I find myself drawn to this parable of Jesus.
Now, let me offer something of my orientation to this wisdom teacher/itinerant preacher/change agent/spiritual healer:
We don’t know what Jesus actually said. We know what someone said Jesus said. So we have to engage our own hearts and minds in our seeking.
We haven’t heard from everyone. Some of Jesus’ closest and most celebrated students were “edited out” by the early church. Some of Jesus’ closest and most celebrated students were women.
Jesus was an observant Jew. For the most part, he was teaching Jewish people from Jewish scripture. He was not starting a new religion. Christian antisemitism is a forehead-slapping oxymoronic idea, you see.
The ministry about Jesus has departed radically from the ministry of Jesus.
Jesus consistently denied his “specialness.” He encouraged people to do that which he did. That humanity would worship him instead of following him is antithetical to the very heart of his message.
Jesus was a teacher of consciousness. This means that elements of attitude, perception, belief, attachment, worth, relationship and beyond can be found in many, if not all, of his teaching
If his teachings seem easy, try again. As a parabolic teacher, his intentions included conversation, exploration, even argument.
One must at least approach the context of Jesus if one would approach the wisdom of Jesus. An approach to Semitic languages, Jewish history, Jewish mythology, Jewish wisdom traditions in general, and both the geography and cultures in which he lived and taught are starting points for any seeking of understanding.
That Jesus himself would have considered his message to somehow be exclusive is absurd.
Suffice it to say that Unity (and Unity in Lynnwood) are somewhat unique in our radical welcome of people from all spiritual traditions and from no spiritual tradition whatsoever into every area of our community. Jesus didn’t seem to be about conversion, so neither are we. Jesus didn’t seem to be about exclusivity, so neither are we. Jesus didn’t seem to be about division, so neither are we.
Jesus seemed to be about a new and higher way of living together on the planet as a diverse family of life and that’s more along the lines of what we seek to emulate.
So, in this parable (which is found in three of the four accounts which were “edited into” the library you call your Judeo-Christian Bible), in this parable, this person went out to plant some seed. And Jesus describes the four ways in which that seed fell (and to think that Jesus was teaching about farming is to grossly miss the point). As I said, Jesus was a teacher of consciousness. This means that you really should be able to find yourself in any of his teachings, you see. His teachings aren’t about someone back there. His teachings are about someone right here.
This person went out to plant some seed.
Some fell on hard soil.
Some fell on rocky soil.
Some fell among thorny soil.
Some fell on fertile soil.
Now, I imagine most of us can find ourselves in this parable.
Let’s say I desire to plant the seed (the idea, if you will) of greater worth. So, I read the latest self-help book and I launch a new meditation practice and I paste today’s affirmation on my mirror and I tune into the O Network.
And some of my seed lands on hard soil. Some of it lands on beliefs and perceptions, limitations so deeply ingrained that the cosmic birds born of my total unavailability pluck it away. Off into the ethers goes that new idea of greater worth.
I see this in prayer work. There are souls who deeply long for a new experience (or a new effect) even as they refuse to welcome a new consciousness (or a new cause). I want more prosperity even as I cling to a belief in lack. I want more creative self-expression even as I cling to comfort. I want more love even as I cling to fear. I want something new even as I cling to the old.
It’s battle cry goes something like this: “I want change as long as I don't have to change.”
That’s a core problem with prayer in today’s world. Prayer has, for far too many, become something of a magical get-out-of-jail-free card played to counter the lowest that’s in us, when it really should be used as a psychological discipline to cultivate the highest that’s within us. Prayer has been used to save us when it really should be used to grow us.
Prayer is used to stop war when it really should be used to cultivate peace.
Prayer is used to heal disease when it really should be used to cultivate balance.
Prayer is used to get stuff when it should be used to cultivate understanding.
And I imagine some of it lands on rocky soil. Sure, maybe the idea goes a little way in for a time, but the old beliefs, perceptions, limitations return quickly enough. In the parable, the seedlings withered in the hot sun because their roots were immature, incomplete.
Maybe you’ve attended one of those feel-good, conquer-the-world, rally-type, I-can-do-anything events only to find yourself unable to sustain the energy. Maybe the seed was good but maybe you weren’t quite ready. Or willing.
Rocky soil, you see.
You know, Unity has its roots in spiritual healing. And these cases of spiritual healing weren’t occasional, vague or fantastical. Nor were they unique to Unity, by the way. The early Unity practitioners employed practices – sometimes simple practices – which resulted in lasting, well-documented changes among hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of individuals.
But other times a change wasn’t lasting.
I wonder if, while a temporary elevation of identity (shall we call it), as effected through such spiritual or mental practice, produced powerful effects, the recipient wasn’t quite ready. Or willing.
Rocky soil. Hot sun.
And I imagine some of it lands on thorny soil. I like to think Rabbi Yeshua was teaching about interpersonal relationships with this point, although that’s admittedly a stretch.
I mean, if you’ve ever attempted to make a meaningful change, it’s as if the humans who have surrounded you - and supported you - in your current state for so long, become thorns that would strangle the seedling of your imagined self.
