The seed that fell

The seed fell on the edge of the path, or on the rock, or among thorns, or in fertile soil. The economy of the images is shocking. We have grown to think these words spiritual. The shock is they apply to every meeting of people. Your message to me may fall on the edge of my consciousness, or crash land on my contrary opinion, or get swallowed up in my busy preoccupations. And then again, I might – I just might – give you my attention and listen!

We can go global and think of the Syrians, the Israelis, the Americans and others. Do they listen? We can think of the courageous Chinese who has just died after many years of advocacy for a listening society in his own country. His government doesn’t even allow news of his death to appear in the media. But the issue of listening cannot be pushed out there away from us into the world. We know it is about us; about me.

I wish I could remember clearly some of the inspiring things I have heard or read. I wish I could integrate them into who I am so that I wouldn’t have to remember them. We do it in a way. But we would make so much progress if it became part of our daily encounters with others. Martin Buber describes two ways of relating. One he calls I-It, the other I-Thou. I-It is not really a relationship because the I, that is you, are engaging with another person simply as an object, as one would with a tool – an axe or a car.

I-Thou is where you turn towards a person fully and freely; you are totally present to them. You engage as equal persons who do not know what will happen next. Each is concerned for the “honour” of the other – not just their usefulness. Here the word falls not on the path, not on the rock or in the bush. When we engage with another, without wishing to “use” them or “prejudge them”, or pass on quickly “on the other side”, then we are fertilel.

And this is the only way we can approach God, the “Eternal Thou”. God can never become an “It”; God can never be “used.” And if we try to approach others as “Thou” we will soon find we are in a relationship with God. And when we pay attention to God things happen. Talking to Australian visitors today I heard how their universities are superb environments for learning but thorny and rocky places for belonging. Students search for community because that is where we “commune”, that is, pay attention to one another.

People, young people especially, soon know when they are being “used”, when they are “Its.” Too often they are a number in the computer. The message of the parable of the Sower is shockingly simple; either we receive the word, the Word, blossom and bear fruit; or we allow the word to glance off us, bounce off us, get entangle in us, and shrivel and die.

16 July 2017                            Sunday 15 A

Isaiah 55:10-11                       Romans 8:18-23                                  Matthew 13:1-23

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