The movie “The Matrix” features a computer hacker called Neo, and deals with the themes of reality and freedom. In the movie, most of humanity has been enslaved and locked into a virtual reality called the matrix, which is controlled by intelligent machines. A dawning awareness has led some to escape from the matrix and form a resistance group to fight the ruling machines. Neo joins the rebellion, and struggles to free humanity from the grand illusion of the matrix.
The beauty of Scripture is that it’s the living word of God, and grows different fruit in different seasons, as well as new fruit in every generation. The parable of the sower from Matthew 13:1-23 is a perennial story that continues to stir our imaginations, and guide our spiritual growth. In its original context, the neophyte Matthean community is being persecuted. The seed that falls on stony ground or amongst the thorns aptly describes those who persecute Christians for their faith. Yet in this story, the early Matthean community heard an explanation of why some rejected the Gospel message.
When it comes to sharing the good news of Jesus, a clear understanding of our role and the role of the Holy Spirit is profoundly encouraging. The bottom line is that none of us have control over how God’s word is perceived or received by others. We don’t know how God works in us to overcome the difficulties of the evil one that snatches away the word, or stony hearts that keep the word at a distance. We don’t even know how God exposes worldly distractions as pointless pursuits, so that His Word can take root and grow in us. As agents of God’s love, we just go on throwing out the seeds with joyous abandon, and allow the Holy Spirit do the work.
At some time in the retelling of this wonderful parable, we’ve probably been invited to consider what kind of soil our lives represent. Realistically, we’re not always good soil or gravel pits, but we tend to be a mixture of different soils at different times in our lives. Here’s some good news: God isn’t interested in us beating ourselves up over any shortcomings we might feel during different stages of our faith journeys. That all-too-human attitude rarely honors God’s abundant love or God’s grace. Feeling sorry for ourselves may be a self-serving device we’re tempted to use in order to avoid the hard work of living into God’s forgiveness and healing. Similarly, beating ourselves up might be a thinly veiled attempt at attention seeking, rather than genuine repentance. God doesn’t cultivate vast wells of guilt for us to drink from or fall into, and God doesn’t punish us for simply being human. In God’s perfect love and justice, we’re offered forgiveness, and reconciliation. The Lord desires a lasting relationship with us. In faith and gratitude we offer ourselves in service, and use our God-given gifts to expand God’s kingdom. In other words, we’re all called to resist any temptation to wallow in a guilt-ridden, superficial existence, driven by fear, promoted by advertising, and heavily influenced by the vagaries of culture.
What is important is listening to God’s word, and being intentional in our faith. It’s still essential to recognize how earthly concerns like money and power can cause us to stumble. We have to be vigilant, aware of how easily fear can slip its cold hands around our hearts and seize control. God still empowers us to share our faith in word and deed, and God still offers us forgiveness for all our sins. We live generously out of God’s abundance, remembering our freedom in Christ. That means we’re God’s active agents of change for good in this world. Just like the story of Neo in “The Matrix,” this parable is a resurrection story. Whether we think of ourselves as sower, soil, or seed, we’re not passive in this process, left to fate, or cultural whims. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we’re active participants and co-creators with God. We have choices. We don’t have to stay in one type of soil, especially if we’re rooted there from pride or fear. With God’s help, we can change, move, and grow. The parable is a story of hope, especially the hope of resurrection life now. Our transformation — our leap to freedom in faith — is available now. Escape to reality!
• The Rev. Susan E. Wilmot is priest-in-charge at St. James the Apostle Episcopal Church, 975 E. Warner Road, Tempe. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (480) 345-2686.