What is it about humans that is so easily threatened by any change from a member of the herd? I don’t know. Even the family of Jesus basically said, “You’re crazy. Put down these lofty ideas and get back to work.” That’s a paraphrase, of course. But the spirit is intact.
We all know the example of the crabs in the open bucket, right? No lid is needed because if one crab starts to climb, others will grab onto its legs and pull it back into the bucket.
And, of course I imagine some of it lands on fertile soil.
As I’ve told you before, I remember hearing for the first time that I was talented.
I was in college. I had won many competitions, played with many orchestras, received many acknowledgements (not the least of which was a scholarship package so ample that my college education could be considered my first money-making venture); I was in college when a young Chinese colleague with absolutely nothing to gain spoke to me of my talent while passing in a hallway.
And I say, “I remember hearing for the first time,” though it was undoubtedly not the first time I had been told. And yet, for whatever reasons, it was the first time I was able to hear it. It was the first time I was ready.
And, coming from my colleague, the idea did seem to take root. I believed him. He had nothing to gain. He had no agenda. And I began to live from the possibility that I had talent; that I had something to say (musically speaking), that whatever opportunities meandered into my world were there by right of consciousness instead of there by dumb luck or good fortune.
Fertile soil, you see.
Yes, individually, I imagine each of us can find ourselves in this parable. Are there noble ideas which seem to be beyond your willingness even to entertain? Do they make you uncomfortable for some reason, known or unknown? Do they encounter resistance? And if you do entertain them, are you ready to ask your tribe to support your new noble idea?
Or perhaps you keep your new idea to yourself for a time? That’s another good strategy. And are you willing to do what it takes to give a truer idea of you the fertile soil in consciousness which it needs to establish mature root? To endure the hot sun of its newness? To begin to flower?
So yes: I imagine it’s pretty easy to find ourselves in this parable. And yet, it’s collectively that I would challenge us to find ourselves.
I know I speak for others when I say that Afghanistan saddens me deeply. Thank God, real violence still affects us in visceral ways to which Hollywood simply cannot numb us. Thank God. The dynamics of power and dominance and terror and desperation can, at times, leave me feeling helpless, pointless, useless, powerless, even afraid.
Every week, I teach the sacredness of life in every form, human and beyond. And then I watch the killing.
Every week, I teach that there’s a natural order to things – a natural order that is sufficient to the needs of every soul even as it’s sufficient to the functioning of galaxies. And then I watch the greed.
Every week, I teach the unlimited nature of soul, the limitless human capacity for co-creation, the endless expanse of human possibility for expression. And then I watch the destruction.
Every week, I teach the oneness of Creator (by whatever name we choose to call it); that there is one life, one beingness, one is-ness that is ever expressing itself in the multiplicities of time and space; every week, I teach that though imaged and named variously, there really is one ground of being. And then I watch the separation.
Every week, I might say that I plant seeds. Again and again, I plant seeds. And perhaps you, too, by virtue of having been drawn into a conversation such as this by whatever means – perhaps you, too, are planting seeds of sanctity and harmony and possibility and unity among creation.
And then I watch. And in my lowest moments, I wonder if there’s any point to my planting.
And while it’s tempting to read our parable and to say, “I see. We are to plant seeds where they can take root. We are to plant seeds among like-minded people. We are to plant seeds where it’s easy. We are to plant seeds with discrimination;” while it’s tempting to read our parable and to say that, I don’t find my comfort in that.
In fact, the parable doesn’t say that our farmer (that our person) did any of those things.
The parable says that our person planted. And it’s in this that I find my comfort.
For the parable says that our person planted on hard soil. Maybe the seed would root, maybe it wouldn’t. But he planted it anyway.
The parable says that our person planted on rocky soil. The parable says that our person planted in thorny soil. Maybe the seed would root, maybe it wouldn’t. Maybe the seed would be met with acceptance or rejection, maybe it wouldn’t. But he planted it anyway.
The parable says that our person planted on fertile soil. Maybe the seed would root, maybe it wouldn’t. But he planted it anyway.
So maybe the writer was telling us about the world. Maybe the writer was telling us that there is hard soil, rocky soil, thorny soil, fertile soil. And that our job is to plant no matter what.
And I offer this to you, in hopes that it brings you comfort; that in any moments of helplessness, pointlessness, uselessness, powerlessness, even fear; that in any moment you might wonder, “What can I do?” you will remember to plant. Right where you are.
Plant something that says life is a gift.
Right where you are, plant something that says life can be trusted to care for all of us.
Right where you are, plant something that says you are amazing; you are a limitless possibility in our world.
And right where you are, plant something that says you and I are one. Even though we look different, we are one.
Even though we worship differently, we are one. Even though we love differently, we are one.
Even though the world speaks to us of our separation in an endless array of fearful rhetoric, we are one. We are one. We are one.
I offer this to you in hopes that when you wonder, “What can I do,” as I do, you will remember to plant right where you are. Right where we are.