Unexpected Fertility: A reflection on the Parable of the Sower by Valerie Showalter

Preface: Recently, I was invited to “dig” into the Parable of the Sower from Mark 4 and to share my reflections with fellow church-lovers and leaders at Eastern Mennonite Seminary’s School for Leadership training. I was asked to share, in part, because I would identify myself as a lover of the earth and a mediocre gardener. As I acknowledged when I first shared this, I recognize that much of my knowledge about gardening is the result of experience passed down through my family. Yet, the gardeners and farmers of my family have accumulated that knowledge primarily as settlers on the land of peoples systematically displaced by European conquest and occupation. So, my reflections are interwoven with my own background in brokenness, and I hold that tension within me.

The parable of the sower is familiar enough to most of us to know – without even reaching the interpretation of the parable – where the story is headed.

If there’s anything gardeners know and can agree to, it is this: that one must resist predictable explanations and expectations when it comes to seeds. In honoring that, I want to resist the traditional, flannelgraph-worthy punch line of this parable: that some people are “good” because they’re prepared for the Gospel and some people are “bad” because they squander the Gospel. Continue reading