Updated: Jul 16, 2020
Matthew 13:1-9, 18 – 23
It is tempting to imagine that these three (corn, bean and squash seed) are deliberate in working together, and perhaps they are. But the beauty of the partnership is that each plant does what it does in order to increase its own growth. But as it happens, when the individuals flourish, so does the whole.
The way of the Three Sisters reminds me of one of the basic teachings of our people. The most important thing each of us can know is our unique gift and how to use it in the world. Individuality is cherished and nurtured, because, in order for the whole to flourish, each of us has to be strong in who we are and carry our gifts with conviction, so they can be shared with others. Being among the sisters provides a visible manifestation of what a community can become when its members understand and their gifts. In reciprocity, we fill our spirits as well as our bellies.
~ by Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass
Our two stories, the Three Sisters and the Parable of the Sower, are like an ecological liturgy for us this morning...inviting a call and response…a gift given and a gift received. For the author of Braiding Sweetgrass, the phenomenon of reciprocity is at work in the natural plant word, amongst those species that utilize photosynthesis through the sun, converting its energy into food and growth. We as humans, of course, benefit from these gifts, these interrelationships that are at work all around us, often right before our eyes. Who knew that a bean shoot could grow as much as a meter in one day! Kimmerer is asking us today to look at reciprocity closely…the Earth has gifts…what is the gift that I bring in return? We have lived in a fast-paced, consumption-driven society up until the time of COVID, which saw a pause of sorts imposed on us. Factories stopped, people parked their cars and stayed away from stores and off the highways. The skies cleared of smoke and pollution, reminding some in our world that there is a blue expanse that hangs over our heads. We have learned a great lesson these past four months and that is that we participate in a covenant of reciprocity…we have witnessed that the Earth stays in balance and her gifts continue to flow when we give back in equal measure what we take.
The two stories of our ecological liturgy this morning invite the feeling of gratitude…or that is my hope. I hope when you heard these stories, a feeling of gratefulness to be alive as the beneficiaries of these remarkable seed processes stirred within you. Giving thanks is the gift we can give the Earth. Giving thanks, saying thank you implies recognition, not only for the gift, but of the giver as well. Kimmerer says that gratitude propels the recognition of the personhood of all beings and challenges the fallacy of human exceptionalism…the idea that we are somehow better, more deserving of the wealth and services of the Earth than other species. We may be at the top of the created order, but we need the seeds, the plants and all the life that comes forth, the life the seeds sustain to give us life. And we extend gratitude for this gift when we take from the Earth only what we need.
A Sower went out to sow…this farmer in our parable has some wild and crazy ideas about planting…throwing precious and valuable seed in every which direction without care or attention of where it lands. Who does this? I can’t think there is one of us listening to this message this morning that would go out to the garden and throw some seeds about without the intention that something was going to grow…I wouldn’t. No…I would broadcast seed in places where I was confident of a sure thing, a harvest at the end of the season. But Jesus’ story suggests this is not what the kin-dom looks like…it’s not about sure things and guarantees…it’s about relationship, it’s about real life just as we live it…hard-packed soil, birds coming along, weeds overtaking, too much sun and not enough rain…but in all of the eventualities of human life, we are called into right-relationship with one another and our Earth, considering a death that brings forth life by the splitting open and new growth and opportunity coming forth…in the very DNA of a seed is the embedded risk-taking, of being disturbed and changed…it is resurrection…the Sower never stops scattering, the basket is always full.
Perhaps there is a new kind of work to be done...of taking stock of our relationships with one another and extend this to how our relationships affect our choices and place in Creation...Are we saying Thank You for the gift and its giver, of only taking what is needed and nothing more? Farming is an inescapable part of human life and reminds us of our place in the great cosmos. May we too listen and hear!
Amen and Amen.