Balancing on the deck of a boat, removed because the crowds are too thick, he launches his words to float above the frenzied group.
Toward the shore the people gather: a large, anonymous mass straining to hear. They are blended into comfortable ambiguity, a vaporized distinction of each precious and fragile life.
The teeming crowd: a safe place to hide.
But even anonymity cannot camouflage each life’s uncounted hopes and unnamed fears, soaking the trampled grass by the slow steady pace of wayward tears or the rushing force of unchecked sobs.
Jesus flings his words over the crowd, filled with unique and beautiful expressions of humanity desperate for recognition and blessing, for someone to look them in the eye and say, “I know you.”
Radical words, a handful here and a handful there, released like potential on the wind. Eventually they land.
They always land.
Gently or heavily, if you pay attention you can hear their possibility and pull baptizing a life with recognition and meaning.
And having named a life precious, they settle into the little corner of a heart, take root, and grow.
I’m spending this week at The Collegeville Institute with clergy colleagues from all over the U.S. and Canada. Each morning our leader Verity Jones opens our time together with some devotional thoughts.
Today we focused on the parable of the sower from Matthew’s Gospel. We were instructed to listen for words that caught our attention and to explore the passage with the help of the above illustration, created for the St. John’s Bible, a project of St. John’s University where The Collegeville Institute is housed.
Through several hearings I began to wonder if Jesus saw himself as a sower, with the crowd gathered seeking hope, meaning, recognition–the varying “ground” upon which the seeds that were his words would fall. Some would take root and some would drift away.
Later today a few of my colleagues and I got to visit the vault where the beautiful, original pages of the St. John’s Bible are kept. And we saw the sower, a beautiful piece by artist Aidan Hart, in person!
On the larger page the seeds he is sowing are sprinkled all over the words, little seeds landing on the individual names of the disciples scattered throughout the text. And I noticed: Jesus frames his words with the instruction…listen!