I have a small yard in the front of my house under a huge maple tree. The shade impedes the growth of the grass and the tree sucks up all the moisture. I’ve tried putting down sod, oodles of grass seed, healthy soil, lots of water. Every time the grass withers and dies, leaving me with a grubby looking front yard. Meanwhile, the side patio, made of interlocking stones, should be weed free but throughout the spring, I find myself on my knees picking out weeds trying to grow between the patio stones. It seems that the grass won’t grow on the fertile ground and yet the weeds grow in the most inhospitable environments!
As I was reflecting on those stubborn weeds that grow between the patio stones, I wondered, is this a bit like what we hear in the parable of the sower? In this parable, we are told that the word of god is like seeds sown, where some land on fertile ground and grow strong, while others fall on rocky ground and wither. But does this mean we should stop sowing god’s word? Or be picky about when and how we share God’s word? Or is there another lesson here, that the sower scatters seed in all kinds of places and then trusts in God?
Since I work as the ecumenical chaplain at Brock University, this interpretation feels very true to me. If I was holding back in order to cast god’s word only on what I believed to be fertile ground, I might miss all kinds of opportunities to make pastoral connections with students. And so there is benefit in casting wide, and trusting that the seeds will find a place of growth. We don’t necessarily know which is fertile ground and which is stony ground; and we also don’t know that what might be stony ground now could in fact allow some growth of faith, which in turn grows stronger. And so my role at Brock University is to sow seeds of god’s love with abandon.
One of the ways that I and the other chaplains sow seeds is by hosting a soup supper once a month. This is for all students and it’s a way to show hospitality within the faith and life centre. Not every student who attends may be interested in a life of faith, but hopefully we are sowing the seeds of welcome by hosting this dinner—maybe one seed will sprout growth sometime in the future. When we are liberal with our love and our welcome, we are sowing seeds of god’s love and trusting that those seeds will be nourished at some point. Even if we think it’s a rocky ground, growth can happen in the most surprising places! Bishop John Spong, an episcopal priest and bishop who died in 2021, often spoke about “loving wastefully.” In his last lecture, he said “if god is a source of love, then the only way I can worship god is by loving, loving wastefully. I mean the kind of love that never stops to calculate, never stops to wonder whether the object of its love is worthy to its recipient. It is love that loves not because it has been earned. That’s where I think god is made visible.” Loving wastefully means not counting the cost. It means just scattering the seeds of God’s love as widely and as wastefully as possible, without holding back, without deciding first if the recipient is “worthy.”
Living wastefully may not come naturally to many of us. After all, many of us live by the mantra to reuse, reduce, recycle; we’ve learned to budget and plan and save. Being wasteful is perhaps anathema to us! But in this one area, we can make an exception: when it comes to love, we don’t need to count the cost or conserve it for fear of running out; we can be risky with love and allow ourselves to scatter it wide, letting it fall where it may, whether it be fertile or rocky soil. Loving wastefully means breaking down barriers, whether it be class, economic, race, gender, sexuality, identity, etc.
In 1989, the pop rock band Tears for Fears released the hit song, “Sowing the Seeds of Love.” The lyrics come to mind as I prepare for the fall semester at Brock University. The chorus simply says, “Sowing the seeds of love (Anything is possible), Seeds of love (When you’re sowing the seeds of love).” When we become sowers of God’s word, that is to say, sowers of the message of God’s love, we can do so with abandon and hope. One of the ways I will be sowing seeds this fall at Brock University is by offering study groups; one will be based on the book, Beyond a Binary God: A Theology for Trans Allies by Tara Soughers; another group will be studying the book, Teaching Faith with Harry Potter by Patricia Lyons. I can’t predict what growth will come from these seeds, but I will sow with hope! With God’s grace, the seeds we sow will grow; we may not be around to see its growth, but our job is simply to plant the seeds— wastefully and with abandon, spreading God’s love as widely as we can.