In its deeper layers, Jesus' Parable of the Sower presents not differences between people but different kinds of terrain within each of us. Those who see are those who stand before Jesus and know that we all contain such variety.
One way to approach the epistle text for this week is to talk about the spiritual discipline of saying yes and saying no, an idea I was first introduced to by M. Shawn Copeland. (I find The Message translation of this passage helpful here.) God created us with the freedom to say yes and say no. But as Paul reminds us, we don’t always know how to use this freedom very well.
In the days after my grandmother died, my aunts introduced me to Iris DeMent's song “Let the Mystery Be." As is true for many people, from the early years of Christian faith, the loss of one dear to me sparked wonderings about what happens after death. I have fuzzy, 15-year-old memories of one of my aunts thinking aloud about the possibility of reincarnation, and older family members assuring us all that my grandmother was sitting at the feet of Jesus.
By one estimate 7,000 churches close down each year in the United States. A 2012 study predicted that 20 percent of the churches in Philadelphia would close within ten years. Many of these churches are architectural gems. Razing these buildings can be very expensive. A more satisfactory solution is to repurpose them, turning them into art and culture centers or housing units. The Mount Airy Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia is having 20 condominiums built on its property. The sanctuary will be leased back to the congregation for its continued use (Philadelphia Inquirer, August 4).