Saturday, 9 July 2011

A parable or two

GospelMatthew 13:1-23 

off the Heugh, Lindisfarne

Jesus left the house and sat by the lakeside, but such large crowds gathered round him that he got into a boat and sat there. The people all stood on the beach, and he told them many things in parables.
  He said, ‘Imagine a sower going out to sow. As he sowed, some seeds fell on the edge of the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Others fell on patches of rock where they found little soil and sprang up straight away, because there was no depth of earth; but as soon as the sun came up they were scorched and, not having any roots, they withered away. Others fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Others fell on rich soil and produced their crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. Listen, anyone who has ears!’
  Then the disciples went up to him and asked, ‘Why do you talk to them in parables?’ ‘Because’ he replied, ‘the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven are revealed to you, but they are not revealed to them. For anyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away. The reason I talk to them in parables is that they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding. So in their case this prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled:
You will listen and listen again, but not understand,
see and see again, but not perceive.
For the heart of this nation has grown coarse,
their ears are dull of hearing, and they have shut their eyes,
for fear they should see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their heart,
and be converted
and be healed by me.
‘But happy are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear! I tell you solemnly, many prophets and holy men longed to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.
  ‘You, therefore, are to hear the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom without understanding, the evil one comes and carries off what was sown in his heart: this is the man who received the seed on the edge of the path. The one who received it on patches of rock is the man who hears the word and welcomes it at once with joy. But he has no root in him, he does not last; let some trial come, or some persecution on account of the word, and he falls away at once. The one who received the seed in thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this world and the lure of riches choke the word and so he produces nothing. And the one who received the seed in rich soil is the man who hears the word and understands it; he is the one who yields a harvest and produces now a hundredfold, now sixty, now thirty.’

Some intense experiences of the spiritual life and the mystical path  take place in God space; a time outside time. This is liminal space - a passing place - a thin place - a place of transition.

If you were looking for a way to explain liminal space you could do worse that picturing a boat. A curve of wood separating the sea from the sky; at the mercy of the deep roaming currents and sighs of the Spirit's passing over the earth. A place that challenges logic - where you have to trust with your heart.

A good place for a storyteller; for a message for those with ears and eyes that can read beneath the waves and beyond the horizon.

Jesus likes boats; for a worker with wood and stone he seems very at home in them. At home enough to sleep through the perils of a storm and to know which side the fish are on. I wonder if boats call to some genetic God memory within his human body.

We know he can walk 'on' the water if he wants to but that is something supernatural - the  nature of this boat experience is both spiritual and mundane. Perhaps fishermen 'get' it - the defiance of nature; the challenge of gravity - but otherwise it seems so ordinary -  just a place where Jesus can avoid the crowd pushing in on him.

They must be landlubbers this lot, the story of the Sower is  placed deep in the earth; in a season of chance and harvest that the people of the land can relate to.

There is always space and time for a new tale and I wonder what the story would have been if it had been told for the people of the capricious Sea of Galilee.

Imagine the throwing of a fisherman's net; imagine the very life and craft of sailing and fishing on the Galilee.

Water attracts many; the lifeblood of a desert people; the harvest for a lakeside community - many people come to the water's edge - but it affects everyone differently.

Would you be one of those will spend a sunny afternoon or a warm evening sitting on the dockside watching the working boats thinking that it would be a good way to spend a day or a holiday; that you might try it - some day?

Would you be one of those who has a boat; polished and scrubbed? A place to catch the seabreezes that gives respite from the desert heat; but never far from the dockside; and the net folded up neatly in the stowage - it came with the boat -  you have never learnt to use it.

Perhaps there have been times that you were a regular at the dockside- an enthusiast -  tagging your boat behind the fleet even on the night sailings; sharing in the tales of memorable catches and surviving a storm or two until something else catches your interest, other demands are made on your life and you drift away with fond memories but something else to do.

Or would you be captivated; the cold green sea water in your veins; the sounds of the waves and cries of birds, the clink of chains and thwack of the canvas in your ears; hands callused and scarred  by the ropes, the nets; eyes trained to watch for shadows of shoals in the depths, the billowing of the clouds and the turn of the stars in the skies above?Would your feet feel awkward on the earth, body off balance, siren voices calling you back from days spent inland? Would you measure your life by the counting of a catch; the loss of friend in an unforgiving storm; the camaraderie of a dawnbreaking breakfast around a driftwood fire? Would it be your life, for all your life?

Ears that hear? Eyes that see?



sattler said...

In the other room I have a mounted postcard. It's a painting of the Sower by the Irish artist Hamish Moyle. The associations are important for me. I brought the postcard back from a visit to the Little Gidding community years ago. The sweep of the sower's hand follows the curve of the furrows. What strikes me is the 'pace' of the painting. The sower is purposeful but unhurried. This is Kosuke Koyama's 'Three Mile an Hour God'.

I loved your earth and water post. I believe in 'thin pace' as well as 'thin places'. Sometimes we need to slow right down for eyes to see or ears to hear. I've done a lot of waiting and watching by the harbour-side, too. Lerwick springs to mind. Time seems a little lower. Today I began work on a book proposal: 'The Gospel of Slow'. It seems appropriate.

Word in the Hand said...

Thank you - 'slow' sounds more than appropriate.Not that you can't pay attention at speed but... I sometimes think that's the different between pilgrims and hermits - pilgrims need to look at what's there, hermits at what's here. I am more of a what's here myself.
every blessing with the proposal.

claire said...

What an absolutely post, Word...
I have always loved passages when Jesus preaches from a boat. I can see him sitting on the edge, his legs dangling over the water. I can hear the water against the hull. It is all very real to me.
I could sit and watch boats. I love water, sky, horizon, and clouds, and the Divine pervading everything.
Thank you for this liminal post.