a story about story

Mark 4 : parable of the seed sower

Mark 4 recounts the parable of the seed sower. the Gospel of Mark is a story about who Jesus is and what He did and said. and this parable is a story Jesus tells. so it’s a story about a story.

and the story Jesus tells is about a seed sower, a farmer slinging seeds. we learn later the seed is meant to represent the Word, God’s message, God’s story to us. so it’s a story about a story about a story.

and when that story falls on good soil — protected, tilled, maintained, intended — a garden grows. and fruit is produced. is that the big finish to the parable? seed becomes a plant which gives us fruit? what’s inside a fruit? more seeds. more copies of the story, ready to be spread throughout the world. the big finish is that there is no finish. the story goes on and on.

so it’s a story about a story about a story that lands in rich, ready soil and creates more story.

the parable of the seed sower has long been one of my favorites; i’m a storyteller, myself, after all. you can see how deeply this metaphor runs. it runs so deep and carries so far. any smaller analogies you can think of inside it — relating to God’s Word going out like a seed into the soil of our understanding, taking root, flourishing or dying, perhaps competing with the weeds of the world, or trying to penetrate a heart that’s been so walked upon — any analogies you can think of inside it, they tend to work. it is a very complex, layered treasure of a metaphor.

i’ve been able to discuss these ideas with some close friends this week. those discussions were recorded and i’ll be posting them soon.

but it has me thinking about fruit.

we love fruit because it is colorful and beautiful and tastes wonderful. but why is there fruit? the reason the fruit exists is for the seed inside.

the plant needs the fruit to be beautiful to attract a hungry traveler — a squirrel or horse or young man. the plant needs the fruit to be delicious so the traveler will eat the fleshy outside as it carries the fruit away from the plant, away from its source. one way or another, the seed is ultimately disposed of. and only at that point can the seed begin its true purpose, hoping to take root in the new soil in which it finds itself. like coffee or wine, the fruit will be flavored by the new soil around it, by the care given to it, by how much sun or how little rain. and every new place the seed goes, the Old Story is told, as new as the first time it was spoken.

growing up, i understood “fruit” in a spiritual context to be mostly about behavior and temperament, as in the fruit of the Spirit. when Jesus talks about all this fruit in Mark 4, i understood it as my good deeds multiplying and going throughout the world. in other words, me just really rackin it up at how good i was being.

but if i understand it in a more literal sense, i see that the fruit might indeed be my attitude and behavior and temperament, but it’s all in service to the seed inside. that Word that came and landed on me and grew in me, in the soil of my experiences, learning, and understanding. that seed which is begging to find a new place to take root. when Jesus says “producer fruit” He’s inviting me, “paul, it’s your turn to tell this Story.”

if my life is shelled with the spiky husk of hypocrisy, or the bitter rind of legalism, or the moldy decay of unrepentant sin… who would want that fruit? who would seek the seed inside? who would say, “give me more of this”?

but if my life is split open, and the inside is gushing with love and joy and peace and patience, if a weary traveler would say, “this is refreshing,” if an impoverished child found it nourishing, if a humble servant discovered luxury in savoring it,…

how far would that Seed go?