This summer, the community I serve as pastor is engaging in an intergenerational Christian formation experience in which we are focusing on the parables of God’s reign. The key parable for understanding all the parables, as Jesus expresses, is the Parable of the Sower. I prefer to call it the Parable of the Soils, since it gives more attention to how the sown seed – the Word of God – takes root in the varying conditions of people’s lives.
However, there is also another way to approach this parable – from the perspective of the sown seed – that for me has missional implications.
Jesus in this parable explains that the sown seed is the Word of God. Now the Word of God has different ways of being understood – the word or voice of God, the incarnate presence of God in human history embodied in Jesus, and the word of God written. Whatever Jesus had in mind in expressing the sown seed being the sown Word of God, we discover that the word of God is sown in the world and depending how it is received (what kinds of soils it germinates in), what it is able to accomplish in transforming the lives of persons.
In thinking about missional implications, I realize that we in whom the word has been sown, and especially if the word takes root and flourishes within our lives, the word somehow is embodied in our lives. Yes, we give witness to the word in us, but also we are bearers of the word in the world.
As a Mennonite community, we give expression to this reality by giving “life verses” to people when they are baptized in our community. As a persons seeks to declare their allegiance to Christ and to follow him, we as a community also ask, how is the life of God being embodied in this person? And so we discern with them, their parents, their spouses and families, with the community, what God is doing in them that is an expression of God’s transforming action. This “life verse” then becomes an expression of how we see the Spirit of God at work in them, but also, they become a living word amongst us as we see them growing into embodying a particular verse in giving witness to us as to how to live a particular text out in our lives.
For example, when a young father was baptized, we chose Galatians 2:20 as his life verse because he sensed God was living in him in such a way that “he was indeed crucified with Christ,” and also, in recognizing that he was embodying this passage in his life, we look to him to show us through his life “that the life he now lives he lives for Christ.” Others in our community seek to embody and live out in witness, Micah 6:8; Romans 8:28, and so forth.
When the word of God takes root in our lives, we live out the living presence of God’s word as is it is manifested through us, through our lives, through our work, through our engagement with all we do and wherever we go.
Therefore, we can see ourselves in this parable of the kingdom as well – missionally, we are the scattered seed being sown in the world. As we breathe in the Spirit of Christ, as we are sent as the Father has sent Christ Jesus, we are not merely sent, but we are sown in the soil of the world, the soil of relationships, the soil of circumstances, the soil of peoples’ lives in order to be agents of transforming presence. Yes, we are not the Word of God – but in the word taking root in us and transforming us, we are also more than mere witnesses to the word – we somehow embody the living word of God in and through our lives.
So, may God’s word take root in us. May we live our lives in relationship to God’s word. May our lives be transformed by God’s word. And as a result, as we are sent out into the world, as Jesus was sent, may we give ourselves to be scattered as seed by the Spirit, participating with God in God’s mission of sowing life that overcomes the power of sin and death, and so be seed that produces a great harvest.