Sometimes It's Okay to Be a Seed Eaten by Birds - Taylor Daynes

In this week’s lectionary we encounter the famous parable of the sower. In some ways it seems very apt as I think about the role Emmanuel has played in my life: though I’ve nominally belonged to many organizations and groups, Emmanuel is the first religious community in which I’ve felt truly accepted and necessary. Drawing on the language of the parable, Emmanuel is the soil that’s allowed me to develop roots as a person of faith. I am so grateful to have landed here.

I will tell you that when I started attending services at Emmanuel I had no intention of becoming active in the community. My relationship to God was private. I wasn’t looking for a new responsibilities, new friends. Even now I can imagine many scenarios in which I might never have opened myself to this community. But, little by little, thanks to all kinds of quiet hospitality, gestures of friendship, and even the rocky-terrain we’ve walked together, I’ve come to look on Emmanuel as one of the formative communities of my life.

Still, prescient as the parable seems, there are ways in which it’s also misleading. The idea that some seeds are fated to fail simply because of soil conditions--this bothers me on a metaphorical level as well as a literal one. Horticulturally (I worked as a gardener for several years after college) it’s true that some soil is rich in nutrients and therefore better suited to support certain kinds of plant-life; it’s also true that some species prefer rocky soil, and that many others rely on birds for their propagation. But more troublesome than horticultural half-truths is the notion that some of us, if we are the seeds in the parable, are fated to misunderstand, turn away from, or ignore “the word,” while other lucky seeds will hear it and bear fruit. Are we really to believe that God predestines some of us to be eaten by birds, and insists that the forms and structures of Christian faith are necessary for a fruitful life?

I think not. I read the parable of the sower as being about the grace of God’s love, not its limitations. Sometimes we're in the thorns or in the beak of a bird, sometimes we're in a rich loamy field. Sometimes the only difference is the way we choose to understand our surroundings. The simple recognition that God loves us no matter where we are--this is grace. At their best, the communities in which we find ourselves planted and growing roots can help us reach that holy recognition.

This broad interpretation of the parable feels appropriate to my own situation as I prepare to leave the community that has recognized and affirmed my call to the priesthood--which I’ve experienced as a gratuitous blessing--and in keeping with what Emmanuel continually affirms about God’s freely offered gifts. That is, that all are welcome. Always. Such hospitality bears fruit.

As I’ve said, I can imagine many scenarios in which my little seed wouldn’t have been planted at Emmanuel. But, thankfully, here I am, and, more importantly, here we all are--necessary members of a spirit-filled community collectively learning to hear and speak and understand the love of God. Together, we name this common understanding Christ. I will never forget the special way I have heard, spoke, and lived within that holy knowledge along with Emmanuel. Thank you.