Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Seeds and Weeds in the Gospel of Matthew:
Images for the Inner Gardener

From college Bible study days, I've known that "weeds" in Matthew's gospel are infidels to be thrown into the fire, and "seeds" are the words of the Gospel wasted on the world's bad soil.  Those who see faith as "fire insurance" against Hell use these verses for support. So I'm grateful to Christine McFadden for a couple of alternative readings in the daily devotional pamphlet Forward Day by Day  (October 2015).

McFadden cites a sermon on Mt.13:3 by Rev. Scott E. Richardson, who asked, "What if you saw yourself as the whole field rather than one specific type of soil? ...Integrating the many aspects of self, or our four kinds of soil, may be our real work in life...."  Today, with "faith" connoting one feature of personality rather than denoting socio-political class, as in the days of Jesus, this reading of the parable is relevant and appealing.

I'm reminded of another interpretation that emphasizes the Sower's prodigality.  What a waste, it seems, to throw it all out there without regard to the where it lands!  But that's an image for the vast generosity and love of God.

Reading the story of weeds and wheat (Mt 13:29-30), allowed to grow together until they can be easily separated at harvest, McFadden again takes the opportunity to point out a truth in our personal lives.  As she writes,
Very often, the core of our [personal] stories begins in childhood, and over time we sort through experiences, aligning them with that core of discarding them.  We compose a narrative line, cobbling together even the most disparate of fragments, weaving meaning and purpose into our stories.  Over time, we create a cohesive tapestry of identity for ourselves.

That's true of us all.  McFadden pushes us to compose our own stories one more time, but "with intention and keen awareness, with prayer and the perspectives of others, throwing out those bits that keep us in unhealthy patterns and mindsets." 

We start each year telling our stories to each other for the seminar Education for Ministry, an extension program of the theology school of the University of the South, Sewanee.  (See our class blog.) We're told to tell a "spiritual" journey;  this idea of "weeding" our stories might be an inspiration.  

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