become….

God. 

Hear the parable of the sower.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Just beyond your personal reach


Someone just beyond your personal reach, but morally good, attractive, and experienced as a presence, is available to us in music, art, morality, and science.  Transcendent depth to all human experience manifesting in a slow vibration called matter, is reduced if I string a more personal story together like a driver in a rear-view mirror, a time bound narrative based on my domesticity and geography, friendships, sexual encounters, family, employment and health, and ‘my’ individual imagination and memory.  But is this the driver?  Is being itself subject to this un-becoming and re-becoming, or is the great I am really one knowledge, truth and love, one conscious bliss for whom there is no death.  Individuals, then, I suggest, are the imagination of this eternal true divine self who is “the light of the world” (Matt 5:14). No foolish thoughts, no false imagery, no fears and no forebodings come near this divine I behind the Christian religion, who became a historical human being so that historical human beings could become this divine I (2 Pet 1:4), who is kind to the wicked and ungrateful (Luke 6:35). If you don’t let kindness and truth leave you (Proverbs 3.3) Eternal love flows into the evolving world and into persona +

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Surprised by Hope...

...is the name of a book I read recently, and I was.  It is summed up in this Coptic Icon of the Resurrection, which shows Adam and Eve, representing our common humanity, pulled from the grave as Christ returns in a new heaven and a new earth, flanked by Prophets and Kings.  He pulls us beyond the limits of our created psychological body image ('Psykikon Soma') into our true nature, or original body, the 'Pneumatikon Soma', the one powered by God's spirit.  The point of being a Christian then is not to believe or disbelieve in the resurrection, but to recreate it.  It is not about going to heaven when we die, or being 'good enough' but being a channel for cosmic justice mercy freedom beauty and compassion, ushering in what we know is coming..

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Relax, no-one is in control!

To grow is to let go, and you can only be happy in the world, give, trust, if you are free of the world, because you cannot be capable, simple, and free from fear and desire, until God the Holy Spirit alone is your being, and you don’t care whether you exist or die, which is eternal life, Jesus' timeless teaching encapsulated in his advice: Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33).  

A worldly definition of religion, such as the worship of a Higher Being, is like psychology - it will assume your 'I' is of the world, so it needs to surrender, adjust, get better, get relief, find self-esteem, approval, a healthy attachment, or whatever, without ever realising that whatever is perceived, felt, touched, seen, heard, smelt, tasted, or thought, cannot be who you are anyway.  You are the perceiver, feeler, toucher, seer, hearer, smeller, taster or thinker, and this 'I' alone is Love, but people don't want this Love, because people think they need something else, such as to be loved, or to be recognised, or approved of.

Worldly religion even tries to teach a need for belief in Jesus. But wouldn't you rather know his spirit yourself than have him as an imaginary friend?  Passion for him without compassion for everyone is a history lesson, a belief to cling to, it is not what the New Testament calles Pistis [faith], a living trust, the release he taught: “Why do you call me Lord, and not do what I say”? (Lk 6:46). 

So relax, no-one is in control, neither you nor anyone, God's eternally present I is the only Self scripture witnesses to, when it says Be Still, and know that I am God (Ps 46:10), I am the Vine and you are the branches (Jn 15:5), I am, the way, the truth, and the life (Jn 14:6), I and the Father are one (Jn 10:30), Before Abraham was, I am (Jn 8:58) I have learnt to be content under all circumstances (Phil 4:12), you may participate in the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) , and let this mind be in you which was in Christ, who made himself nothing (Phil 2:5). 

So, don’t be trapped, blocked off, 'I' does not refer to a separate body or a mental image, and if you think otherwise, that is a thought, not who you are. Possibly it is an anxious thought, caused by the tightening of the body.

 So let it go, because anything you perceive is not who you are. The Christian desert Fathers and Mothers used to say that if you want rest both here and hereafter, "always ask yourself 'Who am i?' and never judge anyone."  

In the sermon on the mount (Matt 5-7) Jesus taught a state of happiness, blessedness, where you are not a body mind, but poverty, empty of ego and therefore truly allowing God to be the only I am.

“I am” is not a thought or an experience, it is the uncreated essence that manifests as matter energy and psyche, losing no potential at all in doing so. 
  
Because, I am that I am (Ex 3:14), lowly, meek, yet all powerful.

 Amen +

Friday, 2 December 2016

ON LETTING GO D


Try this interview with writer John Butler in Bakewell parish church in Derby diocese, where he meditates daily.  The son of a Russian refugee was a farmer but he explored the deserts of the world and then Russia, where he discovered the Jesus prayer, and also the presence of God.